Magical Realism, Writing, Fiction, Politics, Haiku, Books

domingo, octubre 28, 2007

Bush's Fidel, Fidel's Bush

cross posted at daily Kos

This past Thursday, October 24, George W Bush again made it abundantly clear that he has no concept of recent history or of the present circumstances in Cuba.

In a speech Bush called on the Cuban Army, that's right, the Cuban Army to overthrow the Cuban government. London Times reported:
President Bush yesterday called on Cuba’s army to overthrow the “dying” regime of Fidel Castro and side with the forces of democracy, the latest attempt by a US president to end Havana’s half century of Communist rule.

Mr Bush, in his first major address on Cuba since Mr Castro fell ill and handed power to his brother Raul last July, laid out new steps to encourage democracy on the island. They included an international “freedom fund” funded by US allies to reconstruct Cuba if it ended one-party rule.

And that wasn't an isolated statement. Not by a long shot:
In a direct message to the Cuban military and police, Mr Bush said “when Cubans rise up to demand the liberty they deserve, you can defend a dying order by using force against your own people” or, he said, the military can embrace democracy.

“There’s a place for you in a free Cuba,” Mr Bush said.

A free Cuba. One hardly knows what Bush's conception of that place would be like. Would Cubans have to give up their free health care so they could have a system like ours? Would they have to give up their research into stem cells so that they could uphold fundamentalist values? Would they have to repatriate those who fled their prisons during the Mariel escapes? Would they continue to have to be spied upon, wiretapped, surveilled, data-mined without court supervision? Would they have to institute a regressive tax structure so that the poor supported the rich? Would they have to return to the US industries they nationalized? Would they have to return land that the Revolution distributed? Bush isn't saying.

The specifics be damned, Bush was full of tough talk:
In a reference to Raul Castro, Mr Bush said the US “will not support the old way with new faces.” He predicted that democracy was coming to Cuba, and that the people of Cuba can “hear the dying gasps of a dying regime.” Mr Bush is the tenth US president to call for the overthrow of Castro, who seized power in 1959. The policy of successive US governments, including Mr Bush’s, has been to isolate Cuba economically and diplomatically with the goal of undermining Castro’s rule.

That approach has yet to succeed, however. In recent years Castro has received significant economic aid from Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, and China.

Bush also offered internet access to Cubans and a scholarship program for Cuban youth if Havana moved toward democracy. But that's already coming from Venezuela and Beijing.

And when Bush says that democracy is coming, the usual comparison is to that bastion of recently overthrown dictatorship and instantly imposed democracy, Iraq.

Bush ended his speech by proclaiming, "Viva Cuba Libre!"

Immediately after the speech, Cuba, of course, accused Bush of encouraging violent uprisings against the government. That's no surprise. And it seems justifiable. After all, the US has encouraged uprisings in one way or another, ranging from overflights, and outright invasions, to exploding cigars, and attempted poisonings for almost 50 years. It's nothing new.

Meanwhile, according to Reuters today Fidel weighed in on the Bush speech.
Ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro poked fun at President George W. Bush [today] for proclaiming "Long Live Free Cuba," likening it to Spain's king saying the same during his colonial rule over the island. /snip

The slogan was first used by Cuban independence fighters, known as Mambisis, in 1868 as they began their decades-long war against Spain's colonial rule. It was also the battle cry of Fidel Castro's guerrilla fighters in the late 1950s.

Raul Castro often ends speeches with the slogan instead of Fidel Castro's "Motherland or Death."

"I never imagined I would hear the words coming from the mouth of a U.S. president 139 years later," Castro said in an essay titled "Bush, Mambi?" carried by the official media.

"It's as if a king in those times, or his governor, proclaimed 'Viva Cuba Libre,'" Castro said.

According to Reuters, in his speech
Castro compared the Mambisis, who freed their slaves, with President Abraham Lincoln's abolition of slavery, then quoted Lincoln's famous words in reference to the Bush speech.

"You can fool some of the people all of the time or all of the people part of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time," Castro said.

Cuba on Sunday marked the 48th anniversary of the death of revolutionary hero Camilo Cienfuegos, who disappeared in a plane crash, and earlier this month that of Guerrilla fighter Ernesto Che Guevara.

"For what their names symbolize, we respond to the false Mambi: Viva Lincoln! Viva Che! Viva Camilo!" Castro concluded.

So, here we go again. A war of words. A show. The Republican politics of stupidity. Didn't anyone understand the origin of the quote? Has Republican cronyism displaced every government functionary with even moderate intelligence?

If Bush were serious about fostering democracy in Cuba, it would be irresistible in Cuba if he simply took down the blockade. That would allow trade and it would permit US citizens to visit. That would immediately move Cuba toward democracy. But fostering democracy isn't what this latest dust up is about. No. It's just Neanderthal politics. It's about Bush, Mr. 24%, hanging on to the last vestige of his dying support in South Florida, in the Cuban expat community.

It's nothing new. And, of course, it's just not helpful to US interests.

Etiquetas: , , ,

domingo, octubre 21, 2007

Panties for Peace: Action For Burma

cross posted at daily Kos

Remembering Myanmar. Remembering Aung San Suu Kyi. Remembering the monks who demonstrated. Remembering the people of Burma, killed, beaten, jailed, tortured, disappeared, threatened, relocated. Remembering their struggle for freedom. Remembering the military government's unchecked repression.

Can we focus on Myanmar for just a moment? Two items: One is an update; the other is an action to take.

Item One. Today's NY Times reports that repression continues to silence Burma.
An ominous calm has settled here, less than a month after the military junta crushed an uprising for democracy led by the nation’s revered monks. People have quietly returned to the squalor and inflation that brought them to the streets in protest. There are even suggestions of peace: young couples embracing under trees around scenic Kandawgyi Lake; music from a restaurant drifting across the placid water.

But beneath the surface, anger, uncertainty, hopelessness — and above all, fear of the junta — prevail.

“It’s not peace you see here, it’s silence; it’s a forced silence,” said a 46-year-old writer who joined last month’s protests in Yangon and was now on the run, carrying with him a worn copy of his favorite book, George Orwell’s “1984.” “We are the military’s slaves. We want democracy. We want to wait no longer. But we are afraid of their guns.”

After the demonstrations, the Government shut down the Internet and denied access to the country to foreign journalists and launched a reign of terror. After that
terror continued to rage through Yangon, the main city, for days, according to witnesses and dissidents here. Soldiers raided homes and monasteries to arrest demonstrators, witnesses said, using pictures taken by government informers during the protests.

Even now, now that the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon has been reopened and groups of more than 5 people are allowed again to congregate there, even though the barb wire has been removed, according to the Times:
[A]t at its four entrances, pictures of what appeared to be detainees, their faces harried or bruised from beatings, were posted as a warning. Soldiers in green uniforms lurked in the shade with their rifles.

Please join me in remembering these people and their ongoing struggle.

Item Two. Malaysia Today reports:
The “Panties for Peace” campaign aimed at Burma’s military regime is gaining momentum, with the establishment of a committee to drum up support in Thailand.

The campaign began on October 16, with women throughout the world sending packages to Burmese embassies containing panties. Burma’s superstitious generals, particularly junta chief Than Shwe, believe that contact with any item of women’s wear deprives them of their power.

“Panties for Peace” campaigns have sprung up in Australia, Europe, Singapore—and now Thailand, where a Lanna Action for Burma committee has been formed in Chiang Mai to support the feminine protest.

A founder of the campaign explained:
“The SPDC is famous for its abuse of women, so this can be a very strong signal from women around the world supporting the women in Burma,” she said.

“Many feel there’s little we can do. It is like living next to domestic violence when we see the military government brutal crack down in Burma. We can hear that fighting in the next-door house or in the same village. We have tried to talk, we have tried to do many things. But we need to express our feelings.”

Dear Readers, you know exactly what to do in these circumstances. Here are the two addresses:

Embassy of the Union of Myanmar
2300 S Street NW
Washington D.C. 20008

Consulate General of Myanmar
10 East 77th Street
New York, New York 10021

It's vitally important to keep this issue alive. I only wish I knew of other actions that would support those under the boot heal of this military government.

Etiquetas: , ,

jueves, octubre 18, 2007

Two Argentinian Gems

Ricardo Piglia

Ricardo Piglia is a remarkable Argentinian writer of fiction most US readers haven't heard about. He's teaching Latin American Literature at Princeton. But this isn't about his professorial occupation; I wanted to rave briefly about two of his novels I had the pleasure to read while I was away.

*Artificial Respiration is a masterpiece from 1981. Kirkus Reviews wrote
Published in Argentina in 1981 when that country still labored under authoritarian rule, Piglia's ambitious, multivalent novel explores the abrasive relationship between the human imagination and human history. Piglia, very much in the tradition of Latin American masters like Borges and Cortazar, employs a labyrinthine plot to worry knotty metaphysical and political questions. Sometimes a detective novel, sometimes a fictional probe of Argentine history, the book is plastic enough to concoct a confrontation between Kafka and Hitler. Piglia's compatriot, Ariel Dorfman, hails it as ``one of the most important Latin American novels of the last decade.''
I loved this book and wished there were a second volume. The books discusses among other things the Argentinian literary canon. This is a novel that should be a part of that canon. Don't miss it.

*Money To Burn is a 1997 true crime novel. Publisher's Weekly wrote about this book that Piglia
again delivers his signature blend of noirish crime and social commentary in this provocative tale of a 1965 Buenos Aires bank robbery and its bloody aftermath, based on a real crime. The story is simple, but Piglia gives it depth by focusing on the sexed-up, drug-abusing, reckless robbers whose actions shocked Argentina.
Telling more would be a disservice. There are surprises. Piglia's writing is taut, and the story moves rapidly. Another novel not to be missed.

How is it, you might ask, that I find these books? It's a question worthy of a real answer. Mostly, I rely on intuition. I find books and authors I like. I use Google and conversation to find books and authors who are compared to or in some way related to the ones I liked. If what I'm finding sounds at all intriguing, I invest $5 or less for a used copy of a book. I always like Then I read. I'd use my local library if it had any of the books I'm searching out readily available, but it doesn't seem able to serve them up fast enough for these impulses. When I find a great book, I again Google and talk. I'm always looking for suggestions. It is simply remarkable to me how well this method works and how many wonderful books I've found and read in the past year.

In the pre-Internet world, I used this same intuition and sampling search technique to learn all about blues music and then, later, jazz. That was much, much harder: I had to find people (or libraries) with albums they'd lend.

My life has been enriched by this kind of searching. I'm amazed at how many gems I have "found." My standards remain incredibly high, and the shear volume of fantastic books, even limited to my genres of interest, means that I should never run out of new ones to rave about.

Etiquetas: , , ,