26 November 2016

He's Dead

I ate corn flakes with sugar tonight. I did it to remember my abuelitos (grandparents). I don't think that they ever ate corn flakes with sugar, but whenever I was at their house, that was my standard breakfast. And because their home was the only place I ever ate it, it seemed fitting to do it tonight. I wonder how they would have felt today.

This blog exists because I love the Spanish language and culture. I love Spanish because it is part of my heritage, as the son of a Cuban exile. I started an email list to share Spanish phrases with friends in 2002. It has been a long time since I have done a Spanish phrase, but the cause of liberty for Cuba has never been far from my heart.

I woke up early this morning and noticed the headline that Castro had died. I tweeted the following:

I have been thinking about Castro a lot today. I think that this Miami Herald obituary does an excellent job of exploring Castro's life without pretending that he was a good person.

He was not.

Canada's Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, made one of the worst comments on Castro's death that I have read:
It is with deep sorrow that I learned today of the death of Cuba’s longest serving President.Fidel Castro was a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century. A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation.While a controversial figure, both Mr. Castro’s supporters and detractors recognized his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for “el Comandante”.I know my father was very proud to call him a friend and I had the opportunity to meet Fidel when my father passed away. It was also a real honour to meet his three sons and his brother President Raúl Castro during my recent visit to Cuba.On behalf of all Canadians, Sophie and I offer our deepest condolences to the family, friends and many, many supporters of Mr. Castro. We join the people of Cuba today in mourning the loss of this remarkable leader.
To say that Castro "served his people" as "Cuba's longest serving president" is a mind-numbingly stupid comment. As the Herald explained (emphasis added):
Millions cheered Fidel Castro on the day he entered Havana. Millions more fled the communist dictator’s repressive police state, leaving behind their possessions, their families, the island they loved and often their very lives. It’s part of the paradox of Castro that many people belonged to both groups.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/fidel-castro-en/article117186483.html#storylink=cpy
He was not an elected leader but:
He also was a ruthless dictator, the Maximum Leader who reneged on his promise of free elections, executed thousands of opponents, imprisoned tens of thousands, installed a Communist regime and made his island a pawn in the Cold War. His alliance with the Soviet Union brought the world to the brink of nuclear war in 1962.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/fidel-castro-en/article117186483.html#storylink=cpy
Castro did not have "dedication and love for the Cuban people," unless they adhered to:
"...an undemocratic government that represses nearly all forms of political dissent,” the independent group Human Rights Watch observed in 2008. “Cubans are systematically denied basic rights to free expression, association, assembly, privacy, movement, and due process of law.”

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/fidel-castro-en/article117186483.html#storylink=cpy
I'll conclude with some thoughts from the Wall Street Journal:
Castro’s Cuba exists today as a reminder of the worst of the 20th-century when dictators invoked socialist ideals to hammer human beings into nails for the state. Too many Western fellow-travelers indulged its fantasies as long as they didn’t have to live there. Perhaps the influence of Cuba’s exiles will be able, over time, to reseed the message of liberty on the island. But freedom starts by seeing clearly the human suffering that Fidel Castro wrought.

13 November 2016

My Answer

I've been thinking a lot about the turmoil that has followed the election. I've spoken to friends and others, some who are overjoyed and some who are deeply dismayed, and I've felt distressed by the divide. I have not felt either extreme. I'm very intrigued by the positive disruption that Trump may provide and also concerned about some of his proposals, but I don't feel fear or anger or joy. Maybe that's because I picked "none of the above" when the time came to vote. As I wrote the other day, I had accepted that either Trump or Clinton would win, with me supporting neither.

While in Church today, I read these words shared by a former leader of my Church, President Howard Hunter. He related a well-known story from the life of Jesus:
On one occasion while Jesus was teaching the people, a certain lawyer approached him and posed this question: “Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus, the master teacher, replied to the man, who obviously was well-versed in the law, with a counter-question, “What is written in the law? how readest thou?” 
The man replied with resolute summary the two great commandments: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.”
With approval Christ responded, “This do, and thou shalt live” (Luke 10:25–28).
I recognize that the fortunate circumstances of my life have provided me with many advantages and freed me from many worries. But that truth does not limit the truth of Christ's words to that lawyer (and all of us). My duty and honor is to love God, and to love my fellow man and woman. This leaves no room for hate or anger. To love is an activity that does not permit such emotional multitasking.

So that's my personal answer to this mess, and the standard against which I will judge my actions.

12 November 2016


I tend to trust film critic reviews, at least in the aggregate. While I willingly suspend disbelief at the movies, and as a result may be more forgiving than many, when a film has positive reviews I often agree. For this reason, I was looking forward to seeing Arrival.

I was not disappointed. From a technical standpoint it was really well done. There are very good performances from the actors and it is visually enthralling. It is conceptually similar to another recent film that I really enjoyed, but is better. I don't want to say anymore that might give too much away.

One reviewer mentioned that this story was welcome given the tumult of the last week. I can't disagree. Even in the absence of that, there is real human truth in it that would be welcome at any time.

Several hours later, I continue to contemplate it and the deep feeling it prompted. It is a great piece of work, a meaningful expression of the power of storytelling. It's worth your time.

08 November 2016


I'm watching early returns, and it's fascinating. At this point, there is a lot of time left and electoral history still favors Clinton. But what if Trump wins- what does it mean?

I didn't vote for Trump or Clinton, and by doing so I indicated a willingness to accept either candidate, while voicing my distaste for both. From the beginning (you can ask my family to verify) I have never feared either candidate. I have been concerned about certain implications, such as the Supreme Court under Clinton or a number of things under Trump, but I have never felt that our country was doomed in either case.

I have little patience for those who will attribute a Trump win, if it happens, to racism. There is an element of this behind some of his support, but it is so myopic to claim it can be attributed solely to that.

A Trump loss could be attributed to the failure of his message.

A Clinton loss should be attributed to the same failing.

Please avoid the urge to paint almost half of your fellow citizens by any broad brush. Don't rely on knee jerk analyses by people blinded by their own prejudice (and I'm speaking of both parties).

Whatever happens tonight, I continue to believe in a brighter tomorrow.