I have just returned home from watching a very good movie, The King’s Speech. Like many a good movie, the hero’s journey requires that he overcome what is for him a tremendous obstacle. Imagine a king with a speech impediment. Or a president. Imagine a man so isolated that he doesn’t know the meaning of the word friend. Imagine.
Four thousand plus people on Facebook have united behind an effort for peaceful protests to begin in Cuba starting tomorrow. The call has gone out for Cubans to stand together in public and show Fidel and Raul Castro and their minions that they have had enough. That they want their country back.
The call to protest couldn’t come at a better time. People are already in the streets for the annual book fair which is expected to draw six million people to the street. How is it possible that Fidel and Raul are allowing so many people out in public during this dangerous time?
Once upon a time, during the Bay of Pigs invasion, every available man and many women were incarcerated for days before the exiles landed. There was fear that the people would unite and help those who came to their shores to topple the government. But not now. After more than fifty years of domestication in that cage of an island, the will of the people has been stripped from them. The cellular memory of the Cuban who resisted, the Cuban who fought, the Cuban who took pride in every corner of his island, has been erased. The few who still dare to disagree do so at their own peril, knowing that they have no protection from a friend. For in my country there is no such thing as trust- thus no such thing as friend.
Fidel and Raul are not the least bit worried. There is not much access to Facebook on the island except for those who are already a part of the government and even they have fairly limited access. Bloggers like Yoani Sanchez are the exception. The majority of the population will never know that they were called to protest, and those who know….just can’t. It’s about the overcoming of obstacles. It’s about some obstacles that are just too big to overcome. And it’s about a king’s speech.
It’s about a “king” who came to power in disguise. A “king” whose speeches droned on and on for years numbing the people’s will. A “king” who promised elections fifty one years ago and then made sure that the people would be too afraid to hope for democracy. A “king” whose words toppled a country and its dignity. A “king” who rules an island where its citizens cannot shop in the same stores, stay at the same hotels, or eat the same meals as any foreigner. A “king” whose hatred was the black hole that consumed his country. A “king” who taught his subjects how to read so they could only read what he wanted them to, and who now tortures his people with a book fair where one book costs more than the average Cuban salary for a month. Fidel worry? Raul worry?
The Cuban people’s speech impediment is more severe than a stutter. It is a complete forgetting of their ability to speak, their ability to demand, their ability, yes, even to think. A “king” and his speeches made it so.
If there was a way to make the protest real…if there was a way to overcome…if there was a king of quiet dignity and compassion who would take the reigns but for a moment and hand them to the people….if there was a king’s speech that had the power to make the bad men disappear….
Last night as I was taking a walk with my friend Luz, from Colombia, she commented that maybe now Cubans will take to the streets, like the people of Egypt. I tried to explain to her how different the situation is in Cuba. I don’t know if I succeeded. You do it very well. Any chance that you can send this to major newspapers?
Elena, thank you so much for the suggestion. I was thinking about my aunt Celia, my mother even- who would have taken to the streets in a heartbeat. Thinking about the feelings our Cuban National anthem used to evoke-still does. “Que la patria os contempla orgullosa”…hasta la patria tiene Alzheimers.
Un abrazo querida amiga.