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Isabel Otero

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The Ozzie Guillen Political Correct-mess

Posted: 04/10/2012 5:10 pm

Lately those in the public eye seem to have reverted back to Cold-War memes where someone, most prominently Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, can call Russia our "No. 1 geopolitical foe." I am not sure if this is nostalgia or a sincere attempt to find something to argue about. This week, it seems we're at it again.

This morning during a restless desk moment I decided to go to the kitchen in my office, where the TV is often playing the news. As I'm filling up my glass with water hoping to be distracted, I look up to watch one reporter after another announce that Ozzie Guillen, a Venezuelan Miami Marlins baseball team manager, has been suspended for five games due to his comments, published in TIME magazine, about his love and respect for Fidel Castro. Comments similar to those he made in 2008 where he said, "He's a bull...a dictator and everybody's against him and he still survives, has power...I don't admire his philosophy, I admire him."

My brain instantly rewinded to dozens of conversations with my Cuban-exile relatives, some who left their island in 1958 never to return. Slowly, I began to get angry and annoyed at the events playing out in front of me. Today, the Miami Marlins released this statement:

"The Marlins acknowledge the seriousness of the comments attributed to Guillen. The pain and suffering caused by Fidel Castro cannot be minimized, especially in a community filled with victims of the dictatorship."

No, I'm not going to defend Fidel Castro. And no, I am not going to defend Ozzie Guillen. Both these gentlemen have giant media megaphones in two different languages at their disposals with which to defend themselves.

However, I will say that it must be a really slow news week. Do we, a globalized international power, really not have better things to report than that a Miami baseball manager, from a country sympathetic to Fidel Castro's regime, has pointed out the obvious fact that Castro has persevered - for better or worse? And that that is something to admire in a person - any person? Is the 86 year old ex-President of one of the last remaining Soviet satellites really akin to the villain in the Harry Potter series, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, down in Miami? Are we really going to go down this rabbit hole of political correctness in which we must overreact about any and all comments that may offend those who hold our purse strings?

No, Mr. Guillen did not misspeak. I believe he meant what he said, and as a person living in the U.S. he has as much right to praise Fidel Castro as he does to worship a dollar bill - which in this case may not be mutually exclusive. He has also apologized ad nauseum. What is sad about this whole situation is that the very thing they're all attempting to avoid, which is causing more pain and suffering to those living under a regime with which we disagree, is exactly what is going to happen now. This will, sadly, cease to be about the Cuban people and their struggle, and start to look more like what it is: a childish fight that only Americans like to have anymore.

Just as I argued with my proud Cuban grandmother about her position on Cuba and Cuban/American relations, as her proud half-Cuban and half-Puerto Rican granddaughter, I will now argue with the media, Cuban-Americans, and the Marlins. It is not OK for us to hold a grudge against this island and throw a tantrum for six decades, because the only people it hurts, are the very people you pretend to be holding the grudge for: the Cuban people.

My grandmother had not been to Cuba for almost 50 years before she passed away, and whether she would ever admit it to me or not, her beliefs about her beloved country were based on how she remembered it, rather than the current reality for Cubans. Her view, and, sadly, that of many other exiles in Little Havana and elsewhere, is more a matter of nostalgia and hearsay than fact. Before anyone else becomes outraged, I do not say that with any disrespect, but merely to explain that Cuban-Americans have not helped their cause by pushing the U.S. to act in a way that has only hurt the Cubans they left behind. No, everything in Cuba is not great, but everything in Cuba is not to be dismissed either. Much as with the former Soviet Union, we would do more good by sharing our lives and our economy with the people of Cuba than by shutting them out and creating faux outrage at the comments of a man who has every right to think what he wants.

The U.S. should be the leader in opening up to Cuba. Instead, others are taking that lead, such as Argentina's President Christina Kirchner and Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff, who absolutely do not share the views of the Castro brothers, but are willing to visit the country and begin a dialogue that will hopefully bring positive change.

America, a globalized international power, is still sending the same tired message: disagree with us and we'll legislate an embargo. Or in this case: disagree with us and we will suspend you from your job and pillory you.

One thing is certain, overreaction is as American as apple pie - or is it baseball?