Sick and tired of Cuba

April 25, 2000|By Hilary Cosell

I AM JUST plumb tuckered out from Cuba. Mention "Cuba" once more, let alone "Elian," and I am certain to collapse like an elderly piece of furniture unable to withstand any more weight. This "island 90 miles off the coast of Florida" (as it is always described) maneuvered its way into my consciousness when I was about 7 years old, and it has remained lodged there, jabbing at my brain, when other mightier nations, like the Soviet Union, have long departed from my thoughts.

Why is this?

Well, perhaps it's because Cuba's "exiles" are the Hispanic equivalent of old Brooklyn Dodger fans. They simply never, ever give up. Fulgencio Batista, dictator from 1952 to 1959, is their Ralph Branca, and Fidel Castro is their Bobby Thomson. They're still replaying that "shot heard round the world" homer in the bottom of the ninth.

It matters not that the game is over, the Giants won, and both teams fled New York for California, right around the time Batista fled Cuba and Mr. Castro took power. They simply refuse to face facts after all these years.

But I, like most other Americans, have no trouble with the facts. The fact is that for generations now Mr. Castro has governed that island. I hold no brief for Fidel, or for dictatorships, whether communist or fascist. I'm sure I wouldn't like living there. I regret that people do have to live there. As do most dictators, Mr. Castro is apt to violate human rights the way the rest of us violate speed limits.

But enough, already, from a vocal minority living in Miami, still playing out tired old Cold War dramas, with hollow rhetoric and empty slogans. Especially when that rhetoric is cynically employed to hold our legal system, the attorney general of the United States, and a little child hostage to a vendetta that no longer has anything to do with the fate of the United States or world peace and security.

Once, Cuba and its bearded leader dominated my childhood and dominated our foreign policy. First, the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion. Then, the terrifying Cuban missile crisis, when the world was on the brink of nuclear annihilation. Cuba even threw a shadow over the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, surfacing, in Lee Harvey Oswald's bogus "Fair Play for Cuba Committee" and in murky rumors and whispers of conspiracy: Were the Cubans involved? Which ones? Fidel's boys? Or the exiles living here, who were furious with JFK?

Now, all of this is history, as they say, and I, for one, am grateful it is. Those were nightmare years, insane years. We live in a world where the Berlin Wall is a memory, and the Soviet Union just faded away. Fidel Castro is no longer some hot-wired revolutionary striking terror into our hearts. He's an old man with an old shtick.

But somehow, this vocal minority of Cuban "exiles" and "refugees" has been able to retain a mysterious hold over America. It is a distasteful hold, to say the least. To watch this community behave like it's 1962, and bully our nation -- their nation, for many are citizens now -- with the stale image of a hirsute lunatic pointing missiles at us, is a classic and disturbing example of tyranny of the minority.

I, for one, will not be sucked into this questionable exploitation of a child to settle old political scores. I mean it when I say I am tired of Cuba. I can no longer offer much sympathy to a group that demands to have their cause treated differently than any other. Who attempt to intimidate the attorney general of the United States, and the clear rule of law. Who try to manipulate me into hauling out my hanky at the thought of Elian being raised with his father in Cuba.

The world may be absent a Berlin Wall, but all across this planet human beings are still living under despotic rule, afraid for their lives every single day. Cuba is hardly the last, the worst, and only bastion of tyrannical rule.

Cuban-Americans, sad to say, have no monopoly on suffering.

So, uncharitable as it may sound, I'm sick of being hauled into this 40-year-old internecine warfare. Face the facts! The Dodgers play in Los Angeles, the Giants in San Francisco. Branca and Thomson are long retired, as the subjects of Castro, Cuba and Elian Gonzales should be.

Baseball doesn't run by the clock. Neither, apparently, does this game. Still, even the likes of United Fruit finally gave up and moved on. However the fate of Elian is resolved, it would be nice if Little Havana followed their example, and moved on, too.

Hilary Cosell, a former television producer, is a Connecticut-based writer.

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