One of the risks of living on this earth so long is that eventually you are bound to upset people, including sometimes those who love you and who you love most.
My last blog, To Hate or Not To Hate, appears to have upset many who have privately emailed their disappointment with my “political views”, their disappointment that their friend is so different from them.
For many Pedro Pans like myself, and for many Cuban exiles in general, the words liberal and Communist are too close for comfort. Add to that the fact that I am involved in writing a book with Martin Guevara, Ché Guevara’s nephew, and I become a suspect in their midst. Someone to “be careful of”; someone to disassociate from as soon as possible. I could be “the enemy” in disguise. Some have called me a “traitor”.
I am not a “typical” Pedro Pan. Very quickly after my arrival I left the camp where so many stayed, to live with a foster family. A few months later my family, who had stayed in Cuba in support of my imprisoned father, arranged for me to go to boarding school in California. There, I had no Cuban friends, no Cuban culture, no Cuban influence whatsoever. I became truly bicultural, and embraced my new country and my new language. I lived in Miami a total of a few months through the years and visited once a year for a while, but I never made “new” Cuban friends. I never lived in a place with a Cuban community for long. The melting pot truly melted me. I married an American, had children with him, divorced and remarried another American.
That is not to say I stopped loving Cuba; that is not to say I forgot my past. To this moment in time I love Cuba fiercely, passionately if you will. My memories of every moment of my childhood there are etched in my soul forever. But having been planted in a different garden than the majority of other Cubans, I became a different flower.
It is not the purpose of my blog to criticize my friends or their beliefs. I know both them and their beliefs intimately well. Despite our differences, we share many things in common, not the least of which is knowing how it feels to lose everything and everyone you love in the space of a day, to have your soul ripped apart by one man’s megalomanic journey, to have been betrayed to the depths of one’s soul, and to watch from far away as the land you once called your own is pillaged by hatred and incomprehensible violence by one’s own people. I understand their position because I once held it, and I defend their right to hold it.
Whoever I am, whatever I have become, I own. I have no desire to convert others to my way of thinking, for my way of thinking is never static enough to wait for that conversion nor is my certainty of rightness such that I want followers on my path. I have broken every commandment, I think, except Thou Shalt Not Kill, although there are many ways of killing people besides really killing them and I am not sure that my words have not mortally wounded. I hope not.
I have known poverty, struggle, illness, doubt, loneliness, and I have known joy, exuberance, satisfaction, and I have known love. All these things have taught me lessons meant for me, and all those things have led me to value freedom above fear, love above hate, tolerance above intolerance, humility above pride. I believe with all my heart that we are nothing without one another regardless of our color, sexual orientation, or creed. I believe that we all have the right to a world where Cuba cannot happen again. I suspect that such a world will require that we at least contemplate awakening to new ways of communicating with one another, of supporting one another, of remembering the lessons of the Masters who have spoken the language of eternal love. But of course, I could be wrong.
I must say that I loved and enjoyed very much your last post. I think it was so beautiful and touching and I love the ideas and thoughts that you expressed. I am surprised to hear that it caused mixed feelings in some of your friends as I sensed it as a truly and heartly declaration of humanity. We live in a world that tends to classify everything, to categorize may be good for some matters, but not for human beings. We are more complex. I think that one reason of the magic of the book Martin and you are writing, is based on the fact that although each of you come from a different background, you have experienced many similar things, and you have built a friendship despite your differences. I think that it is an exercise people must do to learn to solve the problems. Meeting points, fighting the prejudice.. I guess that to be misunderstood should be another one (in this case, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, to be great is to be misunderstood). When I read that somebody considered you a “traitor” I was shocked, Martin has also faced the same charges on the eyes of some people, I considered him a brave man instead, as I considered you a brave woman. It takes a lot of courage to do what you are doing. Not everyone is able to do it, it takes a lot of courage, and self knowledge, but the existence of such brave and enlighted people is necessary for the rest of us.
Thank you for your comment, dear friend. I mentioned in my blog that I found the FAR right constraining, thus labeling that position myself to begin with. It was that for me, and continues to be that for me. I did not like who I became in that space. Embracing that position made me less understanding, less loving, and put my psyche and my soul in a place I didn’t like. That is not to say that others cannot function well from that position.
My work with Martin has been a beautiful challenge. Our similar experiences have united us, as you say, and our mutual admiration and friendship has enabled us to open our minds to ideas that neither of us had been open to in the past. We have been able to communicate honestly without demanding from each other that we become something we are not. It is a journey I wouldn’t miss for anything, and it has the added blessing of your friendship and the privilege of knowing and loving your very remarkable and beloved son from whom I expect great things. You, Patricia, are everything you admire in others. You chafe at injustice and take up the causes of your heart, working tirelessly to achieve your goals. I admire you and treasure your presence in my life.
I thank you for your words of encouragement. I pray for a world where compassion and understanding will unite us all, where we will become one people because we will it to be so, because we want to walk the path that leads to freedom. This is not a state that can be dictated by the right or the left, by a wise man or a tyrant. It is a state we must come to from the depth of our souls after much inner struggle with our own prejudices and our own shadows.
Love to you
What a wonderful reminder that despite everything that is suffered, love is possible. Thank you.
Your own life is testimony to that, dear Debz!
Martin could have lived a life of privilege in Cuba, and he chose not to because to do so would have gone against his sense of justice and fairness. I find what I know of his life story inspiring and look forward to reading more about it. And though there might be some things about which I might not be in total agreement with you, there is so much more with which I agree. The sad experience of having lived early in our lives in a state of almost euphoria with the triumph of the Cuban revolution, only to rapidly fall into an abyss of disillusion, creates a bond that reaches beyond the differences imprinted by each person’s unique experience and personality.
Elena, thank you for your comment. You are right about Martin. It takes great courage to stand on your own when you have lived in the shadow of an uncle like Che Guevara and when your position is in opposition to that of members of your prominent family.
Nothing requires that we be in total agreement. The bond between us has stood the test of time and will continue to do so. I know you to be a woman of integrity and a lover of God and of humanity. I am proud to call you friend. I hope someday to see your memoir in print, for even your comment is beautiful writing.
We live in a free Nation with “Liberty and Justice for All” and we should honor that statement. You have every right to express your opinions based on your own “vision” and there’s no right or wrong, we are all different and entitled to write our points of view and these have been shaped by our own life’s journey.
Our differences are the “spice of life”, the challenge is to open our minds and not be so judgemental of one another but rather try to be fair and give everyone a chance at freedom of expression, in the end, sometimes we learn something “new”.
Thank you, Emy. I think it is always difficult to step away from the ideas we espouse and contemplate them from a different viewpoint. I appreciate my right to speak freely. I treasure it. We indeed have the potential to achieve the ideals of “liberty and justice for all”, especially if we can engage in constructive dialogue with one another. Very glad to hear from you!
My very dear Tocaya: I am copying this thought of yours to put where I can read it and quote it often: “Whoever I am, whatever I have become, I own. I have no desire to convert others to my way of thinking, for my way of thinking is never static enough to wait for that conversion nor is my certainty of rightness such that I want followers on my path.”
It expresses the very essence of a true humanitarian and a wise free thinker. If only more of us could learn the lesson that would allow us to live and let live and enjoy this beautiful planet that was given to all of us by our Creator.
You cannot be wrong in your opinion that “we at least contemplate awakening to new ways of communicating with one another, of supporting one another, of remembering the lessons of the Masters who have spoken the language of eternal love.”
For over four thousand years humanity has been openly dealing with the controversies between the tolerant and the intolerant, the kind and the cynical, the free-thinker and the doctrinaire. History has shown that whenever people have honored the principles of respectful communication, of consensus building, of mutual support and of universal love, there was a happy society. Sadly, those times have been brief and not paraded prominently in the history books. On the other hand, when intolerance, disrespect and just plain hate were given power, life on Earth has become a horrible mess. For some perverse reason some humans keep siding with the purveyors of a divisive status quo, which makes not only others’ lives miserable, but also their own.
You, my dear Tocaya, are the essence of humanitarian. Thank you for your beautiful and heart felt words. You are so right! History does not dwell on those times when we lived in peace. But there have been instances when we have managed to find the tolerance and respect necessary, at least for a time, to enjoy the fruits of the earth and to enjoy each other without the shadow of violence haunting our every step I dream of such a world! I know you do to. What is more, I know you LIVE your creed and admire you greatly. And love you. Blessings.
I just decided not to enter to this very interesting discussion, for a little sense of shame of write about myself. Thank you very much for your kind words.
You know, I don’t speak good English, but it is enough to say, that yes, I had a complicated life, which I am still trying to solve, to improve. But I know also that we all have it, the same old blues, and that what counts, the really important thing, is the effort for being happy and making others happy.
Than you all!