“A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” – Shakespeare
Macbeth utters these words on the meaningless of life itself. But one could hardly write a better description of President Donald Trump’s speech in Miami last Friday.
Yes, there was bad news this week; Trump’s visit to our city; his shameful pandering to the political dinosaurs who misrepresent us in Washington; their embarrassing sycophancy; and his changes of policy on Cuba, all in the wrong direction.
The good news is that Trump, in contradiction to Teddy Roosevelt’s doctrine, came talking loudly but bearing a small stick. Fortunately, the actual policy changes announced are relatively modest and won’t go into effect until the bureaucracy writes the new rules. Most directly affected will be U.S. entities that do business with enterprises affiliated with the Cuban military.
Still, there are two broader and very negative aspects of Trump’s turnaround of Obama’s opening. One is that the new policy once again forbids people from traveling to Cuba simply in exercise of their freedom as they do to just about every other place in the world. The technical term is that individual people-to-people visits will be barred. Only organized visits for educational purposes and the like will be authorized. The result will be fewer visits and dollars. This a step back toward the failed policy of bringing change by inflicting economic pain.
The new policy represents a violation of the freedom to travel and will be a boon for tour operators. For the average person, travel will be less free and more expensive. This is a stupid policy even from the misguided perspective of the U.S. government, which sees travel as a tool to undermine the Cuban system. Organized tours are much easier for the Cuban state to monitor and operators who make money from these tours are easy to lean on. Hundreds of thousands of tourists roaming free throughout the length and breadth of the Cuban archipelago is a different story.
The second adverse consequence is more symbolic. Obama changed the tone and tenor with which the United States spoke to Cuba, now as equals, or as equal as an empire can speak to a small state. He set the stage for a broader opening, pointing in the direction of ending the embargo itself once Congress was no longer the dominion of right-wing buffoons. He cut out the hard-right element in the Cuban diaspora out of the process of setting Cuba policy for the United States. The despicable Diaz-Balart and company were stunned, indignant, humbled.
It was nice to see them that way. Now, thanks to Trump, they are crowing and strutting again. Trump only gave them crumbs and they know it. But pretense has always been a big part of their game, and so they are partying like they just unseated Raúl Castro. What a sorry bunch we Cuban Americans have misrepresenting us in Congress.
The politics of bitterness dies hard in Miami. The petty, puerile form such a politics still assumes is amazing: a school board election possibly turned by red-baiting over a trip to Cuba three decades ago; the refusal by the new Cuban Museum in town to show the works of Cubans on the island. Imagine that: the Cuban Museum exhibiting the works of Cubans who live in their own country!
The unspeakable Mayor of Miami-Dade, the cowardly Carlos Gimenez, who was the first and only mayor in line to bow down to Trump and offer him “the tired, the poor, the huddled masses,” on a silver plate, recently denied a request by the spokesperson for Metro Zoo to travel to Cuba in pursuit of his professional duties. Maybe Gimenez was afraid an elephant would defect to Cuba and embarrass him with the Republicans.
Whenever I returned home to Miami after prolonged stays for study or employment in places like Gainesville, Chapel Hill, Dominican Republic, and Washington, DC, well-meaning friends would always encourage me to stay, telling me: “You will see, Miami has changed.”
I have been convinced for a long time that Miami will change. New organizations have sprouted up that lobby for keeping the opening to Cuba. The majority of Cubans here no longer support a hardline policy toward Cuba, which is probably why Trump didn’t reinstate the whole sorry package of the Bush years.
But, as long as the Diaz-Balarts of this city and their ilk continue to bellow from seats of power, Miami will still be a zoo.