Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 16)

man-and-woman-arm-wrestlingThe man politely introduced himself to our group. His name was Victor, and he was an historian.

With his white temples and beard, he certainly looked the part.

Eleanor was just as gray. But not as pleasant.

Are you asking me if I know the history of my own country?” she asked indignantly.

Exactly!” Victor punctuated this pronouncement with a finger in the air. He was so comical and personable, you couldn’t help but like him.

Unless you were Eleanor.

Well, that’s insulting,” she informed him. “How would you feel if I asked if you know the history of your own country?

I would feel that you are not one to make ignorant assumptions based on citizenship,” he answered.

Eleanor looked as if she might vomit on him. Intentionally.

fidel-and-krushchev

Russia's Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Krushchev & Fidel Castro. Moscow, 1964.

In many countries, citizens do not know their government,” Victor said soberly. “Ours, for example. Since El began intercourse with Russia, we Cubans have been in the dark for the most part.” (Armando explained to me later that Cubans call Fidel Castro ‘El’).

Intercourse with Russia. In the dark.

I made a mental note to educate myself about who our government was having intercourse with. And how “in the dark” we are about it.

Well, we live in a democracy,” Eleanor pointed out sanctimoniously. “Americans know what our government is doing.”

Forgive me, but you live in a quasi-democracy,” Victor countered. “You know only what your government wants you to know. Just as in Cuba. The difference is, here, we are fully aware of our information blackout. But Americans truly believe they know the whole story. Not just about their country, but about everyone else’s as well.”

Victor spread his arms widely. “One historical viewpoint for all!

Eleanor’s nostril’s flared. Bats could have flown up in there.

Victor smiled and added pleasantly, “You, for example, with your ‘magical’ history.”

Whooooooaaaaa!

We all exchanged bug-eyed looks, then snapped our attention back to the Democracy/Communist face-off.

Eleanor’s body had become so stiff, a stripper could have used her for a pole. Then suddenly, without further word, the pole turned and walked away.

newspaper-with-headline-about-cubaVictor shrugged. “Would you like to learn a bit of non-magical American history?” he asked the rest of us, raising his eyebrows comically.

You want us to stand here and listen to the Communist version of American history?” someone asked.

Victor laughed out loud. It was a thick, throaty, genuine laugh. “I am not a Communist,” he chuckled. “You will have a difficult time finding Communist Cubans on this island!

 

Okay, whaaaa??

We are in Communist Cuba, right?

I would like to hear it.” The speaker was one of the “brown people” in our group. “Lord knows, our own version of history has enough holes in it to sink a ship!” he added.

He laughed as she said this. I wondered if his laughter was genuine. Or that type of laughter you do when you’ve said something so uncomfortably true that people don’t want to hear it, and so you laugh to reduce the impact.

Not sure I came to Cuba to hear my country trashed,” someone else mumbled deliberately loud enough for us all to hear.

Victor tilted his gray head. “Why did you come to Cuba?

That person did not answer. But Embeth, one of the 80-something sisters hobbled forward & shook her finger in Victor’s face. “You think you know more about history than I do? Those 5 gray hairs on your head mean nothing, sonny boy!

Everyone burst out laughing. The mood lightened. And Ruth, the other 80-something sister, piped up, “Give it your best shot. Trash us, Victor!

And so he did.

shame-on-usa

But it wasn’t funny.

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13 thoughts on “Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 16)

  1. Pingback: Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 30) | Sylver Blaque

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  8. “Forgive me, but you live in a quasi-democracy,” Victor countered. “You know only what your government wants you to know. Just as in Cuba. The difference is, here, we are fully aware of our information blackout. But Americans truly believe they know the whole story. Not just about their country, but about everyone else’s as well.”

    Boy did he get that right.

  9. I’m not naive enough to think America and Americans have achieved some sort of higher evolution than the rest of the world. You don’t even have to go to another country to see the stupid things we’ve done. Visit an Indian reservation, for instance. But we’ve also done a lot right, otherwise illegal immigration wouldn’t be an issue. People would be staying home in droves. For all our faults, this is still the promised land.

    • I kind of like it here, myself. :wink: It really is “the promised land” for many of us. Not so much for others whose governments & thereby lives we’ve decimated in our quest for power, wealth, and resources. We don’t talk much about that side of us here. Risk of being labeled unpatriotic. But I think it’s important to know our whole story – every beautiful, nasty bit of it. Unfortunately, I learn only the beautiful here; the nasty bits I learn overseas. I’ve also learned that this is the way of most countries – no one wants to speak, much less teach, about their own dirty laundry. :roll:

      That said, we have done a lot right, haven’t we? This is something I also learn overseas. Whenever I witness or am in dire a situation, I inevitably think how lucky I am to live in a country with the freedom & abundance we have here. What we have is rare the world over and, for many of us, “promised land” describes it beautifully. :)

      • Yup – we screw up, lots. I sort of see it as the omelet/eggs syndrome. Still – look at how much we give to other nations – monetarily, militarily, food stuffs, education, etc. And I’m not just talking about the government. Look at how much individual Americans give to others – whether as missionaries, researchers, photographers, dentists, etc. The Cubans (and others) have a lot of sins to point out to us. Not dodging that. At the same time, you weren’t over there listening to him as a part of some mercenary activity. You were there because you cared and you are not alone.

        • Thank you. Like you, I do care. Very much. About our future. About not repeating the same destructive mistakes we’ve made in the past. We can’t keep our government from reenacting historical crimes against humanity if we’ve never been told about those crimes. As I travel, and learn more and more about our role in other countries, I feel the responsibility to share that knowledge when I return home. Because we’re not learning it here. There are avalanches of information here about our benevolence. We all know that side of the story very well. But I believe providing only half the story is not serving us well at all. It’s leaving us blind about exactly why so many nations hate America. We can’t understand it because we have no idea about our historical & current destruction to those nations. All we’ve been told is how much money, aid, democracy, etc. we’ve given them. We’ve been told nothing about what else we’ve done that makes them hate us – so we’re like, what’s their problem? Why are those foreigners so ungrateful? We saved their asses!

          So, yeah. I care deeply about my country – you & I have that in common. :) But since there is so little info provided in our country about so very many things we should know about in order to be able to lobby knowledgeably to keep our government from ultimately destroying us (our country, our reputation, our relationship with nations who have good reason to hate us, our lives, the lives of others we are destroying, etc.) by way of our foreign policy, I feel the responsibility to share such vital info as I learn it. Because we can’t work to fix what we don’t know about.

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