Tuesday, October 14, 2008

John Lennon's Glasses

Back in the 60s, when Beatles mania hit America like a breath of fresh air. Their music was not allowed to play in Cuba. I didn’t

hear any of their music until I arrived here in the U.S. in 1979. It’s understandable; that, I found it so contradictory that decades later the communist regime would name a park after John Lennon and have a statue made in his honor.

The statue was inaugurated in 2000, but just a few days later Lennon’s glasses

were stolen. According Cuba’s State ran television the Minister of the Interior ha a special glue developed, that would make it impossible for the glasses to be stolen ever again. Oh really? Well, guess what, the glasses were stolen again.They were replaced and stolen again.This has gone on for years.

I wonder what Lennon would say if he was alive today. This story could be considered comical if it wasn’t so ridiculous. Now days a group of retired seniors take turns to guard the statue round the clock. Maybe for now his glasses are safe.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Ghosts of Communism

In 1959, with the rise to power of the Castro brothers, life as we new it had changed forever. My family came from Quivican-a little town south of Havana. My father ran a small welding business, from our house, but under Communist rule, free enterprise is not allowed and the welding shop was closed. My father was so angry and frustrated, that he buried most of his equipment in our back yard. He figured, that at least that way, the government couldn't get the satisfaction of stealing what he worked so hard for.

He raised pigs and sold them for profit, but that too had to end. Raising and killing your own pigs for food was prohibited. We weren't allowed to raise and kill our own farm animals and the authorities branded each one. Everything belonged to the State.

If you didn't participate in the Revolution, the police would call you in for questioning. My father was called to march on the streets, because everybody had to get prepared to defend their country. He hated that with a passion and eventually got sent to a work camp. Work Camps, by the way, were started by Argentinian Revolutionary and murderer, Che Guevara.

With the Communist Revolution came the firing squads, the disappearances, the massive exodus, the food rationing and the long lines. I can't tell you, how many times we stood in line for bread or any other item, only to get to the front of the line and be told, they were out of it.

While the regime wasted our resources, and sacrificed the lives of thousands of Cubans, spreading the seeds of communism, we had to survive on the few crumbs allowed by the rationing card issued to each family. Toilet paper was no where to be found, so we used old newspapers, when we could get them.

From the time a person entered kindergarten, the state kept a cumulative file that would follow you for the rest of your life. This file documented every thing or anything you had ever done. I lost count of how many times I heard my teachers in school say how much the revolution had done for us. The math didn't add up. If it was so great, why did so many people leave, and why was everyone so afraid?

Suicide was very high. I can't still remember conversations about people as young as fifteen, locking themselves in the bathroom and setting themselves on fire. Just behind our house, an old man who lived with his sisters hang himself from a tree. A man taking his cow out to pasture, found him when the cow wondered near the tree. My brother being the nosy person he was, ran over to see, when he heard. He said the man still clinched his tobacco in one of his hands; needless to say, that image gave him nightmares for years.

There was a house on each street, whose job it was, to keep tabs on each neighbor's comings and goings. They knew what time you left your house, what time you got home and who your friends were. They knew what you read, what you ate and what time you ate it. These were the CDR or Comite de Defensa de la Revolucion (Comity of Defense of the Revolution). One year sometime in the seventies, during election time, my mom, who was a rebel, decided to go visit her sister in a neighboring town. She said she wasn't about to participate in a election with just one candidate. It was a nice try, but not successful. Our CDR watch found out from the neighbors we were and went all the way to her sister's house to pick us up so she could vote. We had no choice, but to get in the car and my mom reluctantly voted for the one and only candidate-Fidel Castro.

The police kept a close eye on every person. One day, as my father sat in the movie theater, one of our towns policeman, asked him, "why do you always sit in the same seat?". There was no particular reason; my dad was just a bit obsessive. He had obviously been following him for sometime. It was this same policeman, who personally confiscated my father's hunting rifle, the year he filed papers to leave the country.

I was six years old, my brother was one, when my father left Cuba and I will never forget that day, for as long I live. His flight had been canceled two times before, so when he carried me on his shoulders that day I thought he would be back, just like the other times, but he didn't. The following weeks are very blurry, but I recall my mother telling to stop waiting, because he was not ever coming back.

We were denied an exit visa. It was standard procedure to let the husband leave without his family. It was their way of punishing us for not conforming and when young kids where involved, they had the opportunity to indoctrinate them. It would be another eight years before we could see my father again. Every family had someone that had left Cuba, via somewhere in the world.

My mother was a seamstress and a tailor, a trade also practiced by her maternal grandfather-a Spanish immigrant, who left Spain during the Civil War. I recall getting up in the middle of the night and seeing her sitting in front of the sewing machine. She had an old Singer with an electric pedal adapted to it. When I was 12, she gave free enterprise a try, when she started giving sewing lessons from our house. I recall that time as a very special era in our saga. It was refreshing to see all these women standing around a big table learning to make patterns and designing clothes. I meet my best friend during that time, when her mother joined the class. It was really nice, while it lasted; some lady in town, turned my mom in and she was called in to the police station and asked too join the Federation of Women and give classes for the state. She refused and that was the end of our little adventure in Capitalism.

We bought some things in the black market, as did most people. My mom had to cook the pork meat in the middle of the night, to avoid being discovered. Pork had a really strong odor back in Cuba. I don't know if it was the way pigs were raised, but It doesn't smell the same here in the US. Buying contraband of any kind, was punishable with jail time and food was no exception. The government didn't give a crap if we had enough food or not.

When we were finally given permission to leave, our house had an inventory done and everything in it was documented by the authorities. A few days before departure, they had us vacate the premises and they sealed it.

To this day, the house that my father built and baptized with the name Villa Zurama, is owned by the Cuban government.

I will forever be hunted by the ghosts of communism.
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The Lives of Others

Las night I watched a German film about a time when Germany was separated by a wall and its citizens especially artists and intellectuals were watched and persecuted. I would really recommend this film to anyone who wants to get a glimpse of what it's like, to live under the grip of communism.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Race Card

It would seem that this weekend, the Obama Campaign, is once again using the race card. This weekend Civil right leader John Lewis said about John McCain,

"During another period, in the not too distant past, there was a governor of the state of Alabama named George Wallace who also became a presidential candidate. George Wallace never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who were simply trying to exercise their constitutional rights. Because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed on Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama."

McCain had referred to Lewis as "one of the wisest men he knows, one whose advice he would seek should he win the presidency". How could someone in good conscience compare a patriot like McCain to Wallace, who by the way was a Democrat. Lets not forget that while African American were fighting for their Civil Rights, John McCain was a "Prisoner Of War" and had no Civil Rights.

In response to Lewis's comments McCan said, "Congressman John Lewis' comments represent a character attack against Governor Sarah Palin and me that is shocking and beyond the pale. The notion that legitimate criticism of Senator Obama's record and positions could be compared to Governor George Wallace, his segregationist policies and the violence he provoked is unacceptable and has no place in this campaign. I am saddened that John Lewis, a man I've always admired, would make such a brazen and baseless attack on my character and the character of the thousands of hardworking Americans who come to our events to cheer for the kind of reform that will put America on the right track".

"I call on Senator Obama to immediately and personally repudiate these outrageous and divisive comments that are so clearly designed to shut down debate 24 days before the election. Our country must return to the important debate about the path forward for America".

"On Saturday evening John Lewis said, "a careful review of his remarks made earlier in the day "would reveal that I did not compare Sen. John McCain or Gov. Sarah Palin to George Wallace." No apology in those words.

The Obama Campaign responded with, "Senator Obama does not believe that John McCain or his policy criticism is in any way comparable to George Wallace or his segregationist policies. But John Lewis was right to condemn some of the hateful rhetoric that John McCain himself personally rebuked just last night, as well as the baseless and profoundly irresponsible charges from his own running mate that the Democratic nominee for President of the United States 'pals around with terrorists.' As Barack Obama has said himself, the last thing we need from either party is the kind of angry, divisive rhetoric that tears us apart at a time of crisis when we desperately need to come together. That is the kind of campaign Senator Obama will continue to run in the weeks ahead."

This is a race for president!! How do you come together when both of you want to be president? The way I see it, every charge of questionable affiliation against Obama is genuine. How many questionable affiliations does McCain have? None!

How insane is it to expect MacCain to stay quiet about genuine concerns, because of Obama's skin color. It's almost like they are silently saying, "Oh, don't say anything about him, because of his skin color". Come on now, Obama is a Harvard graduate and should give himself more credit.

The truth is, that Obama, has no way of clearing his name when it comes to his ties to Ayers, Acorn, Frank Williams Davis, etc., so he uses the race card to intimidate his opponent. Very clever, but it won't stick. It would seem that the Obama camp doesn't like the adds that question his affiliations with terrorists and communists. I'm sure Obama would like to see those ghosts disappear, but they won't.

This is just another attempt to take attention away from all the questionable affiliations that Obama refuses to clarify. He has not repudiated John Lewis's outrageous and offensive comments.