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Yoani Sanchez Headshot

The Fear of Sitting Down to Talk

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We had moments when it became fashionable to close the door, cover your ears and hang up the phone on others. Entire periods in our national history when dialog was synonymous with giving in and the exchange of ideas was an act close to admitting defeat. Fortunately, every day in the discourse of different groups in civil society, in academic papers, and in the editorials in numerous magazines, and even in government declarations, there is more and more talk of the need for debate. We are surrounded by phrases such as "accept differences," "exchange opinions," "everyone participate in the national future," and affirmations such as "solutions are born only from dialog." You could say we are living in times when showing a talent for discussion has become "politically correct" in Cuba. But words alone are not enough, the intent to debate must be realized, must be more than an expression carried away by the wind.

In parallel with the tendency to confront our pressing problems from multiple angles, there is also a current that feeds the rejection of the other. So some academics suggest that certain citizens do not have enough education to exchange views with them; Party officials allude to the eternal threat from abroad to discredit those they find uncomfortable; faced with discordant opinions, many voices charge they are not being "proactive" nor "thinking about the nation"; those invited to an alternative event insinuate that their participation would be a trap to politically compromise them. Among the sympathizers with the official ideology, many impute "rightist" bad intentions to their critics, and those who have the microphone on national television will not share it with others, arguing that "they want to bomb Havana." In short, the never-ending story. Shouting among the deaf.

What they don't realize is that they can always invent reasons to burn bridges, slam doors, and gag those who express disagreement. They will always find motives not to include certain names on the lists of those worthy of attending an event or having a space in a particular publication. They will always be able to fabricate a moral or ethical loophole to exclude someone as a legitimate opponent. Because when you do not want dialog it is possible to declare the opposite, but sooner or later, life will lay bare your real fear of sitting down to talk. We are at a stage in our national life where it is no longer the style to cover your ears, rather it's more common to say you are listening when, in fact, you are wearing earplugs to protect your brain from these pernicious differing opinions...