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
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!