Sunday, July 25, 2021

Sunday Reading

We Are All Connected — Vanessa Garcia, Miami-born and raised Cuban-American playwright and writer, on what we all have in common.

Last night I woke up from a dream.

In the dream I was standing in front of Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, one of the leaders of the San Isidro Movement – the movement of artists and Cuban citizens on the island, which has been one of the sparks in the engine that gave rise to this moment in Cuban history. This moment when the Cuban people have begun to take back their voice. When they have bravely taken to the street, despite all odds, risking their lives in order to break the shackles of a 62-year-old dictatorship. Luis Manuel is currently missing, disappeared by the State.

In my dream, however, I was face to face with him, and we were standing on water, several feet apart. From my chest to his there was a twisted root connecting us, heart to heart. It was thorny in places, touched with blood. In other spots, it was beginning to bloom with tiny orange Flamboyant buds. In other sections it was metal, but those parts glowed with a light that was trying to heal the rust. And we, Luis Manuel and I, were looking face to face at each other and I felt as though my heart, which was being tugged by its very root, was going to come out of my chest. But it didn’t come out of my chest, it gripped harder, vibrated inside me. It connected us.

Estamos conectados,” is how Luis Manuel ends many of his social media videos, speaking to the people on the island. And I feel that connection outside the island too in our Diaspora.

Alongside this powerful dream I had, we have also all awoken from a nightmare in which Cuba was a place people went to for fun in the sun while a dictatorship brutally pushed its people to their knees behind closed doors.

A nightmare in which no one heard our voices on this side of the ocean or the other. Not the voices inside Cuba; not the Cassandras of the Diaspora.

We are the children of men and women who threw themselves to the sea. Some whose bodies sunk to the bottom of raging oceans as they tried to cross in makeshift rafts of rubber, shards of canvas.

We are the children of people who cheered: “Next year in Cuba,” until the phrase scraped their throats raw. Until they lost the hope. We carry their voice within us, and we project it to the world now.

We are the people who fled in 1959, 1961, 1974, 1980, 1994, 2014, and yesterday.

We are the people that have had to watch American students wear Che and Fidel on their chests, their images, to us, equal to the dagger of a white pointed hat alongside a cross on fire.

We have sent our family money directly; we have fed our people when the government starved it. We have never embargoed the people; we have only embargoed the government.

The Cuban regime made itself fat on deals with foreign companies as the Cuban people starved. The Cuban regime has blamed the American embargo, when it is the regime itself that has been the blockade. As the Cuban rapper, David D Omni, sings to the regime: “el bloqueo aquí eres tu que no quieres dar la luz,” the blockade here is you, who does not want to give the light.

What we have known for generations, the world knows now – or is, rather, only beginning to know. There are many stories to tell, to carry toward the light.

There is work to do. This is only the beginning.

This past Saturday, July 17th, Willy Chirino spoke to the Cuban American people in front of the freedom tower and quoted Jose Martí, our patriot poet. He said: “When we’re talking about freedom, everything must go to the fire, even the arts, in order to feed the flame.”

No matter what that vibrating root between us and our people feels like right now, how much it hurts – because of how much it hurts – we cannot let go. We must keep the flame alive.

We are a chain of people standing on water and we cannot let go of each other or we will sink to the bottom of the sea, without ever seeing our connective roots blare their glorious bloom.

There is not a single second in which we can turn against each other right now. It doesn’t matter who voted for who in the last election. It doesn’t matter if we have small differences of opinion. We must all join forces under our singular cause: to bring down the tyranny of Cuba, once and for all. It’s time that the people of Cuba take their voice back. They have suffered for it, they are dying in the streets for it, slaughtered by their own government for it. It is our job to amplify their messages and fight alongside them; educate the world into action — peacefully.

The regime will play its game. But it is an old game, and we know it all too well. Let’s play it better. Let’s show the world the regime’s cards, the decks they’ve stacked, the dominoes they’ve locked.

I have a new dream now. In which we are all— the generations torn apart — standing and embracing on the soil of a free Cuba.

We are all connected.

Why Republicans Hate Voting Rights — Elie Mystal in The Nation.

Utah Senator Mike Lee, a raving hypocrite who abandoned his stated principles to play lackey to Donald Trump, is fond of saying, “We’re not a democracy.” Lee thinks that’s a good thing. He’s written: “Democracy isn’t the objective: liberty, peace, and prospefity [sic] are.” When Lee says these things, he’s not merely playing the role of an overzealous high school social studies teacher trying to use “cool facts” to deflect the hail of spitballs. He’s also channeling the deepest fears of the slavers and colonists who wrote the Constitution. Those guys understood, as Lee does, that a true democracy, in which everybody gets to vote and participate in self-government, would be a threat to white male hegemony in the New World.

They’re not wrong. The founders and Lee and Jefferson Davis and Ron DeSantis—and all the other white guys who have stood against the right to vote throughout American history—are correct in their assessment that universal suffrage and equal representation are the surest ways to end white male political supremacy.

That is why the “right to vote” is not spelled out in the Constitution, and why voting rights are under near-constant attack by conservative forces. It’s almost certainly why Lee thought that HR 1, the bill designed to restore and secure voting rights, was “written in hell by the devil himself.”

It’s no accident that the current assault on voting rights started not with the failed reelection of Donald Trump but with the successful election of Barack Obama. After the 2010 midterm elections and the new US census that followed, Republicans promptly used the gains they’d made to go on a gerrymandering rampage. Their allies on the Supreme Court then used two cases—Shelby County v. Holder (2013) and Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee (2021)—to effectively neuter the Voting Rights Act.

Those moves set the stage for the legislative attacks on democracy that white conservatives have launched this year. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 17 states have enacted 28 new laws to restrict voting access. A total of 48 states have proposed a staggering 389 voter restriction bills, which run the gamut from obtuse (requiring notaries to sign absentee ballots), to cruel (denying water to voters waiting in line), to downright racist (excluding from early voting the times Black people get out of church).

The GOP’s current eruption of voter suppression is unrelenting and ferocious, but it’s not a new phenomenon and should not have been unexpected. Everybody knows that voting rights were initially restricted to wealthy white males and only grudgingly doled out to additional humans after war, outrage, or mass grassroots movements.

The solution to these cyclical outbursts has never been incremental change. Radical legislative interventions (the Voting Rights Act), new constitutional protections (the 15th and 19th amendments), and a judiciary willing to uphold them (Earl Warren protected the voting rights John Roberts is now destroying) have been some of the ways people have fought to limit the antidemocratic instincts of the white men in power.

But the current Democratic Party can’t take such bold action. Even though the mass of the party’s Congress members are willing to do whatever it takes, including nuking the filibuster, to ensure that Jim Crow–style voter restrictions never come back, they are all too easily hamstrung by a few timid white senators who seem to think that full and equal access to the rights of citizenship is just one option among many and that basic democratic rights should be put on the bargaining block in the name of bipartisanship.

There are too many people who seem to be willing to give the Biden administration and the national Democratic party a pass if it can’t convince Joe Manchin (and the cabal of spineless Democratic Senators he speaks for) to do the right thing. Given the stakes—the existence of democratic self-government—I don’t think the president can just throw up his hands and say “Welp, I tried.” Nobody looks back on Rutherford B. Hayes, who presided over the end of Reconstruction and the institution of Jim Crow, and says “good effort.” Texas Democrats are fleeing their state in an ultimately futile effort to stop new voter suppression laws; I think it’s fair to expect more than a speech (not even in prime time from the Oval Office but on a random afternoon) from President Biden.

In this speech, Biden was reduced to making a moral appeal to the bigots in the minority. “We will be asking my Republican friends—in Congress, in states, in cities, in counties—to stand up, for God’s sake, and help prevent this concerted effort to undermine our elections and the sacred right to vote,” Biden said, adding: “Have you no shame?”

If that’s all he’s got, we’re going to lose. Because conservative white people have no shame. They’ve never had any. Throughout American history, they have shamelessly regarded the right to vote as the ultimate white privilege.

We are not a democracy. The question has always been whether enough white people even want one.

Doonesbury — So Wily.

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