[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Introspection is a Good Thing

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Introspection is a Good Thing

(Cross-posted from Babalu).

This post is about Ana Menendez's latest column dealing with Cuban exiles. This is your warning.

Why devote a full post in Babalu Blog to someone whose writings have proven to stand against most things we hold close to our hearts? Why give even more attention to her?

Stick with me, my answer is forthcoming.

The reaction to Ana Menendez's exile-bashing column 9 days ago has been swift and full of indignation, including the great counter piece delivered by Mercedes Soler a week ago. Ana's words were personal, and she's paid for it.

This reaction apparently got to our esteemed columnist, and she replied today with a follow up column that is as full of the "Ana as usual" as it is with surprising and revealing introspection.

The column's title "Exiles' 'Pain' (note the quotation marks around pain) Must Include Room for Dissent" and the opening paragraph offer the typical Ana Menendez fare:

We Cubans are infamous for our public displays of suffering, our flamboyant airing of grievances that other cultures have learned to keep private.

It's a trait that has always bothered me, partly because it is has become a symbol for much that others find distasteful in us and partly because it has allowed too many otherwise brave and intelligent people to wallow in corrosive victimhood.

Never mind that other cultures are also outspoken in their suffering. That doesn't make them - or us - inferior. Unfortunately, Ana is ashamed of the negative aspects that define not only Cubans, but all human beings.

After that, the column begins to peel away at some of the layers surrounding Menendez, and you know what? The end result is something that we all have experienced and can learn from.

After the intro, Ana delves into her family's past: their expulsion from Cuba and the "pain" they experienced. It then veers into a discussion about the Port of Miami Tunnel deal involving a French company which does business with Cuba (she writes about an attempted phone conversation with Miami radio host Ninoska Perez Castellon in which Ninoska proceeded to hang up on her. Perhaps not the polite thing to do, but our rights of free speech and expression include the right to get upset and be angered. I'm sure Ana and other liberals would understand).

After the detour, Ana gets back on track and closes the column by relating to us a recent conversation and dinner with her parents.

Later that day, I was supposed to have dinner with my parents when I got called back into the office. Before I made it back, my father made an offhand comment about the column that, without his realizing it, wounded me. At the office, I briefly considered canceling dinner. Instead, I drove back to my parents' house.

My parents and I sometimes clash on important issues. We have lived vastly different histories. Now and then, we hurt one another. But if I can't sit down and have a meal with those I disagree with, I have no right to ask anyone else to do the same.

Let's admit it, we all have experienced exactly what Ana described in that last section. Who among us hasn't rebelled against our parents, against authority? Of course, most of us outgrow that phase, but at the heart of this is a struggle that Ana appears to carry with her in every exile-bashing column she's penned: the conflict between her liberal-enlightened views and her parents' pain. For the first time, Ana reveals her weakness, a conflict between two powerful forces: her views and the legitimate feelings of her parents.

What can we take out of this? Indeed, there is room for dissent, as long as it's done respectfully and with good intentions. That's the problem, however. Too much dissent, on BOTH sides, is delivered and displayed with such lack of respect that the issues become drowned out by needless posturing.

What can Ana Menendez and those who share her ideology take from this? That there is also room for vigorous debate and even indignation from those whom you offend with your choice of words. They indeed have the right to express themselves freely - thank God - but we also have the right to react accordingly and within the law.

Most importantly, what I hope Ana can take out of this experience is a new-found sensibility towards those she disagrees with. After all, if she can understand her own parents' pain, then why not the pain and feelings of the majority of Cuban exiles who have lived one too many bad experiences? The same pain and suffering that Ana's parents - our parents - shielded from us second-generation Cuban-Americans.

Read Ana Menendez's column in its entirety below the fold at Babalu.



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