Bravery and Bravado (I)
Sometimes while I walk or while I wait for a bus, I look around myself. I look for complicity in the faces around me. I ask myself, how many of them think as I do. But the only thing I see is weariness, resignation. So then I have doubts and I think: Will this beautiful island someday have a new beginning?
On occasion, I start conversations with strangers, something normal between Cubans. We let loose among ourselves. A rain of criticism of the system and possible solutions that could reverse the wrongs brought about by 50 years of socialism. At that moment, I am illuminated by a ray of hope. Yes, there are other people who think as I do. Of course, How many of them would be ready to take their beliefs to the ultimate consequences? I am overcome by doubt.
But that is not the objective of these sentences. I am not trying to send a message to those who, from their position as exiles incite the residents of the Island, particularly the young, to be more radical in their positions.
I realize that in Miami there are people who enjoy continually calling the attention of the press and the public to a succession of situations, and that the more outrageous they are, the more credibility they will have. Then I would like to ask them, “Why did you leave Cuba if you are so courageous and think you’re such a he-man?
Please, don’t get me wrong. In moments of great frustration, hopelessness and pessimism, I too have wanted to flee. The lack of changes is unbearable. And it’s not easy to endure so much pressure and uncertainty.
Every Cuban, on the Island and abroad, knows what this government is capable of. How it crushes demonstrations in the street, even the peaceful ones. A government that needs no proof nor reasons to imprison someone.
In these conditions, for those of us living in Cuba, it is difficult to take a hard line, to be an extremist. And when I write, I think about the the political prisoners, those forgotten men who have served long sentences. The absence of a father, a grandfather, a husband, a son is not replaced by anything. A misery too long and sad, that has gone on for half a century.
The best option for a majority of Cubans has been to leave for countries where human rights exist, and individual liberties are respected. Where anyone, for any reason, can throw a tantrum or make up a story, and the next day it’s a headline in the newspaper or a story on radio or TV.
It is easy to ask others to try to reach a goal. The same goal that they themselves didn’t have the patience or courage to achieve.
Photo: Antunez, “the Cuban Mandela”, served 17 years and 38 days in prison.