Return of the Black Panthers

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I had lost track of the Black Panthers after they disbanded in the early 1980s.

But this week’s PBS special about the black nationalist movement brought it all back. During much of the group’s history, I was writing editorials for The Journal Gazette.

I championed school desegregation. That was the last thing the Panthers called for. For my part, I don’t recall writing much of anything about the Panthers or other black nationalist groups.

Yet the TV special reminded me that the struggle for black rights didn’t begin and end with the sermons of Martin Luther King Jr., the marches he led or the Brown vs. Board of Education decision.

But for a time, the Panthers were another part of the story. And the special brought to mind that group’s call for full employment, decent housing and free health care.

But their founders like Huey Newton and Bobby Seales had no patience with advocates of school desegregation. They demanded that police officers stop abusing black citizens. At the time, police brutality was even more common than it is today.

I imagine one thing that’s changed is that departments that serve minority communities recruit minorities. That has meant a revolution in policing. In Oakland, California, during the era of the PBS special, the department had nearly 700 officers. Only a dozen or so were black.

One disturbing part of the story I thought the TV special skipped over were the tactics of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI. Abuse by his agents and local police, in fact, was so common that in Oakland and other cities, the Panthers started monitoring police patrols.

What the special did remind me of was how the Panthers performed social services in black communities. For example, the PBS program showed members serving free breakfast to mostly black children.

At their peak in 1970, you could find a chapter of the Black Panthers in 68 cities with thousands of members. They gave voice to a population in our country that’s often silent. Or that population is represented by a minority – the gang-bangers, the jobless and the drug dealers.

One review I read of the PBS special called it a whitewash. I didn’t think so. I didn’t think that the special glamorized the Panthers or was silent about the crimes of a few of their leaders.

Not unlike today, the Panthers’ era was one of great division in the country. Not unlike today, it was a time of great hardship for so many people.

Did the Panthers make a difference? I think it’s fair to say that they did. Their story belongs to any fair account of the historic struggle of black people for justice and equality.

So thanks PBS for the reminder.

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Presidents I’ve known, sort of

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George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.
George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

When I was growing up in Defiance, Ohio, we celebrated Lincoln’s birthday one week and Washington’s a bit more than a week later.

I recall we got a day vacation for each holiday. In my Dayton, Ky., classroom I taught in, the metal cabinet in the back of the room housed two huge portraits, one of Abe Lincoln, the other of George Washington.

I assumed that in years’ past the teacher would bring out those portraits in February. Or maybe they hung on the classroom wall year around.

In my two years teaching in that room I didn’t resurrect the portraits. The old frames were in bad shape.

Now those celebrations have been combined into Presidents’ Day. I can’t imagine how a teacher handles this. Of course, the kids have the day off as a holiday.

Tackling a lesson on the roll of either president in the nation’s life the day before or after would feel oddly out of place in the school calendar. Somehow, my teachers managed to cram the memorials into the curriculum.

The Washington and Lincoln birthdays give us all a chance to reflect on the history of our country and on the transformations in our democracy through the years.

Just think. The father of our country owned slaves. Lincoln freed them. We had one national leader who presided over the Great Depression. Another who got us into an endless war in Southeast Asia. Another was forced to resign. Another sent troops to Little Rock to enforce the racial integration of the schools.

I’ve met several presidents. When I was writing editorials for the morning paper in Fort Wayne, we lived a year in Washington, D.C. There, I met George H.W. Bush at some event. After another conference, then Arkansas Gov.Bill Clinton invited me to join him for a drink in his hotel suite.

At a Chicago meeting of writers, I got acquainted with then Sen. Barak Obama. A professor friend who joined me at the luncheon told me he was going to vote for this man for president. I was also impressed and figured I’d vote for him, too.

I’ve been disappointed in some presidents I voted for. I thought Richard Nixon was too smart to order the break-in of the Democratic headquarters at the Watergate hotel.

I assumed LBJ would continue John F. Kennedy’s cautious foreign policy and not get the country bogged down in the Vietnam war. I’m still puzzled. As a senator, Johnson had proven such an brilliant majority leader.

So here it is, Presidents’ Day. With presidential debates going on lately Americans are starting to think about the candidates and who might succeed President Obama. What’s changed is how deeply divided the country has become.

George W. Bush wanted to be a “uniter and not a divider.” That didn’t work out. I hoped Obama could play such a constructive role. That hasn’t worked out, either.

Maybe honoring Washington and Lincoln today can help us bridge a few differences, bind up the nation’s wounds in Lincoln’s words and point the way to a brighter future.

We sure have known worse days. Most of us, I’m sure, know we can do better.

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The Jesse Owens I knew

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There’s a new TV documentary out that features the great black American runner, Jesse Owens.

Most people today probably don’t remember Owens. But I do. No, I wasn’t even born when he ran the 100-meter dash in a record 10.3 seconds in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

I saw Owens in my home town of Defiance, Ohio, at the ball field on the east side of town.

This would have been in the latter half of the 1940s. My grandfather Tom had taken me to witness Owens race a motorcycle at the field. I didn’t realize then that after Owens had embarrassed Adolf Hitler at the Olympics.

At the time Hitler was promoting Aryan supremacy. Hosting the Olympics was supposed to showcase that racist ideology. But here was this young black man who clearly was the superior athlete leaving the white German runners in the dust. The supremacy belonged to a black kid from Cleveland.

So maybe 10 years later, here he was in my undistinguished mid-size town in northwestern Ohio racing a motorcycle.

Thank goodness, my grandfather, who took care of me while Dad and Mom worked, knew a rare opportunity when he heard about it. Dad’s family closely followed sports – especially the Reds and Tigers all summer on the radio.

In high school, Dad played guard on the Paulding, Ohio, basketball team. Later, he beat my best friend’s Dad in a sudden death playoff for the Kettening club championship. Meantime, Dad never missed the Friday night fights on the nearby Elks club TV. So sports were a big deal for him.

And here was this legend Jesse Owens showing up at the baseball field of Kingsbury Park where I pitched Little League ball for Schatz Motors. My grandfather Tom and I sat on the front row to witness this seconds-long event. I’m sure Dad was jealous.

Today, if you look up this Olympic runner’s name you won’t find that he went on to more great things. After the Berlin games, he worked at various jobs when he wasn’t racing motorcycles in towns around the country to pay the bills. He’s mentioned in the record books for the Olympics. Or you might catch him on a TV documentary.

Oh yes. The great 1940s race in Defiance? Jesse Owens won. I recall that it wasn’t even close.

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Pete’s in my Hall of Fame

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Pete Rose
Pete Rose

I’ll be up front here. If it were up to me, I would have lifted Major League Baseball’s ban on Pete Rose in a minute.

I know that he broke the rules. I know he bet on baseball. I know he even bet on games when he was managing the Reds. I know he continues to bet. I know he promised to quit even after his ban in 1989.

On the surface it looks like Pete was banned for his gambling. That’s a cardinal sin if you want to be associated with the majors or the minors of baseball. It should be a cardinal sin.

It’s true that other greats of MLB have been banned for less – Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and many others.

I have to say poor Pete. Even recently, when he met with Commissioner Rob Manfred, he changed his story. Yes, he got his facts mixed up. No doubt, his attorney had him rehearse his account many times before the Manfred meeting.

The truth is that Pete’s 1989 ban isn’t being continued because he can’t get his story straight. I’m not sure I’d agree that he’s still out of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., for getting fuzzy with details. After all, he is 74.

I think Pete remains banned for life mainly for having an serious addiction. I believe that you’d have to call a gambling addiction a mental illness. I do. I’d guess Pete has been self-medicating by placing bets. Of course, it doesn’t help that he apparently lacks even a thimble of common sense.

Nevertheless, his behavior even after the ban appears simply irrational. Only an affliction with mental illness accounts for it.

For me, here’s the real story. This guy’s career record of 4,256 hits puts him in a class of his own. It’s a shame the commissioner couldn’t see fit to bend the rules in honor of this champion without peer.

In the early 1960s, when I was in graduate school in Cincinnati, I often saw Pete sitting at the counter with his coffee at Frisch’s restaurant on Glenway Avenue, near my apartment. He grew up in that neighborhood. He graduated from nearby Western Hills High School where I did student teaching in one of my early careers.

Pete got his haircuts at Bob’s Barbershop on 8th Avenue. Bob was my barber.

So yes, I do feel a connection to this baseball star. I not only admired his hitting prowess. I don’t think I ever witnessed another big leaguer dive so often into second base to stretch a single into a double. They didn’t call him “Charlie Hustle” just for taking to the field running. Which he did.

Personal feelings aside, though, his record of hits is not my imagination. His 26 years now into the ban surely is punishment enough. He deserves to be reinstated to a place of honor. If anybody deserves to have a plaque in Baseball’s Hall of Fame it’s Pete Rose.

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An evening with Bill Clinton

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President William J. Clinton, official whitehouse portrait
President William J. Clinton, official Whitehouse portrait

“But I only have six electoral votes to bring to the nomination,” Bill Clinton told me.

It was 1991 I recall. Maybe earlier. I was serving my two-year term as president of the Education Writers Association.

At that time, Clinton was governor of Arkansas and also headed the National Governors Association.

The setting for this conversation was an education conference in Washington, D.C. I had introduced myself to Clinton, and after the meeting, he invited me to join him for a drink in his suite.

Today, my granddaughter Tanya reminds me that the Clintons remain much in the news, Hillary as a candidate for president and Bill for his charitable work but also as a spokesman for his wife.

I suppose some Democrats are as weary of hearing about the Clintons as Republicans are tired of hearing about the Bushes.

But I always felt Bill Clinton’s life story was not only unusual for a president. It also was inspiring. Raised by a single mom, he was tapped as a Rhodes scholar. Even as a high school student, he won a trip to the White House and shook hands with his idol, President Kennedy.

What first attracted me to Bill Clinton was that unlike most political leaders, he advocated progressive ideas for school reform. I thought he was especially effective as a public speaker when I caught him on TV news shows.

When I joined Clinton in his Washington hotel suite, the Democrats were already set to nominate Gov. Michael Dukakis for president. My journalistic instincts told me he’d lose – big. I was right.

In Clinton’s suite, we chatted about the prospects for education reform, a topic much in the news those days and with the National Governors Conference. But I brought the topic back to the presidential race.

At the time, I thought Clinton was the most effective speaker the Democrats had on the national stage. And he agreed with me on education reform.

Well, his state’s small number of electoral votes certainly seemed like a stumbling block toward the nomination. But Clinton’s mention of those votes told me he had thought about the subject in the context of a run for president.

I also felt that he’d be an effective debater against President Bush. That turned out to be the case. I recall that Bush kept looking at his watch, exposing his lack of interest.

As that evening in Clinton’s suite wore down, I excused myself. Before leaving, though, I did encourage him to seriously consider a run for the White House. He thanked me, and that was it.

A few years later, I probably wrote the editorial that endorsed Clinton for president. I believe The Journal Gazette, my paper, mostly supported him and his decisions.

We even suffered with him through the Monica Lewinsky scandal and his impeachment. But I note today that he left office with a high public approval rating.

Now Hillary Clinton is facing some opponents for the Democratic nomination. That’s probably to her benefit in the end. I still believe she’ll win. It’s not only all the money she’s attracted.

If she’s not the speaker Bill is, she’s as good or better than any of the Republican candidates running. She’ll more than hold her own in the debates.

Besides, it’s time for a capable, politically experienced woman to be president. Yes, it’s time for a woman.

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Salute to the fallen

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Robert Lansing in "Twelve O'Clock High"
Robert Lansing in “Twelve O’Clock High”

My earliest memory of Memorial Day takes me back to Defiance, Ohio, where I grew up.

It was called Decoration Day then. I recall that I rode my bike to the street next to the old high school. There I joined dozens of other kids to get our bikes decorated with red, white and blue streamers.

Somehow, we all got rolling together to the ball field across the river to hear commemorative speeches and honor those killed in America’s wars.

So much has changed since then. More wars. More deaths. More fallen to remember.

I plan to spend this Memorial Day reading on our back porch. No bike rides for me. My left foot is in a boot the podiatrist prescribed to give my heel a chance to repair itself. Meantime, I scanned the papers, first The Journal Gazette delivered early to our front door, and then the national papers on their web sites. Lots of tributes.

I was especially pleased that my former colleagues on the editorial page devoted a lengthy editorial to the memory of a young man who died in Iraq when his helicopter was shot down. I’ve been friends of his parents for years and visited the funeral home for the calling.

The holiday really began Sunday. During the day a race driver from Columbia won the Indianapolis 500. In the evening, PBS featured its annual concert from the grounds of the U.S. Capitol in Washington. I didn’t recognize the performers. I guess pop culture passed me by some time ago.

In 1992, when my wife Toni and I lived in D.C., son John happened to be visiting over the holiday. So we all hiked down to the Capitol for the Memorial Day event. Last night, as I watched the program on TV, it looked so much like the event we enjoyed in person.

Either live or on TV, you just had to be moved as one of the two celebrity master of ceremonies recognized the disabled veterans in the front row. One especially touching tribute this year told a story of one fallen young soldier whose widow fought back tears as a video captured his earlier life on the huge screen behind the stage.

At intervals throughout the program, battle scenes from various wars also flashed on that screen. When images from the Vietnam War appeared, I recalled the headline of an editorial I had written at war’s end: “The war we lost.”

I was reminded too of a line spoken by the actor Robert Lansing in a long-ago TV series, “Twelve O’Clock High.”

Asked whether America was winning the war, set during World War II, the Lansing character, a bomber pilot, declared, “There are no winners in war, some just lose more than others.”

I didn’t serve. I was too young to enlist or be drafted for World War II and Korea. I was a theological student and therefore not eligible for the draft during Vietnam. Years later, I taught peace studies at the regional campus for Indiana and Purdue universities in Fort Wayne.

Still, my opposition to war doesn’t diminish my respect for those young men and women who have given their lives in defense of our country. Their sacrifice of family or career, of long holidays with loved ones, reminds me that America is about a lot more than about making money.

Indeed, Americans of all races, creeds and family backgrounds have stood up for their country when it counted. Today, on this special holiday, I salute them all.

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Death of a writer

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William Pfaff (1928 - 2015)
William Pfaff (1928 – 2015)

I hadn’t thought about William Pfaff in some years. I recall meeting him a couple of times at writers’ conferences where he was the featured speaker.

He hadn’t been writing his syndicated column recently. But I always thought he crafted among the best written and wisest commentary on foreign policy. That was his specialty.

He died of a heart attack at 86 the other day. This native Iowan had made his home in Paris since 1971, The New York Times lengthy obituary noted. But it would take more than one obit to give an adequate account of Pfaff’s contribution to the debates on foreign policy.

He had been an intelligence office during the Vietnam war. So his frequent critiques of U.S. foreign policy carried a credibility the work of many others lack. Critique that policy he did. That included his many New Yorker columns about U.S. military adventures in Europe, Latin America and Southeast Asia.

Publications worldwide carried Pfaff’s syndicated columns. Many U.S. newspapers, including The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, regularly printed his thoughtful pieces. Once in a while, his writing would pop up in one of my favorite monthly publications, The New York Review of Books.

I’d call him an old-fashioned conservative. He argued in favor of restraint. He was that kind of conservative. I can’t imagine right-wing politicians liking his writing.

Pfaff could readily trace a pattern of American over-extension in recent history. That went back to the Kennedy and Nixon administrations. He called their foreign policies messianic illusions. He did make an exception of Dwight Eisenhower, who himself had warned against foreign entanglements in his farewell address to the nation.

I’m sure he didn’t think of himself as belonging in any liberal camp. To the contrary, he often dismissed what he saw as the dogma of many liberals. That’s the idea that says progress is inevitable. So history always trends toward freedom and democracy.

Recent events in the Mideast and Africa would seem to give the lie to that hope.

In person Pfaff came across as a low-key, thoughtful scholar. Nothing flashy. I liked his writing because he rejected ideology. His style was engaging. He brought a scholar’s knowledge and insight to his work. What an fine role model he was for any writer on public affairs.

I’ll always be grateful for the example this humble man set.

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Bloody Sunday march

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civil rights protestI suppose if there’s one theme to my quarter century writing editorials, it would be civil rights.

During the Rev. Shelly’s sermon Sunday, she even mentioned me by name and my role in advocating for school desegregation.

So in the afternoon, following the annual congregational meeting, wife Toni, daughter Robyn and I joined hundreds of people, black and white, to walk to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the civil rights march in Selma, Alabama.

The film, “Selma” recently depicted what happened when demonstrators attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Rather than protecting these hundreds of the peaceful marchers, police confronted them with tear gas and billy clubs. Scores fled bleeding, some badly injured in what historians consider one of the darkest moments in our nation’s history.

Now, so many years later, we marched to remember. The crowd gathered at North Side High School on a sunny day with temperatures in the low 40s. Police and emergency vehicles guarded our path along the St. Marys River, to the Martin Luther King Jr. bridge. As we walked, I read the┬áslogans chiseled along the bridge’s sidewalk such familiar slogans: “Peace with justice,” “equality for all.”

Unfolding along the bridge echoes the great sermons of the past for civil rights. But I can’t linger. The crowd carries us onward. A mile or so into the march, we reach the eastern side of Fort Wayne’s downtown. Moments it seems later, we’re on Main Street and Freimann Square. We assemble around bleachers. The crowd grows quiet as we await words from the speakers.

One of my favorite preachers, the Rev. Bill McGill, presides. First up is Jackie Joyner-Kersee, a black Olympian and Fort Wayne native. We cheer her and her brief remarks. Mayor Tom Henry welcomes the crowd. Finally, Rev. McGill reads the very words of Dr. King’s address in Montgomery, Alabama. I’m reminded once more of King’s eloquence. What league, Lincoln, FDR and King!

After visiting with friends, we walk to Hall’s Gashouse restaurant for an early dinner. I’m reminded of how much has changed in our country since Bloody Sunday 50 years ago. In every state of the South, you can find black officials. Under President Johnson’s Voting Rights Act, black and other minority citizens can and do vote, if not in the numbers I’d hoped to see.

I imagine that many citizens of Selma must have taken note this past weekend that the celebrity who came to their city to commemorate Bloody Sunday was a black man, President Barak Obama.

No doubt lots of people at such marches noted that the country still has a long way to go before we say we practice racial justice. They can readily cite recent incidents in Ferguson, Missouri, Cleveland, Ohio, and New York City. These recent tragedies expose our many shortcomings.

Yet like Dr. King, we’ve seen the Promised Land. So we lock arms. So we march. So we remember. So we pledge ourselves anew. So we go home to work for justice. Yes, this is a different America.

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A thousand words

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Magnetic-album-1
I just wanted to take a peek at photographs that might show how my balding head looked over the years.

Next thing, I was deep into 12 or 15 photo albums that had been put away in various cabinets in the family room. But this two hour tour took me a lot farther than that. Flip one page and I’m standing at the Berlin Wall, before it had been completely dismantled.

At the end of the wall there was the famous Checkpoint Charlie. No longer was it a reference in news stories. In another album I’m in the Golan Heights with Israeli soldiers surveying the valley below. On the way down toward the main highway, newsman Daniel Schorr flagged down our bus. His car had broken down and he needed a lift. The real world doesn’t always wait for the journalists to show up.

Another album must have been from a much later year. My wife Toni and I had been traveling in Spain but that day we were in Morocco at a luncheon with belly dancers. I recall it was hard to pay attention to the conversation. Americans easily forget how big a deal it is for people in some other countries to meet us, see what we look like and how we talk.

Our photo albums cover a lot of years. They capture some of our history. There’s our older granddaughter Tanya, about two, smiling from our bed. She stayed with us at our old house on Drury Lane while her mother was at Lutheran Hospital giving birth to Cynthia, her younger sister.

Open another album and there’s Cynthia again, maybe four or five, with Tanya and Grandma and Grandpa at Disney World in Florida. Next page, the girls are in the hotel swimming pool.
“I just live to swim,” Tanya declared as she headed back toward the deep end.

It’s funny how you remember little things from a trip so clearly when you can only recall the rest of the trip as a blur. The photos let you sort of relive the moments.

On another page, and in another album, I find myself in Wenceslas Square in Prague’s Old Town. It was a concert celebrating the Czech’s Republic first free election in 44 years. The rain had paused. Just then President Vaclav Havel drove up in a big convertible, waving. I think I was the only journalist from our group who showed up for the concert.

I roamed around the city into the evening. Toni had joined the Saturday Review editor to see an opera.

People take pictures at birthday celebrations. I snapped a few and caught the granddaughters smiling. But I failed to find a bunch of pictures of them now that they’re in the early 20s. They seem to have outgrown my passion for capturing the big moments in family life.

That’s a shame, too.

We must have recorded our tour of southeast Asia on color slides. I didn’t find anything of the trip in any album. We had joined a retired Manchester College professor, his wife and a few of his former students. Toni and I didn’t attend the school but we’ve had good friends associated with the nearby college.

I did snap photographs during our visit in Poland. We had joined a group of mostly editorial writers like myself. One Sunday in small town, we lucked into a huge religious festival. The group of American journalists were invited to the manse and a meeting with the new bishop. I spoke for the group. Our interpreter relaid my message of congratulations. Upon hearing that, he grabbed me and gave me a big hug. I’ve always wondered what our young interpreter conveyed of my words to the bishop.

In my study hangs a large photograph of my grandparents’ wedding picture. Posed, of course. Not at all what they probably were like in those years. Likewise, photographs of my parents as children were posed. Nothing candid. Indeed those pictures don’t capture their personalities, much less a slice of their real lives. Years later, photographs do show my parents and grandparents on both sides something of their personalities. Picture taking has evolved into an art that’s worth preserving.

I just wish now I had kept a more complete photographic record of my travels as a journalist and our family life, more of Europe, of California, of Mexico. Through the years, memories are bound to fade. Your photographs?

Well, that’s real history.

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Cuba for Christmas

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Old_Havana_CubaKen was pretty upset when he discovered that somebody had broken into our van and stolen, among other items, the leather satchel that he had bought in Cuba.

Ken Brown was the longtime head of the Peace Studies program at Manchester College and a good friend. Over the winter break at the college he often took a few of his students on a foreign trip. I’m imagine when he got a group to Cuba it was through Mexico.

I’m sure if he were living today, he’d celebrate President Obama’s move to restore relations with the island nation, just 90 miles off our shore.

The year of the theft I had joined Ken and Manchester students to attend a huge peace conference at Riverside Church, whose minister then was the noted peace advocate, William Sloan Coffin, model for Rev. Sloan in the Doonesbury comic strip minister.

That year the issue at the New York conference was nuclear disarmament. What calls this to mind now was that years earlier, Soviet Chairman Kruschev attempted to introduce nuclear missiles to Cuba. I was in graduate school in Cincinnati at that time. I clearly recall President Kennedy breaking into the regular TV program to announce a “quarantine” of Cuba to prevent Soviet ships from entering Cuban waters and delivering the nuclear missiles.

I believe it was that same week I drove to a suburban school after class to receive my polio vaccine. Of course, the Cuban missile crisis dominated the news. Another thing that sticks in my mind was the news coverage of U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson displaying aerial photographs of prepared missile sites in Cuba.

Stevenson then declared to the Soviet ambassador that he’d “wait until hell freezes over” for an explanation of the presence of those missile sites in Cuba. I’ve rarely seen such drama in all the years tuning into U.N. proceedings.

Americans, of course, had egg on their face too. The 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, in planning under President Eisenhower, turned into a rout by Cuban forces. After the Kennedy assassination, pundits speculated that Castro had taken revenge. That was yet another way Cuba has broken into our consciousness. Never mind that the conspiracy buffs have always been unable to show proof.

Our many years of the trade embargo has helped devastate the Cuban economy, although central planning has played a major role in the island’s economic problems. And this, after Cuban Americans have been sending billions of dollars to families still in Cuba. I read that it was $3.5 billion last year.

I suppose American politicians’ reluctance to restore normal relations with Cuba has a lot to do with Florida politics. Thousands of Cuban refugees and their children live in Florida. Many are politically active. The older generation remains fervently anti-Castro. They vote accordingly in this crucial swing state.

But that generation is dying out. I understand a majority of younger Cuban-Americans have welcomed President Obama’s overture to Cuba. Meantime, throughout the hemisphere, Latin American countries, including the once anti-American Venezuela, have been celebrating the president’s move.

I still haven’t found my copy of Old_Havana_Cuba‘s Old Man and the Sea, published in 1952. When I taught English, I often assigned the novel. The Pulitzer committee cited the novel awarding Hemingway the prize in 1953 and, shortly later, the Nobel Prize. To me, the novel, set off the coast of Cuba, seems strangely relevant to me now.

In this brief yet remarkable story, we read of an old fisherman being pulled by a marlin he hooked for hours after days of failing to catch any fish. But old Santiago finally got his big catch to shore, the marlin destroyed by shark on the way in.

As Hemingway put it, “Defeated but not destroyed.” Which now could be said of the American-Cuban relationship. Obama’s opening is a good thing for both countries.

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