Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Against our parents

Here's a post yesterday over at Daily Kos. I've appreciated the hell out of Kos lending his considerable voice and influence to the three SoFla congressional races and his enthusiasm for the candidates there, Annette Taddeo, Raul Martinez, and Joe Garcia. He seems to get the frustration over the fact that my beloved hometown is represented by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart.

(And, I note paranthetically, it's a great post. Garcia deserves the recognition he's gotten from all the lefty blogs. He's a Cuban Democrat who's had the unenviable task of reforming the Cuban American National Foundation, which had been basically a local arm of the GOP for most of my life, when they put Garcia in charge. He's got solid name ID and good fundraising. I look forward to him wiping the floor with Mario D-B in November.)

So Kos's heart is in the right place, but I still had a moment there where I reacted just like when some stoner or college freshman or Michael Moore takes time to tell me why Castro's not such a bad guy and that he does a lot of really cool things for his people, dude, like give them awesome awesome health care and education and the fascist American government really has a thing or two to learn from guys like him. (I'm paraphrasing.) Whenever someone brings up
the corrupt Cuban exile community
I have to pause for a second. Obviously Kos was really referring to that one extremely active and right-wing minority of a minority of a minority; he's not trying to slur Cubans and Cuban-Americans. I also know that Kos will recall that younger generations, recent exiles included, of Cuban Americans are not as reflexively Republican as their parents are and that Florida's Cuban population is decreasing in proportion to other Hispanics. That terminology wouldn't have given me the slightest pause had he worded it just a bit differently, but written as it was I cringed. These may be extreme, radical, frequently racist malcontents we're talking about, but fuck it, man, these are still mi gente. Why, even though I know better, do I keep getting the nagging feeling that liberals are scapegoating Cubans?

I'm pretty sure it's just me. It's the same reason that the phrase "non-Cuban Hispanic" is fairly prevalent. It's why, every election season, pollsters take the time to separate Cuban respondents from Hispanic voting stats when they're polling Florida. Kos can say this, and it's not wrong even if it does aggravate me, because the definition of the Cuban In America is so intrinsically political in nature that it's become unnecessary to even bother acknowledging details and small contradictions. "Cuban exile" is as loaded a term as "NASCAR Dad"--somewhere, sure, there exists a prototypical one of those that prays to the holy trinity of Christ, Reagan, and Junior. But for the sake of convenience, we can ignore everyone else who shares the experience but not the perspective, since the sample we have is at least somewhat representative.

We can lump the Cuban exile community together because for decades they've lumped themselves together as such a reliable voting bloc. I guess what bugs me is circumstantial: it happens to be that at this historical moment "the corrupt Cuban exile community" is slowly ceasing to be a meaningful descriptor. I want to be able to love the Cuban exile and hate the corrupt community, but it's tough when the words are jumbled all the wrong way.

You can probably tell how conflicted I am by all this. By our very nature many of my generation combat the common wisdom, which is to say we can embrace our Cubanness as loudly as we reject our grandparents' politics. Of course, many of them would reply that I can't have it both ways, and I find myself too often unsure whether or not they might be right.

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