[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: A Reasonable Article on Book Removal

Saturday, June 17, 2006

A Reasonable Article on Book Removal

I promised that this post on the Vamos A Cuba book removal (it's NOT a ban, as Alesh correctly states) would be the last on the subject, as I have pretty much had it with the whole mess.

I am happy to report that I was wrong.

Why am I pleased? After reading and hearing comments that Cubans want nothing more than to turn Miami into another castro-like authoritarian hellhole, after reading and hearing that Cuban are hypocrites and trample on freedom of speech, after reading and hearing that Cubans intimidate and pressure people to agree with them, came an column in the Miami Herald regarding the School Board's decision.

Normally, I would be on the verge of having a conniption after reading a typical Miami Herald columnist's handling of a controversial Cuban issue.

Not today. Herald political writer Beth Reinhard managed to perfectly capture the complexities of the issue. Where other journalists and bloggers totally missed or chose to ignore many of the reasons motivating those (parents, not politicians) who supported the removal, Reinhard was able to put aside her personal feelings and wrote an amazingly balanced and unbiased piece.

Additional comments following the column which is included here in its entirety (emphasis mine).
Host of Reasons Behind Banning Children's Book

By Beth Reinhard

breinhard@MiamiHerald.com

It's easy for non-Hispanics to look at the Miami-Dade School Board's decision this week to ban a children's book and say: There go those crazy Cubans again.

Six years ago, they flipped when little Elian Gonzalez was reunited with his father in Cuba. Now they're trampling on the Constitution and censoring library books?

Hold on. There's plenty of room for disagreement about the extreme actions taken by Elian protesters and School Board members. And there's plenty of reason to suspect politicians of exploiting these incidents.

But there's also opportunity here to try to understand the genuine emotions behind the political posturing.

Jeffrey Garcia is not some 60-something Cuban exile who calls Spanish-language radio talk shows to rail about the Bay of Pigs. He's a 34-year-old Democratic political consultant who was born and raised in Miami-Dade.

Yet Garcia recoiled when he saw the cover of Vamos a Cuba, in which smiling children wear the mandatory uniform of the Communist youth and seem oblivious to the hard realities of a repressive regime.

Consider his father's story:

Jose Garcia left behind his parents and siblings in Cuba in 1961, as Fidel Castro began seizing businesses and property. Garcia was 15 years old. He never saw his mother again.

He went to Boston and lived with younger cousins who also had fled the island. He got by with odd jobs, cleaning a gas station, driving an ice cream truck. He also learned English and put himself through school, earning a college degree in mechanical and electrical engineering.

He got married and moved to Miami in 1971. He had three children, started a sprinkler company, served as lay president of St. Brendan Catholic school and coached Little League. He had achieved the American dream.

But in 1980, when Castro briefly opened up Cuba's borders and launched the Mariel boatlift, Garcia risked everything. He paid $30,000 to two shrimp boaters to take him to the island and retrieve his father.

Jose Garcia's father lived in Miami until his death in 1995. Jose died in 2004.

''My father's life experience played the largest role in shaping who I am,'' Jeffrey Garcia said. ``There are a lot of people living in South Florida with this kind of story. Maybe I wouldn't ban that book, but the School Board's decision needs to be put in context.''

Were board members pandering to the politically influential Cuban exile community? Maybe. The School Board overruled recommendations from two review committees comprised of Cuban Americans as well as Superintendent Rudy Crew. Three of the six board members who voted against the book are up for reelection -- Perla Tabares Hantman, Agustin Barrera and Marta Perez -- and a fourth, Frank Bolaños, is campaigning for the state Senate.

Earlier this month, Bolaños said of his colleagues' upcoming decision: ``They will have a choice to either define themselves on the side of truth and with the Cuban community or on the side of lies and against the Cuban community.''

Such inflammatory remarks and votes should be carefully dissected by the public. But is it possible to debate the matter without dismissing ``those crazy Cubans?''

Think of the experience of Garcia's father and so many others.

''We never do,'' Garcia said. 'Nobody ever stops and says, `Hold on, there's a whole other side of this. Let me try to see how regular people arrive at these conclusions.' Nobody does that.'

Garcia is right, no one gives a crap about looking at both sides. I understand it's not easy for non-Cubans to understand how some Cubans feel about the book, but instead of trying to understand before passing judgement, it appears to me that many in South Florida immediately see this as another opportunity to trash Cuban-Americans. Sadly enough, there's plenty of that going around in the local blogosphere. Let's face it, Cuban-Americans, perceived to be the top dogs in Miami, are fair game in this town.

I won't even mention that many Cuban-Americans disagree with the book removal. I won't mention that I am quite bothered by the removal myself. I definitely won't bother mentioning that several Cuban-American bloggers have been involved in a passionate but very intelligent e-mail debate on whether the book should have removed or not.

That's OK. I don't want to disrupt the perception that many have already drawn of us intolerant Cuban-Americans.

Where's the perspective? Where's the understanding by those who think they're intellectually and morally superior because they felt the book should have remained on the shelves of a school library? Why are their feelings more rational than those of the people who felt strongly about removing the book?

It's impressive that Reinhard, a non-Cuban who by the tone of the article seems to disagree with the removal of the book, was able to comprehend the situation so well while still having an opinion of her own.

Of course, that's what smart, reasonable and fair people do.

Reinhard has won a ton of respect from me.

And folks, that's it. NO MORE POSTS ON THIS TOPIC from yours truly!

I promise.

12 Comments:

Anonymous Rick said...

Number 1: I don't know why you would feel obligated to limit yourself to posting about a certain subject. If you feel the need to add or clarify your opinion, I think it's important that you do that. No matter how many times you may have posted about the subject before.

Number 2: I think the action taken by the school board is a ban as much as it is a removal. Of course, the word "ban" sounds much more provocative so I can understand why some would want to gravitate toward using "removal." But when we look at the definition of "ban", we see that it could be just as applicable. I see them as interchangeable.

Number 3: Likewise, I find it interesting that the article that you choose to cite, while insisting that the book was "removed," is entitled "Host of Reasons Behind Banning Children's Book."

Number 4: I think you continue to erroneously believe that non Cuban-Americans (CAs) think that all CAs think alike on this issue. We don't. But the only people we hear yelling and carrying on about this issue are the pro-banning CAs. The CAs that are supposedly against the removal are like "I have some reservations" or "It makes me uncomfortable" or "I'm hesitant to agree"....c'mon folks. Just say it. Just say that it's not American. Just say that it's unconstitutional. Just say that you're extremely disappointed in some of your fellow CAs. Don't do it with behind the scene emails. Come out and say it. That, more than anything else, would let us non-CAs and the rest of South Florida know LOUD AND CLEAR that not everyone plays on the same team in the CA community when it comes to interpreting the 1st Amendment.

Lastly, why the hell does an Anglo named Beth Reinhard get a cogent and articulate reaction to this issue out to the public before Val Prieto? That's what I want to know.

9:31 PM, June 17, 2006  
Blogger Robert said...

Rick,

Number 1: I don't know why you would feel obligated to limit yourself to posting about a certain subject. If you feel the need to add or clarify your opinion, I think it's important that you do that. No matter how many times you may have posted about the subject before.

Yes, I know. That's just my sense of humor coming out which only I can catch, of course. Believe it or not, I really don't take this blog as seriously as it appears I do.

Number 2: I think the action taken by the school board is a ban as much as it is a removal. Of course, the word "ban" sounds much more provocative so I can understand why some would want to gravitate toward using "removal." But when we look at the definition of "ban", we see that it could be just as applicable. I see them as interchangeable.

There are subtleties in the definitions which I think are important in this case. All in all, I really don't care what word people want to use.

Number 3: Likewise, I find it interesting that the article that you choose to cite, while insisting that the book was "removed," is entitled "Host of Reasons Behind Banning Children's Book."

Please refer to the last sentence of my reply to number 2.

Number 4: I think you continue to erroneously believe that non Cuban-Americans (CAs) think that all CAs think alike on this issue. We don't. But the only people we hear yelling and carrying on about this issue are the pro-banning CAs. The CAs that are supposedly against the removal are like "I have some reservations" or "It makes me uncomfortable" or "I'm hesitant to agree"....c'mon folks. Just say it. Just say that it's not American. Just say that it's unconstitutional. Just say that you're extremely disappointed in some of your fellow CAs. Don't do it with behind the scene emails. Come out and say it. That, more than anything else, would let us non-CAs and the rest of South Florida know LOUD AND CLEAR that not everyone plays on the same team in the CA community when it comes to interpreting the 1st Amendment.

Now it gets fun.

I never said that ALL non CA's believe that all CA's agree with the board's decision. I use terms such as "many" and "some" to try to make that clear. Perhaps I should start putting those words in bold so people understand. By the way, I stand by my opinion that SOME or MANY non-CA's think we're all the same bunch of assholes.

Both Conductor and myself (Cuban-Americans) have serious reservations about the removal. We've been dealing head-on with this issue for weeks now. I don't understand your comment about only pro-ban CA's carrying on about this issue, when clearly other CA viewpoints have been published. This is a very complex topic, as I have stated ad nauseum. As a son, grandson, nephew, and cousin of Cuban exiles, I understand and even feel their pain of leaving everything behind. I feel their pain when I hear the stories of my cousins being mercilessly executed by Che's firing squads. I don't expect you or any other non CA to relate to this. But I do expect some understanding, even if you don't agree with the pro-ban folks. That's the way I feel, and I'm sure Conductor feels as well. We can question or disagree with our own without being rude, antagonistic or sarcastic. That's because we understand the underlying factors and we're sensitive to the feelings of those who are pro-ban.

Also, there IS another way to disagree other than by being mean-spirited. Reinhard made that crystal clear. PLEASE, don't make me point out the local blogs that have made sarcastic and mean-spirited comments about CA's in the days leading up to and after the decision.

What else do you want CA's like myself to say? If my opinion doesn't totally satisfy you, if I stop short of calling other CA's intolerant, then so be it. Why do you feel that other CA's have to publish their thoughts in order to "prove" that we're not monolithic? Can't CA's be just like other human beings, with diverse thoughts and opinions on a wide range of topics, or are we somehow "different" from the rest? I don't understand why you insist on having this point proved to you, when the answer is as plain as day. Don't you think that my feelings (and Conductor's) represent a large segment of the CA population, or am I some freak of nature? And why do you insist on picking on Val? He made a cogent and articulate assessment of his feelings days before today's article was printed. Why don't you ask him directly for his opinion?

I'll finish with this, and you can interpret this any way you want:
If MOST "anglos" (by far the most inaccurate term to describe human beings that I have ever heard in my life) felt the way Reinhard feels about an issue as sensitive as this one, South Florida would be a much better place to live and there would be about 50% less South Florida bloggers.

10:52 PM, June 17, 2006  
Anonymous NicFitKid said...

In the end, talk is just talk. What Rick points out still holds; internal hemming and hawing on blogs and email hardly constitutes a robust defense of first amendment principles.

The reason South Florida non-Cubans perceive Cuban-Americans as monolithic, intolerant, and quick to persecute anything even faintly associated with Castro is the reliable, clockwork, consistent action of Cuban-American political leadership, who miss no opportunity to pander or pick at old wounds. I fully agree that opinion within CA circles varies widely on many topics, but when it comes to political decisions, Cuban-American leaders constantly revert to type. The school board is only the latest example. Penellas did the same when he morphed from moderate democrat mayor to angry Cuban denouncing the feds over the Elian issue. It's as if every CA politician has a pandering circuit in their brain that's tuned to a 20 years out of date version of their constinuency.

With political leadership like that, how can you even remotely expect non-Cubans to even listen to your concerns? The situation becomes even more absurd with distance, as the subtleties of Miami exile politics become even more indistinct in the rest of America, which usually doesn't even know anything exists down here except for South Beach. All they hear is "Miami Cuban school board memebers ban children's travel books. Film at eleven." With headlines like that, you'll never get your signal out past the noise.

7:43 AM, June 18, 2006  
Anonymous Rick said...

Ditto on what nicfitkid said.

Perhaps I should have characterized Reinhard as a "non-Cuban" as you did. That, I guess, would have been a much more "accurate term" to describe her heritage.

And why am I so hung up on Val? It's because he may be the highest profile CA blogger in the country. If there is a voice for the South Florida CA community on the web, he may just be it. But he's remained silent on this significant issue since last week's decision. On June 6th, he expressed his "chagrin" that the "chances are that our Cuban-American community's opinion will be brushed aside and ignored. Oh, we'll be given the usual token "we'll look into it" or "we've taken into account your feelings on the matter" mumbo jumbo, but in the end, our opinion will not have made a damned bit of difference." But not a word since.

I would expect him to be elated about the removal of the book, right? I mean, the "CA community's opinion" (note how he collectively lumped all CA's into one group...better talk to him about that, Robert) did make a difference. Their feelings were not ignored. But there's nothing. It's almost like he's still waiting for the school board to make their decision. You would think that this would be a real opportunity for Prieto, who never seems at loss for words, to explain his position and reaction from a CA standpoint. No, I think it's perfectly justifiable to wonder why he has said nothing.

Robert, you and the rest of the CA community have nothing to prove to the South Florida blogging community or to the rest of the world, for that matter. But I would suggest that straddling the fence, taking the middle ground and exchanging emails amongst yourselves, does nothing to convey your apparent conviction that the school board's decision was not the proper one.

As a sidenote, what I would pay to see what those emails are saying about SotP. Whoa boy.

.

12:56 PM, June 18, 2006  
Blogger Robert said...

Rick,

Again, and I repeat, if you're so concerned about Val's opinion, whom you feel is the true voice of the CA blogging community, then e-mail him. I am not going to speak for Val. What's wrong with an adult e-mailing another adult with an honest question?

Nic Fit Kid had to revert to the old politician argument to make his case. We are all represented by our elected officials, whether we like it or not. CA politicians are far from the only ones that say or do stupid things. Pointing the finger at CA politicians is an easy out and avoids the greater and more complex issues which define this case.

Rick, I'm a grown adult, I've experienced many things in my life, and have been blessed with many wonderful things. At this stage, I can't worry about how my opinions are perceived by others. I do my best to express them as clearly and as politely as possible. I don't blog to satisfy others, I do it because it's something I enjoy doing. If in the end certain people still don't understand my opinions or beliefs, then so be it and let's move on. You can bet I'll still be here. I'm sure you feel the same way about your blog.

I hate to break this to you, but not a single peep about SoTP nor any of your posts concerning this issue on those e-mails. Seriously.

From your last comment it ALMOST sounds like you want to provoke a certain element of the blogging community with your posts, huh? If so, then I am truly disappointed that the New Times South Florida blog of the year would resort to such tactics in its posts (I am actually referring to one post in particular which I will not identify here). Especially coming from someone whose posts often take the high road by criticizing or poking fun at the lower elements of South Florida society.

6:45 PM, June 18, 2006  
Anonymous Rick said...

Robert: Based upon what Val said on June 6th, I think I know how he feels about the school board's decision. If he remains consistent in his opinion, that is. If he's changed his mind, it would be interesting to read why. Am I concerned about it? No. Am I going to go chasing after him with emails as to how he feels? Hell, no. But it sure doesn't prevent me from wondering why he doesn't care to blog about it.

I really resent the charges that I would want to provoke any of my readers with what I post. I am opinionated and I am direct but I am also straight forward in my posting. There is no hidden agenda and underlying message to my writing. Maybe that's a fault of mine. Sometimes I come on too strong. But my words are genuine and are what I feel. For you to insinuate that I've used my blog to intentionally incite or inflame my readers is hurtful and really out of character for you. And then to go and continue on about me poking fun at "the lower elements of South Florida society"....man, there's something else going on here. Something must have been bothering you for some time, Robert, to launch that kind of attack on my character.

I can't seem to find it now, but I think somewhere you mentioned that blogging is no big deal for you, or something to that affect. Well, unlike you, Robert, I take my blogging seriously. And I take what you've just said very seriously.

You've made your point. Let's move on.

.

9:16 PM, June 18, 2006  
Blogger Val Prieto said...

For the record, I made my point and stance on this issue perfectly clear weeks ago. My opinion has not changed, nor will it.

And I purposely choose not to blog about it as I feel this issue is much ado about not much. All the while distracting everyone - reporters, columnists, bloggers , etal - from othe rmore important issues that should require our attention.

Plus, today I have a hangover.

10:49 AM, June 19, 2006  
Blogger Robert said...

Rick, I sincerely apologize if I offended you with my comment about provoking readers with a particular post you made. That wasn't my intent. I was reacting to this surprising remark you made:

As a sidenote, what I would pay to see what those emails are saying about SotP. Whoa boy.

If you were being sarcastic with that comment as well as with your picture post about CA's, please make sure I and everyone else understands. Sarcasm is much harder to identify when it's in written form. Either that, or I'm not the brightest bulb on the block.

I was bothered by your remark AND post, no doubt. I wanted to e-mail you directly a couple of days ago to tell you that but couldn't find an address.

We all have the right to express strong opinions in our blogs. But the above remark, coupled with the post about Cuban-Americans making Miami more like Cuba every day, really opened you up for a strong rebuttal. You had to at least realize the possibility that it would bother and maybe even offend someone if taken at face value as I did. I accept the probability that I misinterpreted your intention.

Again, please accept my apology for my rebuttal remarks. And yes, let's please move on, this topic has outlived it's 15 seconds of fame.

1:54 PM, June 19, 2006  
Anonymous Rick said...

Robert:

Thanks for the apology. And I apologize if there was any offense taken by my posts.

These exchanges aren't a waste of time if we take something away from them. And I have.

Cheers.

9:19 PM, June 19, 2006  
Anonymous gansibele said...

"Ban" vs. "removal" sounds a bit PC to me.

I don't see anything in Jeffrey Garcia or his father's story (and the many stories like that) that makes the picture on the cover of the book a lie. He was never a "pionero" nor was his father. Why is it so hard to accept that children in Cuba smile, laugh and play too? How is that offensive?

It's another sign of the disconnect between Cuban Americans in Miami and Cubans in Cuba, especially those born here and their counterparts. Yes we listen to both Silvio Rodriguez and Radio Martí, yes we had Che posters on our walls and also American flags on our t-shirts, yes we read Garcia Marquez and Cabrera Infante and did many other things you consider contradictoery and heretic here. No se puede tapar el sol con un dedo. How about considering that side as well?

I completely agree with Rick. Don't equivocate if you don't want to be lumped with the vociferous side. Or just accept that most people have a monolithic view of Cuban Americans - and of everybody for that matter, I'm sure not all Jewish people are pro-Israel and not all African Americans think "the man" is exploting them. A while ago Val was railing in his blog against "moderate Muslims" who condemn terrorism too timidly. Well, maybe they don't want to be seen as going against "their kind" either.

11:42 AM, June 20, 2006  
Blogger mish said...

Cuban American, born raised here with appx. 2/9 of my life spent in Virginia. I am as liberal as they come. I cant believe i am about to type something thing this: I dont care it they ban it. It seems like it makes Cuba a nice happy place. I know enough people who came here w/in the past 5 years to know that is not the case. Hmmm... unless you hurt yourself badly over there (and still had your old and invalid license) instead of over here while horseback riding. Free healthcare. Something one can only still pretty much dream of here.
About wanting to ban it: it is just from what i heard from sources like here and Leonard Pitts. The material doesnt seem real. But i have not read the book and would love to. OMG would i be pissed if someone tried to prevent me from reading it, but i would not want it taught to my child unless i knew the point of the lesson and in which manner the teacher was planning to lead disscussion.

2:42 AM, July 01, 2006  
Blogger Michael Caputo said...

THE MIAMI HERALD
July 8, 2006

TAXES FOR VAMOS A CUBA: "SINFUL AND TYRANNICAL"
By Frank Bolanos

Mr. Frank Bolanos is a member of the Miami-Dade School Board



If the Newark, New Jersey school board decided to issue "Little Black Sambo" as a third grade reader, how would that largely African-American community react?

Famed progressive educator Carl L. Marburger posed this question in 1974, when he said controversial schoolbooks in rural West Virginia showed the public school system's "astonishing insensitivity to local cultural values."

Those aggrieved local folks endured the insults, catcalls and jeers of the liberal elite until Marburger, a self-described liberal's liberal, spoke up and gave them pause. Today, the Miami-Dade school board and I are being accused of censorship for our efforts to remove from school libraries "Vamos a Cuba," a children's book that paints a false and distorted portrait of life in communist Cuba.

If the teachers' unions, Herald columnists, the ACLU and Fidel Castro himself are to be believed, the Miami-Dade school board is pillaging school libraries, burning books, oppressing the intellectual freedom of helpless children, and stomping on the First Amendment.

None of this is true; this is not a First Amendment issue. Censorship occurs when government refuses to allow people to purchase material, not when it refuses to provide that material at no charge.

Just as the First Amendment grants basic freedoms to those espousing even the most repugnant of views, I support Alta Schreier's right to author and publish "Vamos a Cuba." I defend the right of any Miami bookstore to sell it and I defend the right of any American to read it. Indeed, let the author promote and sell her book and compete in the marketplace of ideas.

But taxpayers must not be forced to subsidize falsehoods, propaganda or insulting imagery. As Thomas Jefferson, wrote, "to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical."

Simply put, Jefferson, a framer of the Constitution our critics cite, would see no reason for our schools to spend sparse taxpayer money to promote the circulation of misinformation and lies many in our community equate to oppression and the loss of liberty and life.

If our public schools provided "Little Black Sambo" to African-America children, I would stand with their parents as this would be offensive, racist and an inappropriate use of tax dollars. If our public schools put the grotesquely anti-Semitic children's book "The Poisonous Mushroom" into libraries, I would stand with Jewish parents to oppose this abhorrent act and misappropriation of public funds. The struggle against Cuban communism is no less important.

In 1995, the Miami Herald was forced to trash an entire section after an offensive cartoon of Martin Luther King, Jr. was mistakenly printed inside. Over the nationally syndicated cartoonist's objections, editors made the bold decision to pull a half million copies of the magazine.

They did it by hand; it took two full days. It was hard and expensive work to correct a mistake that took only moments to make. Similarly, a foolish decision by an entrenched bureaucracy had to be corrected and has cost our school district valuable time, money and focus.

After the mess, the Herald's executive editor at the time wrote that the newspaper's First Amendment obligation is "to present the broadest range of perspectives and opinions in its news and opinion pages. But a newspaper also has an obligation to protect its readers from the outrageously offensive or the egregiously insensitive."

If such an obligation exists at a privately funded newspaper, certainly Miami's public officials have a responsibility to assure taxpayers aren't forced to subsidize racism, anti-Semitism or communism with public dollars.

Likewise, taxpayers shouldn't have to foot the bill for entrenched and misguided bureaucrats who want to whitewash the horrors of life under Fidel Castro and his brutal regime.


END

11:05 PM, July 07, 2006  

Post a Comment

<< Home