A Strictly Personal Looking Past The Pandemic

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A Strictly Personal Looking Past The Pandemic

This morning there was a Red-Tailed Hawk perched low in the woods outside my window for a least forty minutes. It was a large very calm bird perched not too high up in the trees that were downhill from my window, so binocular viewing was good, but it was too difficult to take a picture today. It was perhaps a young bird since its colors were mainly mottled, grey-brown on top, white with grey-brown blotches below. It had no obvious strong red on its tail feathers, but the wing and tail feathers were very clearly banded, partly like a tartan, and very crisply.

I have a sense that wildlife in general is seeping back into the daytime outdoor spaces they shy away from when humans are active. My neighborhood, in a canyon, is extremely quiet: no buzz saws, no leaf blowers, no house construction noises, very very few cars going down the road, no trucks, Amazon Prime delivery vans are about but again quite rarely (though I notice more of them in general since the lockdown began), very few walkers (with or without dogs), no house party noises, no landscaping services nor tree cutting services around, no water nor phone nor cable utility trucks (Pacific Gas & Electric is supposed to be inspecting power lines for fire safety), and on the weekend no mail nor garbage nor recycling trucks.

I can hear deer clomp and turkeys forage through the leaf litter; but the usual small birds and songbirds of this area seem to be gone today, and have been less in number over the last five years; a climate change die-off? Except for the odd pulses of breeze — rain should be coming later today — it is still and quiet throughout the canyon and the hillsides forming it. The Earth seems to be awaiting humanity’s fate with fatally baited breath: COVID-19.

We humans — the lucky ones that is — are shuffling around in our rooms in our bathrobes and slippers, with coffee and tea mugs or cocktails in our hands, and burrowing our heads into our cross-connected electronic attention-deficit infotainment memory holes. For the luckiest of the hapless people, society as we used to know it is slowly collapsing in on itself; and for the largely unseen and more socially distanced than ever before extremely unlucky people that social collapse is miserable and catastrophic. “That’s the way it’s always been” reflected our Apex Narcissist philosophically, to his cognitive limit in this regard, about these pandemic days.

Richard Eskow wrote a touching and reflective ramble on life and death, from his personal perspective as an older American man during this indeterminate period of the COVID-19 pandemic (COVID in the Web Of Generations: A Faint Hello From the “Only” Ones, 20 March 2020, https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/03/20/covid-in-the-web-of-generations-a-faint-hello-from-the-only-ones/).

Some of Eskow’s thoughts are:

“I’ll tell you a secret now, one that older adults carry with them every day: We walk with the dead. Oh, a lot of us don’t admit it, not even to ourselves. But once you’ve reached a certain age, the dead are with you wherever you go. Your parents are dead. Mine both died in the last couple of years. Your aunts and uncles, the ones who nurtured you and reminded you what sanity was when your parents went off the rails? They’re dead, too… I’m 66. I know now that I walk with the dead, and with death. That awareness is part of the job description, at least if you’re wired a certain way. That said, though, I’m not in any fucking hurry to go. I’ve got 20 good years, if I’m lucky. Maybe 30… This system is dying, infected with a contagion as old as humanity: greed… The time will come, the bell will toll. It sounds obvious, and it is. Until it happens. Then it feels as new as birth, as new as waking up in an unfamiliar room… And so, in the meantime, all I can do is pass on what the survivors of past worlds told me while they lived. They said you can survive by remembering to love. They said you can learn to care, even if caring doesn’t always come easily in this life.”

The present personal isolation people have receded into to avoid contagion can be heaven for introverts who are in safe circumstances. In my own case, it has led me to think back over my life, since I am celebrating my 70th birthday this week.

Since 2009 I’ve played the game of remembering where I was and what I saw “fifty years ago.” For me, the years 1959-1962 had to do with Cuba (which I visited twice to see my grandparents), the Revolution (which I saw in its glory of triumph), the Bay of Pigs, and the Missile Crisis (which nearly killed us all). 1963 was about JFK, 1964-1967 about dreading the Vietnam War draft while in high school, and having so many dreams about my “future.” 1968-1969 was about my roller-coaster ride in college, the highs of really getting into the science and chasing girls (who were always way smarter and more mature than I was), and the lows all 1969 of fending off the draft board while I was 1A (my deferment had been revoked in error, and they refused to correct that error). 1970-1972 was a combination of being a psychological wreck after surviving the December ’69 draft lottery, and the super-high of imagining an abundant Green Energy future after that first Earth Day on 22 April 1970 (perhaps the greatest day of my life). 1973-1976 was getting past Nixon, and the graduate school grind. 1976-1978 was in my view the peak of collective life in the U.S., including the first two years of the Carter Administration, and I had the illusion that that Green Energy future was about to begin and I would become one of the first generation physicist-engineers running its new-style engines, like Montgomery Scott in the original Star Trek science fiction television series. I was wrong.

During 1979-1980, President Jimmy Carter was pulled to the right by Zbigniew Brzezinski, his National Security Advisor, who laid the trap of the Afghan War quagmire the Russians sank into (and then later and still now the U.S.!), and then that bastard Reagan gained power in November 1980, and John Lennon was assassinated a month later by a gunshot to the chest fired by a narcissistic asshole, and Lennon’s death seemed emblematic of the instant death of all my illusions and those of the youthful “Imagine” dreamers of my age. It has been neoliberally downhill since.

After 1980, I realized that the best I would probably ever be able to do was to support my family. There was little chance I would change any part of our society — let alone government policy — toward green energy, environmentalism, energy efficiency and all that (even though I’ve tried doing so to this day). The political power people just wanted bombs, and my science employers just wanted more government subsidies.

For the biotech and computer people it was all an obsession with patents and getting rich off the need, addictions and misery of the masses. It is so damnably telling about our mercenary times to remember that doctors Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin, each a developer of a polio vaccine (by 1955 and by 1960), put their discoveries into the public domain, giving up many billion in royalties and saving billions of lives since. Frederick Banting, who with the help of a few others invented the process for synthesizing insulin, patented it in 1923 for a token payment of $1.00 so as to ward off all other patent attempts by drug companies, and put the use of the method into the public domain.

So, even with numerous bumps in the road, humped over with the help of a Faustian bargain for brainy employment, I’ve managed to support my family, get three kids decently — though not always perfectly — cared for and off and independent for the two oldest, and well on the way to that for the youngest. And, I’ve got my little beat-up house in a reasonably pleasant hilly spot, and still have a little bit saved up (of which college tuition and a major and unavoidably necessary house-property repair three years ago took half). I’m banking on my okay pension and social security allotment for the duration, so I’m at the mercy of the thugs in Washington as regards the future of my social security.

When it comes to dying I’m just hoping that I go out like my father, a massive hemorrhage suddenly wiping out the brain, and the body dying off in just a few days. That way I won’t have the indignity of a long lingering death as a cripple during which all my remaining money will be drained away to the point of bankruptcy. My quick death is the only way there will be anything left (in the way of financial assets) for me to pass on, at least hopefully this house if I get to pay it off. It’s all quite a poker game, isn’t it?

It’s not hard to look back on my parenting and see many things I could have done much better. Hindsight is 20-20. But I’m glad that many of the efforts I made were good ones, and that my kids are all good and strong people, in many ways all smarter than I am. In my own case the work I put into helping raise the kids, despite many errors with each of them, is pretty clearly the best work I’ve done at anything in my life. I can accept being a failure at all else, but would hate being a failed parent. So, their successes are my consolation for everything else. I’ve had my fun and some high points with technical stuff (physical science, energy advocacy) and writing (ranting and bad poetry), but nothing in the world has changed because of it, and that’s okay because I can feel good about the kids.

I only wish I had been more perceptive way back when, to better appreciate the people who were kind, accepting and tolerant of me, who gave me help that I did not always recognize, and who graced my fairly clueless young adulthood when I pursued my simplistic dreams of sports cars, girls in miniskirts, protection from the Vietnam War, achieving science learning highs (and being high while learning science), and visions of saving the world through science by finding sources of unlimited electrical energy.

For me, enlightenment came through caring for my family and helping to raise children, along with a little bit of reading about Zen Buddhism. But having children was the touchstone of my essential insights. A Skinnerian behaviorist might say this is all just a genetically programmed self-delusional sense of fulfillment in male human drones to ensure the propagation of the species. Maybe so, what’s it matter? The same would then be true of that Red-Tailed Hawk who winged through this patch of its forested domain, and perched in dappled shade to regard its territory with such majestic calm.

And the same would be true of our two young cats, who move between periods of lying about sprawled out resting before the heater or curled up in a cardboard box in absolute luxuriant comfort, or rolling over and wrapping their legs and paws about my forearm as I massage-pet them while they stretch and purr, as I draw my nails along their upturned throats and the lines of their their thin lips, which they sometimes open to knead my hand with their strong sharp fangs, with exquisite precision. Our cats will burst into activity out of their keen vigilance of human activity in the kitchen when food bowls are presented, and from there gleefully go frolicking out onto the wooded hillside, delighting in their primordial wildness.

I have had too much knowing eye-to-eye personal contact, and traded too much hand-and-body-to-body personal touch with other living creatures, each with their own warmth, elegance and intent, to ever believe any of us are mere generic behavioral biological machines, though I know that fundamentally we are each unique gene colony organisms whose evolutionary role is to transmit genetic programming for birthing and animating through a lifespan future and always subtly unique examples of our particular kind.

What is not biomechanical about the more brainy creatures, which can include humans, is that we can become aware of our role in the great chain of being, the propulsive urge of life to continue on Planet Earth, by both our conscious actions emanating out of our cerebral cortexes, and our embedded instincts and emotions emanating from our limbic systems, instincts and emotions we share with so many of our fellow heterotrophs.

So, like everyone else I want to continue healthily so I can keep enjoying the greatest show on Earth: life. While I have many many preferences on how other people should think and behave so that show will unfold as I believe best, I realize I have infinitesimal power to mold reality to my vision, and trying to force that conformity can only drive me mad and destroy me. Thus I have to tread that knife-edge between letting go and giving up, and my compass for determining that pathway is how fares the wellbeing of my family.

To frolic like the cats and soar like the hawks with calm and elegant self-assurance, while finally remembering with appreciation long-lost friends as I should, dumping all lingering superficial careerist ambitions of a clueless past, and being grateful for having been able to move the next generation of my family (and others) forward into their own fulfilling independence, is what I now take with me as I look past the pandemic into my own uncertain yet hopeful future.

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ADDENDUM, 25 March 2020

Raymond McConnie Zapater
25 March 2020
FELIZ CUMPLEAÑOS MANGO GARCÍA

Dear Dr. García:

Some of us ageing fools can relate to your feelings and past experiences as humane baby-boomers. I also had to dodge the draft for three years while bumbling in North American and European Universities and not being able to shed a 1-A classification. I had to flush the god-dammed card down the toilet to wash out that stain without having to embarrass my Dad furthermore. After the Complutense in Madrid was shuttered and the youthful leaders and “foreign interlopers” of the revolt were chased down by Franco, without considerable funds, I wandered alone hitching rides across Southern Europe and the wondrous Islamic world of Southwest and Central Asia before settling in a secluded hamlet with the Pashtun, deep in the Hindu Kush, “somewhere ‘they’ can’t find me”, hearkening that old song by The Moody Blues. Who would have known then that those valiant, elegant, generous, hospitable successors of the lost tribes of Israel and the Scythian and the Parthian would become the more recent targets of the “bastards from Washington” in their ceaseless search for enemies. Actually, Pashto is a Semitic language with a Persian script.

And, so it went … This long story pertains to all of us rebels of good-will still trying to survive as fugitives in Junk Terror Acropolis even though the Vietnamese people did get rid of the North American hordes and established their own stupid criminal regimes. At least, it was their own bitter wine. I almost vomit when the other night I heard right off in the first episode of Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” that the United States had gotten involved in that genocidal venture “with good intentions”. Even though the sixteen installments that followed belied that initial assertion absent any allusion to it, I couldn’t explain to my thirty-three year old PhD candidate living at home and his mother why the statement was yet another lie by the national security state. It’s unconscionable that Geoffrey C. Ward (the writer of the series) set it forth as a salvo revisionism, and that Burns would allow it if he were paying attention. I had escaped watching that series in honor of my Puerto Rican friends who were drafted and never returned and of one in particular, who, as a green beret, was dropped in a black parachute into the thickness of northern Laos on reconnaissance, but who found for himself a Buddhist monastery, took refuge there and remained to train monks in the arts of modern warfare, so they could defend their communities from the Americanos. Manny was MIA for years during the war until he surfaced in Saigon where he boarded one of the last helicopters out of that quagmire after treading the Ho Chi Minh Trail with other fellow monks and soldiers. Once in the “Land of Liberty”, Manny served five years in Attica (under the Rockefeller laws) for dealing an ounce of pot to a friend turned informant. Thereafter he became a candlemaker and sculptor in San Juan where he died.

After graduate school, my long-standing girlfriend cum wife and I left the perfumed colony of Puerto Rico to settle in Philadelphia where we raised four boys against all odds, and with a little help from our friends. The intention had been to spare our kids a colonial mind-set and still preserve the Spanish language as the Lingua Franca home and country. They are doing pretty good with that. It’s easier to live in the trigger of the Gatling gun than in the target. Puerto Ricans of the diaspora have learned that lesson.

I also walk among the dead especially when I endeavour to visit my one-hundred year + old aunt in Ponce. She is my link with the past generations. I go every three months to see her at a convent of Catholic nuns who look after the elderly. Everyone else is gone: those who haven’t yet among my family, relatives and friends are queuing up with me. The pecking order is up for grabs.

Our boys are strong decent upstanding citizens. They made it through college and graduate school facing their own provocations unlike those contended by their father. Three of them crossed the vastness of North America seeking the promised land in California while the more sensible one thought that the East Coast was a better option for him and his Puerto Rican live-in girlfriend who’s attending medical school. Like you, raising a family alongside their mother has been my saving grace. Who knows how and where I would have ended up? I also loved drugs, sex and cheap thrills not unlike Janis Joplin. Thankfully, my mistakes are solely mine to contend with going forward. I’m chastened by my karma and the teachings of the Buddhadharma, for sure.

Although I have a few solitary retreats under my belt, this quarantine is driving me overboard into the ocean of nirvana and samsara.

Beg your pardon for the long-winded screed!

Allow me to say the following without being trite – I love you!

May you have much health, happiness and a long life.

Respectfully,

– Raymond McConnie Zapater

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Manuel García, Jr.:

Dear Señor Zapater,

My favorite joke on the “Dr.” thing (from the New Yorker): Maître d’ of a fancy restaurant, on the phone: “Yes, doctor, a reservation at 7:30, and may I ask, sir, is that an actual medical degree or merely a Ph.D.?”

Yours is one of the best letters I’ve ever received in my life. I believe what you have recounted would be a wonderful contribution to human (and even Americano) consciousness.

First, your adventure through life has been much more dramatic, exciting and scary than mine. So, I salute you for surviving with such verve and elegance, and I commend you for la familia. You are clearly very well put together, as is shown by your excellent and vivid writing, and by your evident knowledge of cultures, philosophy and life.

My impression of the Ken Burns TV series on the Vietnam War (the “American War” for the Vietnamese) is that the reference in the first episode about ‘America getting into the war inadvertently and with good intensions’ (despite the rest of the series entirely belying that canard) was a sop to one of the Koch Boys, who was a generous financial contributor making possible the production of the series. You know, “and now a word from our sponsors.” I’m guessing that Koch Boy just wanted to plaster his name-tag on an artful electronic edifice he thought might last, and thus be a pedestal to his self-imagined glory. There are a lot of pedestal seekers and pedestal self-polishers in this world; the former throw their money at their vanity, and the latter usually try to write and publish themselves into popular acclaim.

During my time in college, in 1970, I met an absolutely beautiful woman in one of my basic science or mathematics classes. She was very friendly in a most upstanding way, and I was smitten and daydreaming of much closer contact. She asked me if I would help her understand some of the assigned work, which Mister Science Boy was delighted to do. She was a Puertorriqueña, and her English was good, but a second language. We arranged for her to visit my dorm-apartment room one day to get on with this work. Somewhere in the subsequent verbal exchanges over this it emerged that she was married! So she brought her husband with her to my apartment, and we ended up having a wonderful time learning about each others’ lives.

She was enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania (in Philadelphia, your home-away-from-home town!) on her husband’s GI veteran’s benefit, going for a degree in nursing (I think). She introduced her husband: Patrick Murphy. He was a recently discharged Vietnam War veteran, and had become a repair technician for the Sweda Cash Register Company. So, he worked at a wage-paying job during the day while his wife went to college. When I first spoke with Patrick Murphy he didn’t quickly understand me: he was pure Puertorriqueño and spoke minimal English! How the hell was that? It seems his grandfather or great-grandfather had been a US sailor in the Great White Fleet during the Spanish-American War, and had jumped ship in Puerto Rico in 1898, stayed there, married, and fathered children, who had their own children one of whom was this wonderful guy with his family-traditional name: Patrick Murphy.

He was a veteran of the US Marine Corps, into which he had been drafted in Puerto Rico (as you know, Puertorriqueños living on the island can’t vote for voting representatives in the US Congress, or for the US President, but they are more than welcome to fight and die in the front lines of America’s imperialist wars). I thought during the Vietnam War we boys could only get drafted into the US Army, but I was wrong (I’ve been wrong about a lot of things). He told his story. At the boot camp that the Boricua recruits had been taken (I’m guessing in North Carolina) they and the other mainland recruits were lined upon arrival. The Army drill sergeant facing them barked out “All of you who speak Spanish take one step forward! Left face! Forward march!” And there before the line of Spanish-speaking recruits was the Marine drill sergeant.

So most of those boys ended up in the forward deployed combat units of the always-first-to-attack Marine Corps in Vietnam during the height of the ground war (for the U.S.). Patrick Murphy, though deployed in Vietnam, was shunted into a mechanics role, probably because of some manual dexterity aptitude that emerged from his testing, and that exposed him less to the hazards of combat patrols, which along with surviving the various shellings of the bases he was stationed at, got him through the war alive. I would look at his lovely lively wife as we three enjoyed each others’ company, and think “he really deserves her.” Patrick Murphy told me of a common experience of US Latino Vietnam War soldiers on combat patrols during the war: their platoon commander (the usual white First Lieutenant West Pointer or maybe ROTCer) would call out one of his ‘spics’ (Spanish speakers, a.k.a. ‘no-speak-eh-de-inglesh’), like “Rodriguez, go out on point!”, to lead the file of soldiers into the jungle, and thus be the most likely first killed in the inevitable ambuscade by sniper or mine. Patrick Murphy and his lovely wife (Linda?) will always live in my memory of a sunny day in 1970 when we all felt a resplendent future lie just a few years ahead for all of us young Americanos.

My own hodge-podge memorial of the Vietnam War is posted here:

Haunted by the Vietnam War
22 February 2015
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2015/02/22/haunted-by-the-vietnam-war/

I understand exactly how you feel about your mother. Mine is 95, and living quietly, independently and happily in Santa Rosa. I was lucky in the parents I was given: papá Cubano-Español, y mamá puro Boricua.

And now, I must steal from you to complete my reply:

“Although I have a few solitary retreats under my belt, this quarantine is driving me overboard into the ocean of nirvana and samsara.

“Beg your pardon for the long-winded screed!

“Allow me to say the following without being trite – I love you!

“May you have much health, happiness and a long life.”

With deep appreciation y cariño,

Manuel García, Jr. 

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Through My Lens, Clearly

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Through My Lens, Clearly

For me, the 1950s ended in 1962 with the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the 1960s began in 1959 with the Cuban Revolution. I remember the elation in my family, in New York City’s Upper West Side (136th Street, and Broadway), when the Batista Regime in Cuba collapsed in January 1959; and I remember our dumbstruck terror in October 1962, listening to President John Kennedy speaking on our black-and-white TV, wondering if my grandparents would be radioactively incinerated in Havana before we were similarly dematerialized in New York City, or vice versa.

That is how my political consciousness was born; its coming-of-age and definitive molding was done later by the Vietnam War, and the many insistent demands by my government that I sacrifice myself to it. I escaped by dumb luck, for which I am eternally grateful. With the particular curvature and polish of my own idiosyncratic lens for political consciousness, I have come to resolve images of our collective reality that I sometimes feel a need to project, as here today.

People can’t be changed, they either evolve on their own, or they persist as they are to the death. The best you can do, for the rare few, is tell them the truth if they ask.

We live in a world rich in its diversity of intolerance of independent thought and self-directed living. Expressions of personal independence and creativity are threats to the slavish conformity of the mass of fearful repressed people hiding in their submissiveness to traditional ideologies that give them status in social hierarchies that limit the full human potential of the individual. This maintains, without merit, the elevation of patriarchs and power-hungry mediocrities who clip the wings of the human spirit and direct the enforcement of their systems of mental and physical imprisonment of the masses serving them.

Bigotry is popular because it makes stupid people feel intelligent, and weak people feel strong. President (sic!) Donald Trump’s popularity rests on people’s desire to be bigoted and respected for it. Bigotry will exist as long as there are ignorant people who are fearful. Such bigoted people love fascism because under it they can stay bigoted and be proud of it. Fascist bigots, like Trump, don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want to be made to feel ashamed. That is why publicly recognized fascist power-seekers always try to silence their critics: first by ignoring them, then by ridiculing them, then by judicial attacks against them, or by veiled calls to their followers to sprout proxies who will make illegal attacks on their critics, and ultimately if they gain dictatorial power they have their critics killed.

Evangelical Christianity is a cult of fear, and for its men also a cult of patriarchy. Politically, it is irrational Republicanism; socially, it is white supremacy and the subjugation of women. Why do such Republican women remain Republican? Because their bigotry, which is fear, is so embedded that it overpowers their self-respect, which is courage. Evangelical Christianity sees Islam as its reflection and its rival, which is why it hates Islam. In practice, their religion is a hate crime. Heraclitus was so perceptive to write, in about 500 BC, that “bigotry is the disease of the religious.”

The problem of race bigotry in America is like the problem of climate change. It is of our making, and we know how to fix it, but we never will. People are too invested in their ignorance for that to ever happen, and afraid if they let it go they will be weak in a changed world.

Arresting climate change would require the universal application of human intelligence, indiscriminate compassion, worldwide solidarity instead of personal selfishness, and thoughtful discipline instead of thoughtless waste. We are doomed. Climate Change is only a problem for the young, bequeathed to them by the old, who won’t notice it anyway because they’re comfortably done, and will be gone soon (geologically speaking).

I probably should not bother writing about the Climate Change Crisis anymore. Everyone everywhere now knows that it is real, and most have felt its first unpleasant effects. So, some Green Energy actions will now happen in response, probably too few, too weak and too late, but at least a start now that the Global Mind has opened to the truth.

Also, I really don’t need to write any more Jeremiads against Republican Party partisans (there are plenty of others to do that nicely), because it is now obvious to everyone everywhere — even the U.S. corporate media (though it puckers their sphincters to mouth it) — that the Republican Party is just a fascist conspiracy to eliminate democracy in the United States of America, and replace it with an authoritarian corporatized xenophobic bigoted Fundamentalist Christian White Supremacy theocratic oligarchy, to drive us all expeditiously to extinction under their self-satisfied obsessively avaricious command. Thieves lie, and liars steal. For them, it is better for humanity to die out badly than for the stupid, bigoted and greedy to be bypassed. Capitalism is fossil-fueled greed with a total lack of imagination, and a bodacious military. Capitalism is the ideology of parasites.

Who built the United States of America into the richest country in world history?: enslaved and exterminated Native Americans, enslaved Africans, dispossessed Mexicans, and exploited European and Asian immigrant laborers. Who produces American wealth today?: the wage-slave descendants of all of these, who only gain a pittance from their harvested labors. What salve are these squeezed working people given for the bruising sacrifices they make of their humanity into the endlessly grinding engines of obsessive greed?: a patriotism deficient in human solidarity but voracious for taxes. But, don’t think of it as taxes, think of it as tithing to the War Religion.

So in my lens’s focus today I find the following: For the world: Capitalism must die for the World to live. For my country: Tribalism is America’s fatal flaw. Resentment, envy and a fanatical sense of entitlement are its corrosive agents. A generational overturning led by socialist youth is its only hope. For myself and every other person: It’s not what happens to you that determines whether you are a success or failure at life, but how you deal with it. As Thucydides quoted Pericles: “Honor is the only thing that does not grow old.”

And now, back to the bread and circuses.

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Noche Cubana — Español-English

Noche Cubana is a bolero (ballad) composed by César Portillo de la Luz (La Habana, 31 octubre 1922 / 4 mayo 2013).

The recording cited below is of Omara Portuondo singing Noche Cubana in 1958, on her debut recording as a soloist. There is an extensive essay (in Spanish) on the music of César Portillo de la Luz and on this particular song and recording, at the YouTube site for Noche Cubana.

The lyrics of Noche Cubana are presented here, first in Spanish, then my poetic translation of them into English, and finally a word-for-word literal translation of the Spanish lyrics.

In my poetic translation, I have tried to suggest the lush elegance of the Spanish lyrics but I have made no effort to match the line-by-line syllable count, nor the rhyming pattern of the original. A “singable” English version of Noche Cubana is left to future work (if ever).

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Noche Cubana
César Portillo de la Luz (La Habana, 31 octubre 1922 / 4 mayo 2013)

Noche cubana
Morena bonita de alma sensual
Con tu sonrisa de luna y ojos de estrellas.

Voz de susurro de frondas y arrullo de mar
Besas con brisas y tu abrazo es calor tropical
Noche criolla quien junto a ti no, no quisiera soñar
Quien no la luz de tu dulce sonrisa no quiere besar?
Negra bonita de ojos de estrellas
En tus brazos morenos quiere vivir un romance mi alma bohemia.

Voz de susurro de frondas y arrullo de mar
Besas con brisas y tu abrazo es calor tropical
Noche criolla quien junto a ti no quisiera soñar?
Quien a la luz de tu dulce sonrisa no quiere besar?
Negra bonita de ojos de estrellas
En tus brazos morenos quiere vivir un romance mi alma bohemia.

Noche cubana
Noche cubana
Noche cubana

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Cuban Night (César Portillo de la Luz)

Oh, Cuban night
You lovely dark girl of sensual soul,
With the moon as your smile, and your eyes made of stars.

Your voice is the whisper of palms and the sea’s lullaby,
Your kisses are breezes, and the tropical heat your embrace.
Oh, Creole night, who could be next to you and not wish to dream?
Who would not want to be able to kiss your sweet shining smile?
Beautiful black girl with eyes made of stars
In your dark arms my bohemian soul wants to live a romance.

Your voice is the whisper of palms and the sea’s lullaby,
Your kisses are breezes, and the tropical heat your embrace.
Oh, Creole night, who could be next to you and not wish to dream?
Who would not want to be able to kiss your sweet shining smile?
Beautiful black girl with eyes made of stars
In your dark arms my bohemian soul wants to live a romance.

Oh, Cuban night,
Cuban night,
Cuban night.

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Omara Portuondo – Noche cubana (canción) César Portillo de la Luz
https://youtu.be/frgbtk8mOhM

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LITERAL

Noche Cubana (César Portillo de la Luz)
[night cuban]

Noche cubana
[night cuban]
Morena bonita de alma sensual
[brunette/brown pretty of soul sensual]
Con tu sonrisa de luna y ojos de estrellas.
[with your smile of moon and eyes of stars]

Voz de susurro de frondas y arrullo de mar
[voice of whisper of fronds(palm fronds) and lullaby of sea]
Besas con brisas y tu abrazo es calor tropical
[you-kiss with/as breezes and your embrace is heat tropical]
Noche criolla quien junto a ti no, no quisiera soñar
[night creole who next/together to you no, no would-want dream]
Quien no la luz de tu dulce sonrisa no quiere besar?
[who no the light of your sweet smile no want kiss]
Negra bonita de ojos de estrellas
[black(female) pretty of eyes of stars]
En tus brazos morenos quiere vivir un romance mi alma bohemia.
[in your arms brown/dark wants to-live a romance my soul bohemian]

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Night Sky In Cuba
(another poetic translation of Noche Cubana)

Night sky in Cuba,
A black woman beauty of sensual soul
With a smile made of moon rays and eyes made of twinkling stars.

Your voice is the whisper of fronds in sway, and murmurs by the sea,
Your kisses are breezes, and tropical heat your embrace.
Creole night please stay, who could be with you and not want dreams to see?
Who could receive your sparkling sweet smile and not want kisses to be?
Black woman beauty with star shining eyes,
In the arms of your darkness my bohemian soul seeks to live out a romance.

Your voice is the whisper of fronds in sway, and murmurs by the sea,
Your kisses are breezes, and tropical heat your embrace.
Creole night please stay, who could be with you and not want dreams to see?
Who could receive your sparkling sweet smile and not want kisses to be?
Black woman beauty with star shining eyes,
In the arms of your darkness my bohemian soul seeks to live out a romance.

Night sky in Cuba,
dark warmth after day
light from far away.

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Some Words About JFK

Some Words About JFK

JFK grave site, April 1964.

November 22, 2017, is the fifty-fourth anniversary of the assassination of US president John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

At 12:30 PM Central Standard Time on the 22nd of November 1963, three shots rang out in rapid succession over President John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s motorcade gliding along Elm Street through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. The first bullet pierced the right side of the back of John Kennedy’s neck with a downward slant, emerging at his throat and then boring diagonally downward through the right side of the torso of John Connally, the Governor of Texas, who was seated in front of Kennedy. The second bullet struck Kennedy in the back of the skull, exploding the right side of his head. The third shot followed closely on the second, shattering against the curb of Elm Street and sending chips of lead and concrete flying so that one scratched the right cheek of James Tague, a spectator, sufficiently to draw flecks of blood. The president’s limousine began accelerating immediately after the first shot, and it raced full speed to Parkland Hospital, arriving at about 12:38 PM. Despite the frantic efforts of the trauma room doctors and surgeons to save John Kennedy’s life, within twenty minutes that life had gone, and John Kennedy was pronounced dead at 1:00 PM. Lyndon Johnson, now constitutionally the president, delayed a public announcement of the death until 1:33 PM, so he could first leave the hospital and order an immediate defensive operation to protect government leaders including himself should the Kennedy assassination be part of a larger conspiracy that was still unfolding. At 3:01 PM CST, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover wrote a memo to his assistant directors in which he stated: “I called the attorney general [Robert Kennedy] at his home and told him I thought we had the man who killed the President down in Dallas, at the present time.” That man was Lee Harvey Oswald. Why did he do it? I’ll offer an explanation by the end of this article.

This article/posting presents a few items about JFK and his time as President. They are taken – as excerpts and mixed here – from several of my published/posted articles.

Before 1963

The America of November 1963 was a country that had seen the collapse of European colonialism in Asia and Africa during the post World War II period of 1945-1960. America’s own imperialistic Monroe Doctrine presumptuousness was sorely tried by the Cuban Revolution of 1959, which openly declared itself communist in 1961. The Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 had brought the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Soviet Russia) dangerously close to nuclear war, but was fortunately defused, and subsequent diplomacy led to a treaty limiting nuclear weapons testing.

There had been about 100 atmospheric nuclear weapons tests, primarily by the U.S. and the USSR, during the period 1951-1956 (there had been about 9 between 1945 and 1950). The annual number of nuclear tests jumped to over 40 in 1957, and over 100 in 1958. There was a voluntary halt to testing during 1959-1960 (except for a few tests by France) in response to public fears about the radioactive fallout contamination of the milk supply. The peace symbol, which is now an icon of our culture, was designed by Gerald Holtom in 1958, and first popularized as a badge by Eric Austen, both nuclear disarmament advocates in Britain. In 1961 — John Kennedy’s first year as US president — the USSR launched a major series of over 30 nuclear tests, and the U.S. mounted about half that number. This weapons race accelerated wildly to a frenzied peak in 1962, with 140 tests performed (over 90 for the U.S. and nearly 40 for the USSR). Except for 1958 and 1962, there have never been more than about 90 nuclear tests in any year (and from 1971 usually under 60), and only very few since 1992, the last year of US testing (post 1992 testing has been by France, China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea). The numbers I quote for nuclear tests in a given year are read off a chart [wikipedia] and rounded.

It is important to know that the overwhelming fraction of the Allied war effort against Nazi Germany [1939-1945] was provided by the Soviet Union (Russia and its union of socialist republics), and they suffered the greatest losses as a result. The Soviet Union lost nearly 14 percent of its population (every 7th person) in the war, and this mortality amounted to almost one third of the entire WW2 dead. The United States’ WW2 dead amounted to a fifty-fifth (1/55) of the Soviet total, and the 1939 national populations were comparable, the Soviet population being 29 percent higher.

It would be very beneficial to the world if Americans, commemorating their Memorial and Veterans’ Days, would try imagining their feelings if they had suffered war as deeply as the Soviet people (every 7th person instead of every 172nd person lost). The impact of a WW2 experience like that of the Soviets will imprint a dread of war far more deeply into the national consciousness than a WW2 experience like that of the United States.

We now know that “a guy named Arkhipov saved the world” during the Cuban Missile Crisis [October 1962]. “During a naval skirmish between an American destroyer and a Soviet B-59 submarine off Cuba on Oct 27, 1962,” where “the destroyer dropped depth charges near the submarine to try to force it to surface, not knowing it had a nuclear-tipped torpedo…that the submarine was authorised to fire it if three officers agreed. The officers began a fierce, shouting debate over whether to sink the ship. Two of them said yes and the other said no.”

This was no failure of Russian military training (which like that in the arts and sciences is of unparalleled rigor), but instead the operation of vivid historical consciousness. I fear that the culture of the United States is so shallow and immature that thorough military training can transform any callow youth into a robot soldier attuned to his or her assigned functions, and unlikely to have the psychological depth and historical consciousness to question orders and training under conditions of extreme danger, urgency and confusion, or to recognize moments of pivotal importance.

In 1963

The negotiations initiated in October 1962 to defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis blossomed into the crafting of, signing (August 5, 1963), US ratification (September 24, 1963), and implementation (October 10, 1963) of the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963, which banned nuclear weapon tests in the atmosphere, in outer space, and under water.

The Civil Rights (anti-apartheid or anti-segregation) movement for black Americans had been very vigorous in the southern U.S. from the beginning of John Kennedy’s presidency in 1961. The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I have a dream speech” from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963.

From 1961, John Kennedy had sent US military advisors to aid the anti-communist Ngô Ðình Diêm regime of South Vietnam in its fight against a communist insurgency (the will of the peasantry) allied with communist North Vietnam. By late 1962, there were 12,000 US soldiers in South Vietnam. Disappointed with Diem as an anti-communist unifier for North and South Vietnam, Kennedy approved a CIA program to aid Diem’s generals in a coup to produce new leadership, which occurred on November 2, 1963, with the deposed Diem summarily executed.

Lee Harvey Oswald, a disaffected American seeking glorious recognition as a leftist hero, acted as a freelancing James Bond (the world’s favorite fictional Tory) to impress the Dirección General de Inteligencia de Cuba (DGI, the Cuban intelligence service) by assassinating President Kennedy on November 22, 1963. The DGI had been locked in a battle with the CIA to keep Fidel Castro from being assassinated, a project pushed hard by the Kennedy brothers, John and Robert. Lyndon Baines Johnson, John Kennedy’s successor, stopped the CIA’s Fidel assassination program shortly after taking office. The Soviet Russian intelligence service (KGB) had found Oswald too unstable to rely on as an agent, and happily let him return to America from his self-imposed exile in Russia (October 1959 to June 1962). The DGI had the difficulty of being a much less powerful organization situated far closer to its small nation’s overwhelmingly superior enemy. Thus, the DGI unlike the KGB might be willing to exploit the improvisations of a volunteer useful idiot. Oswald spent the last week of September 1963 in Mexico City, visiting the Cuban and Russian consulates seeking a visa to travel to Cuba, and as a consequence met DGI agents. The DGI was too professional to compromise itself by inducting a delusional American outcast into its ranks, but the DGI seems to have been either gutsy enough or desperate enough to allow Oswald to imagine he would be welcomed in Cuba should he accomplish something of significant value for the Cuban Revolution. Oswald returned to Dallas on October 14, 1963.

http://www.swans.com/library/art19/mgarci75.html
[2013]

https://manuelgarciajr.com/2017/08/10/will-a-russo-american-nuclear-war-happen-soon/
[2008]

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Castro And The Kennedy Image After The Checkmate

The Castros and the Kennedys were the kings on this chessboard; the CIA and the DGI were the knights, bishops, and queens; and the Miami Cubans, Lee Harvey Oswald and Ernesto “Che” Guevara, were the pawns. Fidel Castro’s wayward pawn checkmated the Miami Cubans’ king before John Kennedy’s knights and bishops could secure the field and kill his opponent; then the Kennedy brothers’ discredited knights eliminated Fidel’s gaudiest pawn, an early strike in an unending and pointless revenge. The petulance of an imperial state that has lost its game can last a long time.

In their article on April 10, 2012, “The CIA and Castro: an Undying Obsession,” Saul Landau and Nelson P. Valdes review a recent book by Brian Latell (Castro’s Secrets: The CIA And Cuba’s Intelligence Machine) about Latell’s involvement in the CIA project to overthrow Fidel Castro. It is clear from this review that Latell has delusions of grandeur, believing that Fidel Castro viewed him personally as a great adversary because of the CIA attempts to assassinate the Cuban leader. Landau and Valdes easily show that Latell’s fantasies can be dismissed.

However, when it comes to suggesting a motive for the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Landau and Valdes repeat an old piece of “perception management” originally introduced into public discourse by Soviet Russian and Cuban intelligence services (“agit-prop”) to shield the two communist nations from culpability in the mind of the US public:

Finally, for possible smoking guns in the Kennedy assassination, Latell should look at his Cuban exile friends and former CIA colleagues. They believe Kennedy betrayed them at the Bay of Pigs, during the Missile Crisis, and by paying ransom for Brigade 2506. When Kennedy died, more than a few right-wing Cuban exiles celebrated.

It is certainly true President Kennedy abandoned the Bay of Pigs invasion, and ransomed the survivors back; and it is true that some of the embittered Miami Cubans celebrated John Kennedy’s demise. This despite the Kennedy brothers (John and Robert) being the best friends the Miami Cubans ever had. But, it is not really reasonable to assume that the CIA would then assassinate the American president, or that it would allow Miami Cubans (whom it obviously had under close observation) to do so.

A much better explanation is that the Cuban diplomats and intelligence officers in Mexico during the summer of 1963 allowed Lee Harvey Oswald to imagine he was a freelance secret agent of the Cuban Revolution, on the off chance he might actually do something useful for them. Oswald had gone to Mexico specifically to push himself onto the Cubans as a volunteer secret warrior. A failure and a misfit in the U.S., Oswald wanted to be a hero of the Cuban Revolution because he could imagine success there bringing him the companionship and adulation he craved. To sell himself to the Cuban intelligence service, he offered a vague plan as grandiose as his ambition, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The case for this scenario explaining the motivation behind the assassination of John Kennedy has been presented in great detail in a 2008 book.

A great deal of insight about Cuban-American relations in the years 1959 to 1968, and the personal and visceral US motives behind the killing of Che Guevara on 9 October 1967 (see Paul Buhle’s “Who Killed Che?” in Swans, April 9, 2012), can be gained from the book Brothers in Arms: The Kennedys, the Castros, and the Politics of Murder, by Gus Russo and Stephen Molton, on the Kennedy Administration’s secret campaign to assassinate Fidel Castro and topple the Cuban Revolution. See:

http://jfkfiles.blogspot.com/2008/10/brothers-in-arms-kennedys-castros-and.html

 

After reading the Russo and Molton account, one realizes why the U.S. maintains such a furious animus toward Cuba, when it has long since forgotten other deadly enemies of the same period, like Vietnam. The unrelenting campaign by the Kennedy brothers to kill Castro (to have the specific person of Fidel Castro assassinated) and to topple the Cuban Revolution (the traditional anti-communist project stretching back to the Wilson Administration) made it logical and necessary that the Cuban communist government counterattack as a means of personal protection for Fidel Castro, and defense of the communist revolution in Cuba.

Lee Harvey Oswald was too unstable for the cautious intelligence services of a now settled and secure nation like the USSR to have any reliance on, but the young and much more vulnerable Cuban Revolution was willing to calculate its risks with smaller margins. It was natural for them to let Oswald act on his inclinations independently, with only a bit of careful encouragement. That Oswald succeeded was a surprise and immediate relief to the Cuban intelligence service, and was almost instantly followed by terror should the U.S. find evidentiary links from Dealey Plaza to the Cuban DGI (Dirección General de Inteligencia).

Lyndon Johnson came to realize (after he was told many of the facts in 1964, and recalling the 1963 assassination of Ngo Dinh Diem, with US fingerprints) that the only way to stop this Godfather-type tit-for-tat presidential assassination madness was to shut down the CIA’s Castro project. Also, Johnson realized he had to suppress public knowledge of the US efforts to assassinate Castro because exposure of the Cuban link to the Kennedy assassination might cause a national uproar leading to war with Russia (the Cuban and Russian intelligence services had many intimate links, and while the Russians had passed up on using Oswald they had mentioned him to the Cubans, and followed developments).

So, the logical and amorally justifiable reason for John F. Kennedy’s assassination was kept from the public and out of the Warren Commission Report by the combined efforts of the Johnson Administration to avoid war with Russia (inevitable after a US invasion of Cuba), Robert Kennedy to keep the family name untarnished, and the Cuban and Russian governments to keep from being attacked.

However, the great wisdom Johnson acted on to end the presidential assassination spiral did not extend far enough to reverse official US hostility toward the Cuban Revolution. Since then, there has always been a seething desire for revenge against the Cubans for the “Kennedy hit.” This animus would find expression in the continuing allowance for Miami Cuban operations against Cuba and its people both on the island and elsewhere in Latin America, as well as in CIA sponsorship of terror and counterinsurgency schemes like the Bolivian operation that resulted in the killing of Che Guevara. Che died because of John and Robert Kennedy’s assassination sins, and for the Cuban DGI’s successful effort to shield Fidel Castro from them.

Cubans continue to suffer the US embargo (and many other forms of harassment) because the US governing elite is still unable to publicly admit its role in setting the conditions that rebounded as the “blowback” of the Kennedy assassination. So long as the U.S. maintains this sense of wounded pride, the Cuban people will be forced to suffer a revenge covering for a shameful denial.

http://www.swans.com/library/art18/mgarci46.html
[2012]

https://manuelgarciajr.com/2012/04/23/castro-and-the-kennedy-image-after-the-checkmate/
[2012]

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The Tragedy of Puerto Rico

The Tragedy of Puerto Rico
30 September 2017

The tragedy of Puerto Rico is that it assumed – incorrectly – that it would be protected and prosperous as an American colony because America is so rich and powerful, and that from there it could eventually become the 51st American state, thus gaining voting representation in the American Congress, which determines how the benefits of American wealth and power are distributed.

What Puerto Rico failed to realize is that both individuals and nations that are rich and powerful did not become that way by being generous and inclusive.

Puerto Rico assumed there were only three modes of existence it might experience:

(1) a protected, prosperous, US state (like Florida)

(protected by US military power, prosperous by being a domestic participant in the US economy, and having a state’s voice in the crafting of national policy and legislation affecting it);

(2) a protected, prosperous, US colony

(a protected and prosperous captive of the United States, being reliant on American benevolence but without any political power to shape the nature and magnitude of that benevolence);

(3) an unprotected, poor, independent nation (like Cuba).

Option 1, statehood, is blocked by the apartheid mentality of the white supremacy anti-Latino bigotry that is the primal glue bonding the majoritarian clan controlling the American republic. The Republicans are not likely to vote for the addition, from a new state of Puerto Rico, of five more Democrats in the House and two in the Senate.

Option 2, a colony, is the status quo for Puerto Rico because that status most suits the colonizer.

Option 3, independence, entails the hazards of self-protection against all threats, whether natural, military or economic.

In this view, US statehood is a distant hope and perhaps only an illusion; but being a US colony is preferable to independence because a US colony is assumed to have much greater security and comfort than a likely poor, independent Caribbean island nation, like Cuba, Jamaica or Haiti.

However, as a result of the bankruptcy of the colonial government of Puerto Rico ($73B in May 2017), and its massive devastation from Hurricane Maria (in September 2017), both of which the Trump Administration has shown a singular hostility and indifference to help with, Puerto Rico has awakened to its actual mode of existence: an unprotected, poor and destroyed colony; essentially a disinherited dependent, a captive castoff.

If Puerto Rico were an independent nation instead of a colony, even with its current dual crisis of bankruptcy and hurricane devastation, it would have the freedom to direct its own efforts for humanitarian, physical and economic recovery, and of seeking international help, which efforts are now restricted by US law (e.g., Jones Act) and control-oriented obstructionism by the Trump Administration.

From the perspective of Puerto Rico’s present situation, being another Cuba can no longer be seen as a worse fate.

The current tragedy of Puerto Rico is accelerating (as transport becomes more available) the already high rate of emigration from the island and its failed economy, to the US mainland (a net emigration of 64,000 in 2014, 84,000 left and 20,000 returned, for a population loss on the island of 1.8%).

Perhaps the current tragedy of Puerto Rico will reinvigorate the independence movement among the island residents who do not wish to use their American citizenship as a free pass for escaping. If so, they would join the ferment for gaining control over their national fate, shared today by Catalonia, Kurdistan, and Palestine.

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The Tragedy of Puerto Rico
1 October 2017
https://dissidentvoice.org/2017/10/the-tragedy-of-puerto-rico/

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We Envy To The Delight Of The Masters

Yvette Carnell (the political commentator on Facebook, a Black woman) is right: it is a battle for the crumbs between America’s (the U.S.’s) minority populations. And it is the natural clannishness and tribal-centric focus of these many races and ethnicities, in their economic competitiveness, that is their greatest contribution to the continuing domination of the dominant culture and the dominant “race” in our White capitalist society.

Freedom versus Equality

The Cuban Revolution brought to power a centralized authority — Fidel Castro — who the Americans called a dictator, who could impose a vision of racial, sexual, and eventually sexual-orientation non-discrimination on the entire Cuban society. This Cuban Revolutionary vision extended to the liberation of African Blacks from colonialism and apartheid, and this Fidelista vision transformed the Cuban people, moving them beyond the Spanish colonial and Catholic racial and sexual hierarchies and prejudices that existed in Cuba up to the mid 1960s. Cuba was transformed from the top down into a society of great equality because of a great dictating power. (1)

In contrast, the United States is a society of great inequality because of a great degree of freedom from top-down restraints on individuals — especially on those with means — so they can pursue their many schemes of personal enrichment by the legally-accepted exploitation of weaker and poorer people. So, for the winners in America’s capitalist competition for self-aggrandizement America is “free” and Cuba is a “dictatorship.”

While to the Cubans who have been liberated from poverty, oppression and corruption, and have then been uplifted with state-provided physical security, healthcare and education, the obviously racially prejudiced and exploitative American capitalist elite are rabid imperialists and even fascists, whose “liberty” is exclusively the liberty of slaveowners to globally expand their temp-gig and prison labor plantation economy. The equalized Cuban socialists see American democracy as the democracy of property owners whose voting power is equated with the magnitude of their wealth, whose ultimate power rests on the micro-fragmentation of American society (by racism, sexism, anti-socialism, anti-unionism), and where the degree of one’s personal enslavement is equated with the depth of poverty that one can “freely” achieve.

Envy Enslaves Us

Black Americans resent White Americans for not loving them, and they resent all immigrants and their American-born descendants for getting in the way of that yearned-for love. The divide and conquer program of dominating colonizers continues in the United States, with the many minorities set into vicious labor competition with each other for the economic crumbs falling off the feasting table of the White capitalist elite. So, Black Americans deeply resent the Spanish-speaking people in “their” country, the one they believe they have priority rights for minority benefits and preferences, because their ancestors paid early and heavily during slavery for those yet-to-be received “reparations.”

It is true that every immigrant and immigrant group that lands in America aims to improve their economic condition, and they take advantage of whatever opportunities the system allows them. This is a threat for American Blacks because they see themselves as still struggling to own the opportunities available at the bottom rungs of the economic ladder. They resent the fact that all immigrant groups do better than they do in the battle for the crumbs in American capitalism. They also resent being conned by elite White neoliberals like Hillary Clinton, and their own self-aggrandizing Black mis-leadership class, to believe “we are all in this together” with other minority groups with whom they experience bitter labor and economic competition.

Capitalism Is Racist

There is overt discrimination by everybody. Every minority individual and group, given the opportunity to make employment decisions, will hire their own. So, it is easy to find Latinos (“Hispanics” to the Gringos, and the Blacks Stockholm-Syndromed to them) excluding monolingual Blacks from job calls (e.g., Miami), and Blacks being excluded in favor of Latinos by temporary job agencies because of White employer preferences (e.g., Chicago). Here in Oakland, California, it is also unfortunately easy to learn about instances of personal attacks on Latinos (and Chinese) by Blacks (I have seen such, and heard from people involved). Social media exudes vituperativeness in this regard (e.g., comments by some Black Oaklanders about Mayor Libby Schaaf, a White woman). Also, I have seen Chinese patronage-by-hiring enclaves within a large corporate structure, a very closed form of Affirmative Action. Basically, every race and ethnicity one can imagine prefers their own kind when doling out advantages.

Humans Prefer Division

Every American, of whatever type, is a racist without exception. Individuals who object to this characterization only do so to defend their egos. We humans are all just a species of primate (and there is only one “race” of humans, who happen to have some variety of physiological features and pigmentation). Like our primate cousins the chimpanzees, we fragment into troops that maintain fierce rivalries with other troops (we myopically see other human “races” as other species) for territory, resources, food: wealth. This basic human characteristic (flaw) has been used by imperialists, colonizers and race-dominating slaveowners for millennia to keep the “natives,” the plebes and the slaves at odds with each other, to ensure the rule of the dominant minority over the squabbling, oppressed and exploited majority.

The chronic toxicity of American racism and race-consciousness is such that today a perfectly acceptable vision for many Americans would be the idea that President-Elect Donald Trump could uplift Black Americans — the descendants of slaves, not the more successfully competing modern black immigrants from Africa — by offering a down payment on reparations in the form of making them (exclusively) the well-paid construction workforce in his mega-project of building a 3,201 kilometer (1,989 mile) wall along the Mexican border, to exclude potential labor competition to the English-only American underclass.

Prejudice Is The Self-Worth Of The Defeated

People imbibe their defining racist attitudes (ignorance) with their mother’s milk, it is passed down through families and by their “traditional culture.” Most people do not make the effort to gain the intellectual sophistication and the moral character needed to grow out of this prejudicial ignorance, and to evaluate other individuals on the basis of their personal merits and flaws, instead of as symbols of abstract concepts called “race.” Most people form their personas — their images of themselves and their foundational ideas — early in life (usually by 14 years of age) and are loath to alter them because doing so is sensed as a loss of confidence, a diminution of self. So, they are stuck for life with the misconceptions of their youth, however acquired.

But, each new generation always absorbs some new attitudes that are in general circulation in the local and world societies of their formative years, and in that way the consensus attitudes of larger populations (both ethnic-tribal populations and regional-national populations) glacially evolve. What I conclude from the efflorescence of popular racist ignorance in this present Brexit-Trump period is that the pace of attitudinal evolution about “race in America” is indeed exceedingly slow. One would have thought that a century and a half after the end of the Civil War that racism would be absent in the United States; but no. So, the half-life for the decay of American racism may be in millennia instead of centuries. It is conceivable that climate change will wipe out humanity with Americans still being stupidly racist, sexist and capitalist.

Note

(1) Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz (13 August 1926 – 25 November 2016)
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2016/11/27/fidel-alejandro-castro-ruz-13-august-1926-25-november-2016/

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Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz (13 August 1926 – 25 November 2016)

Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz (13 August 1926 – 25 November 2016)

(The Guardian)
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/26/fidel-castro-cuba-revolutionary-icon-dies

(The New York Times)
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/26/world/americas/fidel-castro-dies.html?_r=0

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This is the Cuba I saw in 1959 and 1960: Liberation

Fidel Castro speaks from a makeshift balcony draped with Cuban flags in Santa Clara en route to victorious entry into Havana. Photograph: Lee Lockwood/The Life Images Collection/Getty

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Nelson Mandela, in 2001, thanking Castro for helping to end apartheid:

“From its earliest days, the Cuban revolution has been a source of inspiration for all those who value freedom. We admire the sacrifices of the Cuban people in maintaining their independence and sovereignty in the face of the vicious imperialist and orchestrated campaign to destroy the awesome force of the Cuban revolution. Long live the Cuban Revolution! Long live comrade Fidel Castro!”

Cuban military forces in Angola and Namibia (from 1975 to 1991) defeated the apartheid South African military (the SADF, at Cuito Cuanavale in 1988) whose invasions sought to prevent the national independence of these two former European colonies, and to occupy them. The success of these national liberation struggles, and the defeat of the SADF led directly to the instability and then collapse of the apartheid regime in South Africa, the 1990 freeing of Nelson Mandela (imprisoned in 1962 based on a CIA tipoff), and the end of apartheid with the fully representative democratic election of Nelson Mandela as president in 1994.

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The U.S. supported the apartheid regime in South Africa during its 1966-1989 Border War with Angola, Namibia and Zambia (and Zimbabwe), and it allowed former US military officers to work as free-lance mercenary assassins for the South African Defense Force (SADF). Though it is technically illegal for US citizens to act as mercenaries and work as assassins for foreign governments, this technicality was conveniently ignored in those cases where the success of a “private business deal” was of political interest to the US State Department and the CIA (who “winked” and afterwards debriefed). Former members of the US military who had combat experience or superior training as members of elite commando-type units (e.g., Special Forces, Army Rangers) could earn enough to fund a very comfortable and immediate retirement, far beyond what was likely with any tenure in the US military, with just one or two undercover operations for the SADF. The American and European agents dispatching the targets described by Victoria Brittain (They Had To Die: Assassination Against Liberation, http://rac.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/48/1/60) were merely politically expendable labor (some were captured and executed), though well-trained thanks to earlier taxpayer investments. (see: John Stockwell – Chief of the CIA’s Angola Task Force during its 1975 covert operations – http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Stockwell/John_Stockwell.html)

South Africa lost its border war, so foreign troops (Cubans aiding, and South Africans invading) left Angola in 1988, Namibia gained its independence in 1989, and agitation in South Africa against the apartheid state swelled from 1990 till apartheid was overturned in 1994.

The Assassination Bureau
15 July 2009
http://www.counterpunch.org/2009/07/15/the-assassination-bureau/

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Cuba Under Fidel Castro
by Benjamin Studebaker
[on: economic policy, governmental inflexibility and future prospects]
26 November 2016
https://benjaminstudebaker.com/2016/11/26/cuba-under-fidel-castro/

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I met Castro in 1960 (quite an experience).

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I have been comparing my memories of significant events half a century ago to the commentaries, commemorations, and propaganda about them in present times.

In 2009, I recalled how incredible it was to experience the popular exultation in Cuba after the success of the Cuban Revolution of 1959. Freedom! I wish this for everyone on earth, always.

In 2010, I remembered how pleased we Catholics were that one of our own, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, had been elected president despite the wide popularity in 1960 of that stalwart commie-chaser Richard M. Nixon. (The other zealous commie-hound, still popular to American public memory, was Robert F. Kennedy.)

In 2011, I recalled how my juvenile political consciousness began to darken because of the fact, not the failure, of the Bay of Pigs invasion of April 1961 and the Kennedy brothers’ crusade against Cuban communism. My president had sent an armada against the home of my grandparents. Could my family ever return to Cuba?

In 2012, I remembered our family living in terror through the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. At one point the question for us was: will Kennedy drop a nuclear bomb on grandma and grandpa in Havana before Khrushchev drops one on us in New York, or vice versa?

Overtones Of Awareness
9 September 2013
http://www.swans.com/library/art19/mgarci70.html

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I recall visiting my grandparents in the city of Havana during a summer vacation in 1959. The colors, warmth, sounds and odors of Cuba were all rich, pungent and sensuous. Equally impressive to a boy growing up in New York City was the flagrant poverty of many Cuban people: adults with naked rented children huddled at street intersections begging from the passing tourists.

Fulgencio Batista was Cuba’s dictator, whose regime Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. characterized this way: “The corruption of the Government, the brutality of the police, the regime’s indifference to the needs of the people for education, medical care, housing, for social justice and economic justice … is an open invitation to revolution.” Bohemia magazine — the equivalent in Cuba of Life magazine in the U.S. at that time — would print pictures of revolutionaries shot dead during gunfights with Batista’s police, lying rumpled in pools of blood on the street. I only heard the adults talk Cuban politics back in New York, when I was taken to the upper west side of Manhattan, our old barrio, for haircuts at the Cuban barbershop below the elevated train along Broadway, and in the brownstone apartments of relatives and family friends during Sunday visits. Everybody was anxious, everybody wanted a free Cuba, everybody was thinking of Fidel.

Then, on the first of January 1959, Batista fled the island and Castro’s victorious army rolled into an ecstatically jubilant Havana on the 8th. We returned in June for a long summer vacation (and again in 1960). Even in the Cubana de Aviación four-engine turboprop one could sense the uplift, the exhilaration of the Cuban Revolution. But the full impact hit me when I exited the airplane and walked into the lush aromatic heat of a tropical country whose people were rapt with joy. The barbudos — the bearded ones — were everywhere. The barbudos were revolutionaries in pristine khakis, with gunbelts holstering highly polished and uniquely detailed pistols, some silver-colored, some gold-colored, some gun-metal blue, some with very long barrels, some with artistically engraved handles. Only the beards were shaggy, all other items from boot soles to cap crests were neat, shiny and crisp. At first I was a little nervous when a barbudo would climb onto a streetcar or bus and sit near me. But I soon got used to sitting next to gold-plated long-barrel Lugers, gleaming mirror-finish silvery Colt 45s, and robust Smith & Wesson 44 caliber six-shot revolvers. Sidearms were definitely the display items of identity.

During those summer vacations we travelled all over the island and saw many remnants of revolutionary struggle, one being a bullet-pocked hospital in the countryside, once the scene of a battle, now happily back in service. I even met Fidel at Isla de Pinos (now Isla de la Juventud). However materially poor some Cubans could be, especially campesinos, peasants in the hinterlands, they were all just so happy: believing themselves free, life despite its burdens was now a joy. Every person, every place, every moment exuded the same sense of uplift. I was immersed in a national sense of freedom, and it soaked into my psyche and bones. This experience permanently magnetized my political compass, so that regardless of verbal arguments and logical constructs in later years, my compass always points my sympathies toward freedom for any people.

Libya 2011: The Human Right to Political Freedom
3 May 2011
(a few minor chronological errors corrected in the above excerpt)
http://dissidentvoice.org/2011/05/libya-2011-the-human-right-to-political-freedom/

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Lee Harvey Oswald, a disaffected American seeking glorious recognition as a leftist hero, acted as a freelancing James Bond (the world’s favorite fictional Tory) to impress the Dirección General de Inteligencia de Cuba (DGI, the Cuban intelligence service) by assassinating President Kennedy on November 22, 1963. The DGI had been locked in a battle with the CIA to keep Fidel Castro from being assassinated, a project pushed hard by the Kennedy brothers, John and Robert. Lyndon Baines Johnson, John Kennedy’s successor, stopped the CIA’s Fidel assassination program shortly after taking office. The Soviet Russian intelligence service (KGB) had found Oswald too unstable to rely on as an agent, and happily let him return to America from his self-imposed exile in Russia (October 1959 to June 1962). The DGI had the difficulty of being a much less powerful organization situated far closer to its small nation’s overwhelmingly superior enemy. Thus, the DGI unlike the KGB might be willing to exploit the improvisations of a volunteer useful idiot. Oswald spent the last week of September 1963 in Mexico City, visiting the Cuban and Russian consulates seeking a visa to travel to Cuba, and as a consequence met DGI agents. The DGI was too professional to compromise itself by inducting a delusional American outcast into its ranks, but the DGI seems to have been either gutsy enough or desperate enough to allow Oswald to imagine he would be welcomed in Cuba should he accomplish something of significant value for the Cuban Revolution. Oswald returned to Dallas on October 14, 1963.

Fifty-Year Look Back 1963-2013
Part I: 1963-1968
18 November 2013
http://www.swans.com/library/art19/mgarci75.html

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The unrelenting campaign by the Kennedy brothers to kill Castro (to have the specific person of Fidel Castro assassinated) and to topple the Cuban Revolution (the traditional anti-communist project stretching back to the Wilson Administration) made it logical and necessary that the Cuban communist government counterattack as a means of personal protection for Fidel Castro, and defense of the communist revolution in Cuba.

Lyndon Johnson came to realize (after he was told many of the facts in 1964, and recalling the 1963 assassination of Ngo Dinh Diem, with US fingerprints) that the only way to stop this Godfather-type tit-for-tat presidential assassination madness was to shut down the CIA’s Castro project. Also, Johnson realized he had to suppress public knowledge of the US efforts to assassinate Castro because exposure of the Cuban link to the Kennedy assassination might cause a national uproar leading to war with Russia (the Cuban and Russian intelligence services had many intimate links, and while the Russians had passed up on using Oswald they had mentioned him to the Cubans, and followed developments).

So, the logical and amorally justifiable reason for John F. Kennedy’s assassination was kept from the public and out of the Warren Commission Report by the combined efforts of the Johnson Administration to avoid war with Russia (inevitable after a US invasion of Cuba), Robert Kennedy to keep the family name untarnished, and the Cuban and Russian governments to keep from being attacked.

However, the great wisdom Johnson acted on to end the presidential assassination spiral did not extend far enough to reverse official US hostility toward the Cuban Revolution. Since then, there has always been a seething desire for revenge against the Cubans for the “Kennedy hit.” This animus would find expression in the continuing allowance for Miami Cuban operations against Cuba and its people both on the island and elsewhere in Latin America, as well as in CIA sponsorship of terror and counterinsurgency schemes like the Bolivian operation that resulted in the killing of Che Guevara. Che died because of John and Robert Kennedy’s assassination sins, and for the Cuban DGI’s successful effort to shield Fidel Castro from them.

Cubans continue to suffer the US embargo (and many other forms of harassment) because the US governing elite is still unable to publicly admit its role in setting the conditions that rebounded as the “blowback” of the Kennedy assassination. So long as the U.S. maintains this sense of wounded pride, the Cuban people will be forced to suffer a revenge covering for a shameful denial.

Castro And The Kennedy Image After The Checkmate
23 April 2012
http://www.swans.com/library/art18/mgarci46.html

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Cuba is a US concentration camp. Everyone there is being punished for failure to obey US Imperial authority. The United States enforces an economic blockage against Cuba that aims to starve and deprive (e.g., withhold medicines from) the population until they divorce their national allegiance to their own government and leaders, and give it over to the Imperial center in Washington D.C. The Cuban people have committed the crime of seeking to control the economic destiny of their island, and of applying the benefits of economic developments (say, the profits from tourist hotels, and rum and cigar production) to the improvement of social conditions. At one point in the 1980s (while income from the Soviet Union still came in), Cuba had the lowest rate of infant mortality in the Western Hemisphere (perhaps Canada beat it), and much lower than that of the U.S., this due to its universal health care system. The rate in the U.S. is higher because of the drug-related effects and general economic deprivation in the US minority population, in short because it is “more profitable” this way.

The US base at Guantánamo is a relic of a “treaty” between the U.S. and the Cuban Government the U.S. allowed to function after the Spanish-American War, in 1898, which granted a lease for the base for over a century. Guantánamo, like Hong Kong until recently, and Gibraltar today, is an example of imperialism in its purest form. The U.S. also acquired bases in the Philippines from the same war. Once the open warfare by the U.S. against the Castro regime began, the Cuban government shut off all water and electric power into the Guantánamo base, so the U.S. has to generate its own supplies. Cuba lacks the muscle to push the U.S. out, and it is constrained by the “legality” of the lease agreement for the base. There is no doubt that Cuba would wish to regain full sovereignty of its Guantánamo territory as soon as possible. Castro is a native of Guantánamo Province.

The departure of the U.S. from Guantánamo would be a bigger event in world affairs than even the departure of Britain from Hong Kong. Why? Because it would be a reversal of the imperialist grasp by the world’s superpower of a territorial possession in one of its most persistently disobedient and recalcitrant irritants, and a weak, minor Latin American nation to boot. There would be jubilation in the entire Spanish speaking world. The humiliation of so many Yankee imperialist abuses, from the Mexican border (near Oregon in 1845) to Tierra del Fuego, would have found one symbolic victory as a retort. So, I don’t expect the U.S. to leave, if it feels it can bully international attention into “distracting itself” from the issue. It is precisely to keep the message alive throughout Latin America that the U.S. is the master of the Western Hemisphere, that it will do all in its power to keep Guantánamo securely under its thumb.

Today the U.S. runs a concentration camp of colonial captives, who resisted the Imperial forces, and who made war against the United States. From the Washington D.C. perspective, keeping these individuals at Guantánamo makes sense, they are in the “high security” wing of a colonial prison island. These prisoners are close enough to be easily reached for interrogation, and yet sufficiently distant to be out of sight from polite society, like a garbage dump at the edge of town. Because the U.S. is a single-ideology two-party state, it is unlikely that any sufficiently drastic change will occur soon in US foreign policy to affect the continuation of the US Guantánamo presence. It is simply the case that the people of the United States are not overwhelmingly anti-imperialist. While the situation is somewhat like eating sausages, in that people who do usually prefer not to see how they are made, most Americans seem willing to accept some slight unpleasantness creeping into their consciousness in exchange for a maintenance of the “American way of life.”

Guantánamo USA
3 November 2003
http://www.swans.com/library/art9/mgarci05.html

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For a sense of Cubanismo (a Cuban sense of life), explore the many pages on this blog that combine the “Cuba” and “music” themes.

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