IN PURSUIT OF PERFECTION?!!

There are so many people out there looking for Prince Charming, for the right selectee, for the best writing sample, for the best me. Perfection is a goal that we all strive for. We might get close to it, but it is unattainable.

So, why waste so much time and resources looking for something that is elusive? Because we delude ourselves that we ourselves are perfect. Hubris is at play with this mindset.

Let me ask you how many times you have turned in a writing assignment at school or at work, and got it back with a zillion corrections – some grammatically correct, while others mere stylistic preferences. And when you made the requested corrections, how many times did you get the original draft with more corrections? And when you made these, you got your draft back with the language that you used in your original draft. There is insecurity and a low self-esteem by those practicing this behavior. You’ve heard of the popular saying of “the perfect is the enemy of the good.” And, yet, this exercise in futility goes on every day in the federal bureaucracy – all to the detriment of excellence, and the demoralization of employees.

And how many times have you been at job interviews where you answered every question asked, submitted a stellar application package, dressed to impress, and only got turned down without an offer? This scenario should resonate heavily with minority and women applicants. Isn’t it true that selecting officials have to take a leap of faith when selecting an applicant for a vacant job – after they reviewed the application package and conducted a 45-minute job interview? Often, this ideal candidate looks very much like the selecting official, and he/she is the one who gets the job offer. And, often, this ideal candidate turns out not to be the best candidate. And the minority candidate never received the promotion because the selecting official wrongfully thought that speaking with an accent was the equivalent of thinking with an accent.  And the female applicant was kept down because to many selecting officials wearing a skirt meant not being cerebral and being too emotional.

Looking back when I was in the federal workforce, there was a deathly virus around that propelled many employees to seek self-fulfillment and happiness by securing a Senior Executive Service (SES) position.  There was no consideration given to one’s qualifications, to the potential disruption of quality of life, to the well-being of family members.  There are many examples of many unqualified applicants who slept themselves to the top and blocked the promotion of many with the best qualifications.  To them, an SES position equaled ultimate success which had to be secured “by all means necessary.”  But this ultimate success was self-centered and led many to broken marriages, addictions, and even suicides. 

These selfish and delusional employees would have benefited greatly by the advice offered by that the mid-19th century philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The purpose of life is not to be happy.  It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” The magic formula is to find a balance.  Indeed, a balance between your professional life and the difference that you can make in others’ lives or your own life by remedying those parts of yourself that need improvement.  A myopic sense of your self-worth ignores the key existential question that all of us will ask ourselves at one time or another – What is the purpose for my being here? Why me, and not someone more talented than I am? What is my contribution to life?

These selfish and delusional employees don’t realize that what really matters is not what they expect from life, but rather what life expects from them. The challenge becomes what they do and how they react to the growth-opportunities that life throws at their feet.

And how many times have you or one of your friends looked for a Prince Charming or a Dulcinea? And, here, a quote by American singer and actress Cher is on point “When you stop trying to find the right man and start becoming the right woman, the right man will find his way to you.” And, some go on and marry that someone whom they think is the embodiment of perfection, only to be disillusioned. And their remedy for the error is to try change the person to mirror the ideal mate. This arrogance leads to a disastrous end – as adults are incapable of making major changes to their personalities. We might even turn out attention to the Biblical passage in 1 Samuel 16:7 for help: “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” In other words, stop looking for perfection in material possessions and transitory traits, and look at those things that really matter!

So often, you find individuals with wonderful significant others who emphasize the 10% that they don’t like while ignoring the 90% that is great. Who in his/her right mind makes it a point to find the ideal person that he/she had in mind?!!! They don’t make such persons! While I’m the first one to say that no one should ignore our standards when looking for a partner, I think it is realistic to lower our demands. For example, our partner may be a wonderful and caring parent but not a good handyman. Or, he/she may be lots of fun to have around, but you can’t stomach being around his/her family. What to do to restore the balance? If he’s not a handyman, there are plenty of contractors to do the work for you. If you can’t stomach his family, limit the times that you get together. If his family is out-of-state, stay in a hotel when attending reunions.

In all the above examples, the solution is for everyone to acquire a bit of humility by accepting the fact that no one is perfect. The sooner that they come to this realization, the sooner that they will enjoy what a wonderful world this could be.

I leave you with a wonderful poem by Nobel Prize–winning Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. The poem addresses the need for everyone to take responsibility for his/her mistakes, and do something to improve himself/herself. Rather than blame everyone and everything for their imperfections, the road to recovery is to take ownership of one’s flaws. This is a much healthier process than trying to look for Mr. or Ms. Perfect.

Don’t blame anyone,

never complain of anyone or anything

Because basically you have made

of your life what you wanted.

Accept the difficulties of edifying yourself

And the worth of starting to correct your character.

The triumph of the true man

arises from the ashes of his mistakes.

Never complain of your loneliness or your luck.

Face it with courage and accept it.

Somehow, they are the result of your acts and

It shows that you’ll always win.

Don’t feel frustrated by your own failures,

And don’t unload them to someone else.

Accept yourself now

or you’ll go on justifying yourself like a child.

Remember that any time is good to start

And that no time is so good to give up.

Don’t forget that the cause

of your present is your past,

As the cause of your future

will be your present.

Learn from the brave, from the strong,

From who doesn’t accept situations

From who will live in spite of everything.

Think less of your problems

and more of your work.

Learn to arise from your pain,

And to be greater than

the greatest of your obstacles.

Look at the mirror of yourself

and you’ll be free and strong

And you’ll stop being

a puppet of circumstances.

And, here is the Spanish version:

NO CULPES A NADIE

No culpes a nadie, nunca te quejes de nada ni de nadie porque fundamentalmente Tu has hecho tu vida.

Acepta la responsabilidad de edificarte a ti mismo y el valor de acusarte en el fracaso para volver a empezar, corrigiéndote.

El triunfo del verdadero hombre surge de las cenizas del error. Nunca te quejes del ambiente o de los que te rodean, hay quienes en tu mismo ambiente supieron vencer, las circunstancias son buenas o malas según la voluntad o fortaleza de tu corazón.

No te quejes de tu pobreza, de tu soledad o de tu suerte, enfrenta con valor y acepta que de una u otra manera son el resultado de tus actos y la prueba que has de ganar.

No te amargues con tu propio fracaso ni se lo cargues a otro, acéptate ahora o seguirás justificándote como un niño, recuerda que cualquier momento es bueno para comenzar y que ninguno es tan terrible para claudicar.

Deja ya de engañarte, eres la causa de ti mismo, de tu necesidad, de tu fracaso.

Si Tú has sido el ignorante, el irresponsable, Tú únicamente Tú, nadie pudo haberlo sido por ti.

No olvides que la causa de tu presente es tu pasado, como la causa de tu futuro es tu presente.

Aprende de los fuertes, de los audaces, imita a los violentos, a los enérgicos, a los vencedores, a quienes no aceptan situaciones, a quienes vencieron a pesar de todo.

Piensa menos en tus problemas y mas en tu trabajo y tus problemas sin alimento morirán Aprende a nacer del dolor y a ser mas grande, que es el mas grande de los obstáculos.

Mírate en el espejo de ti mismo. Comienza a ser sincero contigo mismo reconociéndote por tu valor, por tu voluntad y por tu debilidad para justificarte.

Recuerda que dentro de ti hay una fuerza que todo puede hacerlo, reconociéndote a ti mismo, mas libre y fuerte, y dejaras de ser un títere de las circunstancias, porque Tu mismo eres el destino y nadie puede sustituirte en la construcción de tu destino.

Levántate y mira por las montañas y respira la luz del amanecer. Tu eres parte de la fuerza de la vida. Nunca pienses en la suerte, porque la suerte es el pretexto de los fracasados.

AUTHENTICITY OF LEADERS

We are all familiar with the differences between management and leadership. While both serve an organization well, the leader brings about change more rapidly. This is because managers get their authority by being selected for their positions, while leaders gather followers through their own choice.

Managers rule by policies, rules, and regulations, whereas leaders rely on their own intuition. Thus, managers approach problem-solving from a perspective that relies on the way things have been done in the past, while leaders think outside the box.

With companies competing in a global economy, it is essential that they have a cadre of employees who expand their business practices away from just the American way of doing of business. Even the Federal Government must embrace new ways of doing business with an increasingly diverse U.S. population, as the 2010 Census has shown. Leaders are best suited for these roles.

However, in order for leaders to succeed, they have to be viewed by their followers as authentic. Some people think that this is something that one is born with, when, in reality, it is something that is given to the leader by his or her followers.

Authenticity deals with what others see in you. Authentic leaders are closely grounded to their origins and core values. They know where they come from, what they stand for, and where they are going. They are proud of their countries of origin or geographic regions, while embracing the societal and business norms where they operate.

Naturally, a true leader has to be careful not to lose his/her authenticity when presenting different faces to different people. Not an easy task, but one that is mandatory. Thus, if a leader is reared in a Christian household, he/she must be careful when addressing audiences from non-Christian backgrounds.

This does not require the leader to be fraudulent; it means that the leader must be adept at showing different facets of his/her personality to different interest groups. To do otherwise would result in the leader being able to recruit followers only with whom he/she shares some common attributes.

To show different aspects of a leader’s personality is achievable because authenticity reflects the leader’s inner self, not his/her talent for playacting – as practiced by most politicians.

Authenticity also requires leaders to have the courage to fight the conformity expected from monoculture organizations. Therefore, followers must be reassured constantly that the leader is not going to sell them to the highest bidder. They must know that the leader will be passionate about doing what is right, not what is popular or politically expedient.

All this talk about authenticity reminds me of a traumatic experience that I encountered when I left Cuba in 1966. Upon my arrival to Washington, DC, I was concerned about my poor English-speaking skills, as they could adversely impact my ability to obtain the American Dream.

Thus, I was thrilled when I met other Cubans who had come to the DC area five years earlier. While I was expecting acceptance by these Cubans, I generally encountered rejection. Most of these Cubans laughed at my thick Cuban accent, at the way I was dressed, even at my hairstyle. They did not want to mingle with Cubans like me because they viewed success as complete assimilation to the American model – not realizing that you could succeed by embracing both cultures.

I ran into some of these Cubans twenty years later and was shocked by their demeanor. Now, they wanted to be more Cuban than the Cuban founding fathers. Their obsession with everything Cuban was indicative that they wanted to make up for lost time. In a very short time, the ideal prototype changed from being the American model to the Cuban model.

Like all converts, these Cubans came across as lacking authenticity. Sadly, they did not get many people or employees to follow them. Others viewed their disregard for their roots as an inability to respect and value other diverse cultures – a serious liability in today’s heterogeneous marketplace and work environment.

And, finally, many of us saw House Speaker John Boehner tell ABC news anchor Diane Sawyer on November 8, 2012, that he would not make it his mission to repeal the Affordable Care Act after President Obama was re-elected to a second term. Speaker Boehner stated that “it’s pretty clear … that Obamacare is the law of the land.” Yet, Speaker Boehner succumbed to the whims of some House Republicans on September 30, 2013, to force a government shutdown if the Affordable Care Act was not defunded. So, he allowed the first government shutdown in seventeen years, furloughed 800,000 civil servants, exposed the Nation to a potential terrorist attack because some House Republicans wanted to ignore what was, by Boehner’s own admission, the law of the land. Such reckless behavior illustrates that these elected politicians lack authenticity and are opportunists. Authentic leaders keep their promises – especially those made on national television just eleven months ago.

COMING TO GRIPS WITH MY CATHOLIC FAITH

Before moving to the Tampa Area in Florida in 2014, I had taken a leave of absence from attending Sunday Mass in Virginia.  My hope was that the homilies that presiding priests and deacons gave would be a source of spiritual inspiration to carry me through the week.  

With very few exceptions, the homilies were a big disappointment.  The majority of these dealt with events that transpired hundredths of years ago and which lacked relevance or connectivity with events that were happening in today’s world.  And there is so much happening in today’s world to prepare great homilies!

Among the reasons for this disconnect, in my opinion, is the unwillingness by Church leaders to alienate parishioners and influential political leaders by affirming key religious dogmas.  In other words, financial contributions deposited at collection baskets replace the purpose of the homily: to draw out the meaning of the passages in Scripture by making them relevant to people’s current lives.

When I moved to the Tampa Area, I hoped that things would be different.  They weren’t. 

During one of the first Sunday Masses that I attended at the church closest to me (in Trinity, Pasco County), the Deacon gave a homily where he explained the meaning of the word “transubstantiation” — the conversion of the substance of the Eucharistic elements into the body and blood of Christ at consecration – by comparing it to another word used in the vernacular, “transgenderism” — a term that includes the many ways that people’s gender identities can be different from the sex they were assigned at birth. The Church recognizes that every human person is created in the image and likeness of God, male or female (Gen. 1:26-27). Thus, the Deacon was making a comparison that was incompatible with the Church’s teachings.

The next challenge came in October of 2021.  Upon reading the Sunday bulletin, I discovered that October was designated as “Respect Life Month” and the first Sunday would be observed as “Respect Life Sunday.” It went on to say that “as Catholics, we are called to cherish, defend, and protect those who are most vulnerable, from the beginning of life to its end, and at every point in between.”

To get a head start, I sent an e-mail to the bishop in St. Petersburg in late September urging him to require all the priests under his jurisdiction to address the sanctity of life and the abomination of abortion at the Sunday homilies in October.  The Bishop never replied to my e-mail with a plan of action, and my parish priest never brought up in his homilies what the Catholic Church was celebrating in October – Life!

With this “don’t worry/be happy” policy in effect at most Catholic churches, it is not difficult to predict that they will fail miserably to attract and retain parishioners who believe in the true tenets of the Bible and the Catholic doctrines.  The downward slide in church attendance is already happening.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Two valiant priests took it upon themselves to give magnificent homilies recently that enriched the faith of their parishioners – Father James Altman from St. James the Less Catholic Church in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and Father William Kosco from St. Henry’s Church, in Buckeye, Arizona.

Father Altman gained national attention in 2020 by releasing a video where he stated that Catholics who vote for Democratic candidates cannot go to heaven.  He said that “there will be 60 million aborted babies standing at the gates of heaven barring your Democrat entrance.” Amen!

For stating the plain truth, La Crosse Bishop William Callahan ordered Father Altman to resign his parish – which he has led since 2017 — for “ineffective leadership,” and which motivated him to file a Vatican appeal against his canonical removal. Catholics from all over the U.S. donated over $700,000 for his canonical defense and personal needs. Catholics do recognize a leader when they are in the presence of one!

Father Kosco also released a video, which has gone viral, of one of his homilies in 2021 stating that “we’ve just elected a Catholic president who is diametrically opposed to all of the basic moral principles that are proclaimed by the Roman Catholic Church.” He indicated that Biden not only contradicts his faith due to his stance on abortion, but also in his support of “this gender silliness.” When asked a rhetorical question about “how in the world did this happen,” he answered because of the “cowardice” by most Catholic bishops.  So far, Father Kosco has been allowed by his bishop to continue with his preaching. Let’s hope that this support continues.  

But it is unfair to blame the bishops and the priests for the sad state of affairs in today’s Catholic Church.  The church official who has been most derelict in upholding the Church’s doctrines is none other than Pope Francis – who got elected to this position on March 13, 2013, after the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. I prefer to call this Pope “El Papa Che” because of his Argentine ethnicity and his embrace of the socialist ideology of Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

El Papa Che is the first Jesuit pope, the first from the Americas, the first from the Southern Hemisphere, the first Hispanic, and the first from outside Europe since Gregory III – a Syrian who reigned in the 8th century.  A lot of firsts that become meaningless after considering that El Papa Che holds globalist and socialist views that run counter to most Catholic principles.

After returning from World Youth Day in 2013 at Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, El Papa Che placed two souvenirs from this trip – a beach ball and a sports jersey — on the altar at the Vatican, right next to the Tabernacle! That’s right, this Pope placed two profane items on the altar of one of the most important churches of all Christendom, and next to the Tabernacle – where the Most Holy Sacrament of the altar is kept. This was not a good omen of things to come for a pope that had just been selected as the head of the worldwide Catholic Church.

In July 2015, El Papa Che accepted from then Bolivian President Evo Morales a crucifix displaying Jesus nailed to a hammer and sickle – both prominent symbols of Marxism. To make things even worse, the Pope accepted this gift from a man (Morales) wearing a picture of Che Guevara on his jacket – a murderer responsible for the killing of innocent victims in Cuba in the name of communism. When some in the media tried to justify the Pope’s behavior by claiming that he had been taken by surprise, he responded: “I understand this work.  For me it wasn’t an offense.” He knew what he was doing!

But there was more to follow from this trip to Bolivia.  Quoting a fourth century bishop, El Papa Che characterized the unfettered pursuit of money as the “dung of the devil.”  During a speech in Paraguay in 2015, he expanded on his remarks in Bolivia by urging political and business leaders “not to yield to an economic model which is idolatrous, which needs to sacrifice human lives on the altar of money and profit.” El Papa Cha showed his true “red” colors by putting down capitalism and advocating for the redistribution of wealth to the poor. 

It should not come as a surprise that with El Papa Che’s Marxist ideology, he would butt heads with President Trump. Back in February 2016, the Pope said that Republican presidential candidate Trump was not “a good Christian” and that “a person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.” He continued his preaching to Catholics by admonishing them that “in encountering the diversity of foreigners, migrants and refugees, and in the intercultural dialogue that can emerge from this encounter, we have an opportunity to grow as Church and to enrich one another.” The Pope showed his globalist and open-border bona fides, which explains why he disagreed with the robust nationalistic views of President Trump.  Notice that the Pope made no distinction between “legal” and “illegal” immigrants.  To him, they are all children of God that should be allowed entry into the United States without the need to enforce immigration laws.

When asked in 2018 and 2021 for his views on the Ten Commandments, El Papa Che declared that “I observe them, but not as absolutes.” The Pope ignores the obvious – why would God give Moses the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai in stone tablets if for no other reason that they never be changed! Indeed, the Pope’s remarks contradict the proscription of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (entry number 2072) that states; “the Ten Commandments are fundamentally immutable, and they oblige always and everywhere.  No one can dispense from them.” Not even El Papa Che!

In October of 2019, El Papa Che did the unthinkable again! He attended an idolatrous worship of the pagan goddess Pachamama (Mother Earth) and blessed this wooden image in the Vatican Gardens and Saint Peter’s Basilica. El Papa Che ignored the prescriptions of the First Commandment: “I am the LORD your God: you shall not have strange gods before me.”

By divinizing Pachamama and the earth, El Papa Che contradicted the Church doctrine that always considered man as the king of corporeal creation.  Gen. 1:28 makes it quite clear: “And God blessed them [Adam and Eve] by saying: increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over the fishes, of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and all living creatures that move upon the earth.” The Pope repeatedly presents man in his documents and speeches not as the master of nature, but as the servant of nature – which suits his climate-change advocacy.

During the summer of 2021, the United States Conference of Bishops went ahead with a plan that could deny communion to public figures who support abortion. By a vote of 168 to 55, they drew up a report on the meaning of the Eucharist – which will be put up for a final vote of the bishops in November of 2021, with two-thirds approval needed for adoption.  Of course, the Vatican would need to approve any action by the bishops. 

But, hold on! Not so fast! El Papa Che made an announcement in September 2021 by warning the bishops that “the problem is not theological, it’s pastoral.” But what’s more theological that the Fifth Commandment: “You Shall Not Kill”? Oh, I forgot that El Papa Che does not believe that the Ten Commandments are “absolutes.” The Pope went on to explain that when defending a principle, some bishops act in a way “that is not pastoral” and “enter the political sphere.”

The problem is that El Papa Che has not always led by example.  In fact, he’s transformed himself into a politician on many occasions.  Former President Obama stated in December of 2014 that “Pope Francis personally issued an appeal to him and then Cuban President Raul Castro” to encourage the United States and Cuba to pursue a closer relationship, and, then, hosted the U.S. and Cuban delegations in the Vatican to advance this initiative.  El Papa Che was not acting as the Vicar of Christ, but as a politician in this instance.

And when El Papa Che visited Communist Cuba in 2015, he only met with the President Raul Castro and even with former Dictator Fidel Castro.  But he chose not to anger the Cuban head of state by not meeting with the human-rights dissidents who had challenged the entrenched poverty, hunger, and lack of liberties that the Cuban Communist Party had subjected the Cuban population for decades.  Again, El Papa Che forgot to follow his own advice to leave politics aside and act in a pastoral way.

El Papa Che met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the Vatican in October 2021, and will meet with Biden at the end of the month.  Pelosi supports abortion rights, and Biden dropped his support of the Hyde Amendment during the 2020 Democratic primary – the law that blocks the use of federal funds for most abortions.  Most recently, Biden stated that the Texas law that bans abortions after as early as six weeks into pregnancy is “almost un-American” and an “unprecedented assault on a woman’s constitutional rights” as guaranteed by the Roe v. Wade decision.  Again, where is El Papa Che’s pastoral v. political admonition?!!! Moreover, the Pope ignores the advice that Jesus gave to differentiate between the spiritual and material worlds: “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” Obviously, El Papa Che aims to be both, a politician and a religious leader – not what Jesus wanted!

Archbishop Cordileone, whose eccelesial territory includes Pelosi’s congressional district, noted that in the 1960s, prominent Catholic segregationists were excommunicated by then-Archbishop Joseph Rummel of New Orleans for refusing to take a stand against racial integration.

“Rummel recognized that prominent, high-profile public advocacy for racism was scandalous: It violated core Catholic teachings and basic principles of justice, and also led others to sin,” said Archbishop Cordileone.The same, he said, is true of prominent Catholics who support abortion rights.

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone showed immense courage and respect for Catholic doctrine by banning House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in May of 2022 from receiving Holy Communion because of her support for abortion rights.  The Archbishop acted in accordance with Canon 915 in the 1983 Code of Canon Law of the Latin Church of the Catholic Church that forbids “the administration of Holy Communion to those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared or who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin.” Abortion is a serious sin.  It negates the right to life to an unborn person. But when Speaker Pelosi met with El Papa Che in June of 2022, he defied Archbishop Cordileone order by giving her Communion. But he didn’t stop there.  To get his point across about how displeased he was with Cordileone, he denied him a promotion to cardinal and named a progressive, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, in his place.

We live in a world where Catholics are under constant attack.  We might as well get ready for an upcoming fight with the “woke” crowd in the U.S when they attempt to replace the “Merry Christmas” greeting with a “Merry Holidays” one. 

In the United States, we have an administration that is populated by socialist Democrats who want to replace God with a secular government.

In the Vatican, we have a Pope who holds globalists, anti-capitalist, and socialist views. 

We have bishops who ask priests who are preaching the Catholic doctrines to step down from the priesthood. 

I often ask myself the question: “Quo Vadis” or “Where Am I Going” with my Catholic faith?

Yes, I have considered changing religion and joining the Protestant faith.  But I come from a family with deep roots in the Catholic faith – even with a distant relationship to the mystic St. Teresa of Avila. I got most of my values from my Catholic education.  Unlike the Protestant faith, I believe that bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ after they’ve been consecrated by a priest, and I pray to Mary, the mother of Jesus.

As you can see, there are many priests, bishops, cardinals, and past popes (John Paul II comes to mind) who are wonderful keepers of the Catholic “traditions” and Biblical teachings. When it comes time to criticize the bad apples or suggest the reformation of antiquated and ineffective policies — like celibacy — who better to do this than Catholics? Running away is not the answer. Speaking up to bring change, this must be the goal of all Catholics.

At the end of the day, I choose to remain a Catholic.  I choose to attend Mass to receive Holy Communion.  I choose to pray to my God, the Holy Trinity, the Virgin Mary, and all the Saints – and leave aside all the aberrant popes, cardinals, archbishops, bishops, and priests who besmirch the teachings of the Catholic faith and traditions.

Can Songs Sung in Spanish Win The Big Music Awards At The Grammys?

Leonard Pitts, in the Tampa Bay Times, cites Seren Sensei, a panelist on an internet series on African-American issues, to argue that many Americans prefer to listen to black music from a nonblack face. And to prove her point, she brings to the picture Bruno Mars for winning song and album of the year at the 60th Grammy Awards in 2018 – an honor that the late Prince never achieved because of the color of his skin. (March 15th).

You see, Bruno’s father is half Puerto Rican and half Ashkenazi Jewish descent, while his mother is of Filipina and some Spanish ancestry. Although he’s multiracial, his music style is a mixture of hip-hop, soul, rock and R&B.  To Leonard and Seren, Bruno’s race and ethnicity are more important than his music!

I have to acknowledge that I’m not a fan of Leonard Pitts’ editorials – as the majority of them have a myopic view of race and racism in our country.  To bring a case that is on point, Leonard is totally wrong in his assertions in the previous paragraph.  Seren Sensei is also just as wrong. 

Americans have a long history – at least recent history – of recognizing musicians strictly for their talents – without paying any attention to their race. Michael Jackson won twenty-two Grammys during his career, and Ray Charles won thirty-one.

But when it comes to recognizing Hispanic musicians at the Grammys, we get a different tune.  Most Americans prefer to listen to Hispanic music with English lyrics and from a singer with a non-Hispanic name.

This year’s song and album of the year should have gone to “Despacito.” The song topped the charts of 47 countries and reached the top 10 of ten others. It became the most streamed song of all time, and the music video became the most viewed video in YouTube history. It tied the longest-reigning number one on the Billboard Hot 100 with 16 weeks. Despacito captured the collective imagination of people worldwide. [To listen to “Despacito,” click here.]

So, why didn’t Despacito receive its deserved accolades at the 2018 Grammys?

After all, Bruno Mars has a Puerto Rican father, which makes him part Hispanic. But Bruno Mars has an English-sounding name, and the lyrics to his songs are in English.

On the other hand, a Panamanian (Erika Ender) composed Despacito with mostly Spanish lyrics, and a Puerto Rican with a Hispanic-sounding name (Luis Fonsi) made it famous. Unfortunately, these two factors gave the song two strikes against it (even with another Hispanic collaborator with an English-sounding name, Daddy Yankee) and made it impossible to win the most sought-after prizes.

Some people will point to the fact that “Despacito” was properly recognized at the 18th Latin Grammy Awards in 2017. It won “song of the year,” “record of the year,” “best short form music video” and “best urban fusion/performance.” Four awards! So, some will ask, what more do Hispanics want?!!!

I don’t have a problem with having a separate ceremony to honor the achievements of Latin musicians because it increases the number of awards given.  But by the same token, when you have a mega-hit like Despacito break all kinds of records in a single year, the overarching Grammy Awards cannot turn its back.  By the end of 2017, Despacito had received a total of 1.322 billion on-demand streams, according to Nielsen Music. By every measure that you want to use, Despacito was the world’s biggest song in 2017.

So, to answer the question of “what more do Hispanics want?” I respond that what they want and deserve is recognition by Grammy judges for achieving what is obvious to world audiences.

To those who object to having a separate awards ceremony for Latin performers, I point out that the exclusion of the world’s biggest song in 2017 from the Grammy Awards made a mockery of their goal to recognize only talent. Many in this camp argue their case by claiming that music is really a universal language that knows no borders, but their actions speak louder than their words.

Still others argue that the Grammys must recognize the musical accomplishments of performers who showcase their talents only in the English language.  But many are still unaware of the fact that the United States has no official national language.  This being the case, it would be un-American to ignore the musical talents of the second largest minority group in the U.S. population (per the 2020 U.S. Census) – as well as disregard the fact that the U.S. is home to the second largest community of Spanish-speaking people in the world.

Similarly, the great Andrea Bocelli has been nominated five times for a Grammy, but is still is waiting to win one. He’s been nominated seven times in the World Music Awards in Monte Carlo and won all seven times. World audiences understand well that music represents the language of the world.

We are all made up of the same essence, we feel similar emotions which we communicate to others via different languages. For example, although I don’t speak Portuguese, I get transported to another galaxy when I listen to a Jobim bossa nova. Music allows us to feel and understand our emotions.  It’s not interested in putting words to them.

As long as most Americans stay hung up on past and current prejudices when judging the arts and music, they will not be casting their votes based on merit.  Instead, they will be moving the country further away from its motto “out of many one.” A Balkanized America does not represent the best that our country has to offer to the free world.

2014 HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH. IS THERE ANYTHING TO CELEBRATE?

Hispanic Heritage Month. It’s been nearly fifty years since the United States has been celebrating this observance annually. By passage of Public Law 100-402 in 1988, the U.S. Congress authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation to designate the period from September 15 through October 15 as National Hispanic Heritage Month. Presidents have acquiesced to the Congressional demands and issued proclamations. President Obama issued a proclamation this year where he asks “public officials, educators, librarians, and all Americans to observe this month with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs.”

After multiple White House administrations have issued these proclamations, they’ve gotten complacent with this task. In fact, it seems like the current White House has delegated this function to its second-string squad. A vivid example of this point is the 2013 White House Proclamation on National Hispanic Heritage Month.   

 The 2013 proclamation included the following language: “Whether our ancestors crossed the Atlantic in 1790 or the Rio Grande in 1970 …” What are they talking about? Just on September 17, 2013, we celebrated the 226th anniversary of our Framers’ signing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787. So, how could our ancestors have crossed the Atlantic in 1790? Were the Framers of the U.S. Constitution extraterrestrial aliens? Don’t tell me someone messed up the Hispanic Proclamation!!

In addition, are Hispanics considered only those who crossed the Rio Grande? What about all those others Hispanics who came from Cuba, Puerto Rico, and other countries in the Caribbean, Central and South America?

I’m confused! Didn’t our ancestors come over from Spain in 1492? Moreover, we celebrated a very important event in the history of our Nation in April 2013 — the 500th anniversary of Don Juan Ponce de Leon’s landing in Florida. I would think that this important feat would have been mentioned in the 2013 proclamation. It wasn’t!

I and other Hispanics, including some with their own radio shows, brought this disgrace to the attention of the White House Office that issued the 2013 proclamation — with the thought that they would issue a correction. They ignored our requests, and, the uncorrected 2013 proclamation remains posted on the White House webpage. To White House officials, Hispanics are a toothless tiger.

I) So, the question that Hispanics should be asking themselves is “IS THERE ANYTHING TO CELEBRATE IN 2014?”

Hispanics have nothing to celebrate in 2014. President Obama, his Cabinet, and political appointees have ignored addressing the Hispanic challenge since 2008.The President broke his promise to promulgate executive action by the end of the summer of 2014 to grant deportation relief to at least 3 million undocumented immigrants.

Some of you would say that a promise is a promise! There are no two ways to go about it! I think that our 44th President should look up to the two Roosevelts (Teddy and Franklin).They delivered every time by claiming that the “only thing to fear was fear itself.” President Obama has done very little to address the Hispanic underrepresentation challenge in the federal workforce and the Senior Executive Service level. Instead, the White House brags about the number of Hispanics that it has appointed to political positions.  But the real challenge is not with the political appointees. It is with Hispanics appointed to permanent, career positions who remain in the federal workforce after there is a change in White House occupants.

A good question to ask is whether Hispanics who occupy political appointments have taken any positive steps to ameliorate the Hispanic underrepresentation at their federal agencies. You will be surprised to learn that the answer is that they have done very little or nothing at all to make a difference. This issue is not on most of their radars, GPS devices, or Blackberries.

And to make matters worse, the National Council of Hispanic Employment Program Managers keeps choosing national themes that ignore the urgency of the Hispanic challenge. Themes like “Hispanics: Serving and Leading our Nation with Pride and Honor,” while true, do not shine a spotlight on the urgency of the Hispanic challenge which the White House has ignored and continues to ignore.

II) The next question to ask is “WHAT SHOULD HISPANICS DO TO BRING ATTENTION TO THEIR CHALLENGE?”

1) Stop the margaritas, mojitos, chimichangas, and chips-and-salsa happy hours. This is not a time for celebrations.

2) Stop the galas, unless they are honoring individuals who have done something meaningful to address this challenge.

3) Select national themes that bring attention to the challenge.

4) Have national Hispanic organizations stop their practice of hosting workshops to teach Hispanic applicants how to prepare their application packages when applying for federal vacancies. The challenge is not the quality of their application packages. The challenge is that most federal managers are not interested in hiring Hispanic applicants.

4) Demand that the Hispanic Council on Federal Employment must advise the Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to ask the White House to issue an executive order that addresses the Hispanic underrepresentation challenge in the federal workforce. Now and not three months before the President’s term ends!

The members of this Council, which was created on February 11, 2011, and which is currently co-chaired by the OPM Director and the Chair of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), have requested repeatedly for the White House to issue said executive order.

If the Hispanic Council continues to ignore the wishes of its members on this matter, the NHLA should arrange a press conference to announce its decision to step down from the Council in protest and to take up the challenge by itself to the White House.

5) Demand that the Hispanic Council on Federal Employment uploads the minutes of its meetings on the OPM webpage. While OPM e-mails the minutes of Council meetings to its members, Hispanics and other interested parties who are unable to attend these meetings are left in the dark. With an Administration that values transparency so highly, this is unacceptable.

Regardless of what the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), which serves as the basis for the creation of the Hispanic Council, says, OPM should do the right thing by publishing these minutes. This is the only way that Hispanics have a record of what took place at these meetings, what OPM officials promised, and what its members asked for.

6) If there is one thing that the events in Ferguson, Missouri, as well as the revelations in the Ray Rice incident, demonstrate is the power of the media outlets to get the public’s attention. The CNN coverage has been impressive in this regard. How about getting Hispanic organizations like LULAC, NCLR, and MALDEF to host a press conference(s) at the National Press Club or in front of OPM to highlight the current Hispanic challenge? In addition, double-up and bring along Federal Diary columnist Joe Davidson and others to write stories for the Washington Post and other national newspapers. Naturally, CNN should not hold a monopoly on this event. Other media outlets, from Telemundo to Univision, should be invited to participate.

7) Convince the President that it is in this Nation’s well-being to have a foreign policy that fully engages our neighbors to the South. 

8) Make it clear to the White House that regardless of whether the Democrats keep control of the U.S. Senate after the mid-term elections, Hispanics expect the President to address the immigration challenge and keep his promise.

It is time for President Obama to pay attention to the Hispanic challenge. It will not go away. It will only get worse. It is time for President Obama to stop being the “Deporter-in-Chief” and become “El Amigo de los Hispanos!”

MEANING OF “HOME SWEET HOME”

A question that many have asked in the past.  Thus, why am I dwelling on it now?

What does the word “home” mean to me?

Because it is a question that has a special meaning to everyone who asks. It is personal.  It’s similar to the love theme that has been addressed in so many books, journals, and films or to different renditions of the same song.  Each one of these topics has a singular meaning to everyone who attempts to define them.

A home is different than a house.  A house is an architectural structure with walls, windows, doors, floors, a roof, and other upgrades.  You can own multiple houses and, yet, when living a monotonous and empty life consisting of just getting-by every day, you won’t find the meaning that only a home can provide.

Following are what I consider trite definitions of what a home is: where your heart is; where you are loved unconditionally; where your heart is most happy; where you find peace and quiet.  They are too simplistic.  Nevertheless, these romantic definitions are preferable to ones that rely on wealth – but both fail in attempting to define what a home is.  Instead, a good definition of home is multidimensional.

The upper classes of society do not own a monopoly on what a home is all about.  Without a home, there is societal fragmentation and immigration – regardless of your social status.  And legal immigrants and refugees are confronted immediately with cross-cultural integration challenges.  This is a topic that is hotly debated nowadays: do immigrants/refugees retain their culture and values in their adopted country, or do they assimilate into the main culture? In my opinion, discarding your cultural values is a recipe for disaster — as you cannot be someone other than yourself regardless of where you live. 

The example of Cuban-Americans who have repudiated their Cuban traditions and Spanish language while living in the United States is on point.  After criticizing me and not mingling with me for my decision to keep my Cuban traditions and remain bilingual, many of these individuals have apologized in later years for their previous slights, and overdo their Cubaness – a common character trait of converts.

So, let’s start out by stating the obvious: home is not just where you were born.  Rather, it is a place where you have become. Take my own situation as an example.  I was born in Havana, Cuba, and emigrated to the United States as a child.  I’ve lived in the United States for fifty-five years – almost my entire life.  If I were deported to Cuba now, I would be a complete foreigner – a fish out of water.  It is in the United States that I have become the man that I’m proud of today.

MEETING THE BASIC NECESSITIES

But a crucial component of “home” is a place, a structure that meets most of your basic necessities.  To most Americans, these are: a safe community, great schools, well-funded police departments,  close-by major supermarkets, hardware stores, and church, and good Internet access – just to name a few.  People settle for places that have enough resources to live on and grow with the least amount of hardships.

If the husband of the family was a handyman who was constantly doing projects to fix things or increase the value of the house and the closest Home Depot or Lowe’s was 45 miles away, moving to another home would quickly become a top priority.

ROOTS & CULTURAL FOUNDATION

Home is also a place to find cultural foundation.  Nowadays, if we do not know our culture, we are lost in a world that has no meaning.  Even worse, we become really helpless and utterly confused if we try to be someone just to fit in – which brings about many arguments over whose culture is the best over others.

If you were raised in an English-speaking household to American parents who celebrated Christmas every year on December 25th, you would feel disconnected living in a city like Miami — where 72% of the population was Hispanic, where Spanish was the main language spoken, and where Christmas was celebrated on December 24th.

Is it my inalienable right to live in another culture and tell others how inappropriate it is to turn on their TVs to sports games at social gatherings – which, in my opinion, should be reserved for catching up on each other and doing fun things like dancing? I will argue that games can be recorded for later viewing, and they will rebut by saying that this is the way that it’s been done for generations in America and that there is no substitute for instant gratification. 

There is no way that I can win the argument in the previous paragraph.  The best way to cope with this challenge is to do it my way when having a soirée with Hispanic guests at my house, and to accept the social norms when attending a function with diverse guests at someone else’s house. 

FINDING WHO YOU ARE

Another important component of home hunting is first finding out who you are, what makes you tick or what makes you happy.  I am fortunate to know who I am – someone who is always seeking justice, abiding by the laws, helping others visualize their dreams and how to accomplish them, meeting my family responsibilities, and embracing Judeo-Christian values.  To me, home must be a place where I can be my true self with no asphyxiating filters.  As the Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca used to say: “it is not the man who has little that is poor, but the one who hankers after more” – without finding out first who he is or what he wants of life.

If you held conservative views, it would be a serious mistake to move to a city like San Francisco where 85.3% of the people vote for Democrats and where you had to impose filters on your views to mingle with your liberal friends and tolerate radical policies like defunding the police in a city where homelessness, crime, and taxes were out of control.

IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT YOU

Once you have a family, you must be aware that paradise to one person could be hell to another.  Therefore, when seeking a home, understand that it’s not just your home that you’re after, but theirs too.  This is when the art of compromise becomes most useful and also brings an aura of familial bliss.

If you were looking for your next promotion and the job opportunities were best in another distant county, but the public schools where you lived had the best schools in the nation and your kids had developed wonderful friendships in the area, you might think twice before disrupting the lives of your children. If you ended up moving to the distant county, the salary increase of your new job might be reduced to nothing if you had to pay for private schools and your kids insisted on driving regularly to their old hangouts without giving any consideration to the high gas prices.

MOVING TARGET

Be prepared to understand that once you have found the home that you were after, you’ll eventually want more.  This might get tricky.  If what you are after is simply to live a better life in your homes, all the home-searching in the world won’t bring you peace because it becomes a never-ending cycle: the more you have, the more you want. Nevertheless, if you lived in a three-bedroom house and your family size had recently increased to five, it would be natural to move to a bigger house to bring added comfort to your home.

This virus of always wanting more than you have holds true not just with your homes, but also with your status.  While I was in the federal workforce, there was a serious epidemic of employees seeking Senior Executive Service jobs without giving any consideration to their qualifications, or the impact that getting these jobs would have on their quality of life or their marriages.  They were only thinking of higher paychecks and more power – which, in the end, ruined many careers and lives. Similarly, buying a much bigger or a much more expensive house will not bring you the peace of mind that you’ll find in a home.

BEST DEFINITION FOUND

Bottom line, home can be found in the place where you are best at adapting in – one that meets your basic necessities, provides a cultural foundation, lets you be your true self and where others in your family circle can do the same — while realizing that you may outgrow it later in life. 

It’s not how big the house is. It’s how happy the home is. You will be well served to remember the trite saying: “Happy Home. Happy Life!”

A CUBAN-AMERICAN WOMAN WHO HAD A DREAM!

I saw two films this week on the platform TUBI that had contrasting and impacting messages – and that resonated deeply with me.

The first one was a French production – and most of you know the tendency of French film directors to have risqué plots.  The film “Desire” dealt with 25-year-old Cecille who tried to cope with the recent loss of her father by having casual sex with strangers and wrecking their lives.  I would say that this was not a very helpful way to deal with grief.  By relying on complete strangers and not on her own family, Cecille never found the support mechanism that relatives could have provided her. 

Sex is never the answer to one’s deepest personality problems.  Most people think that it is because it is sensationalized constantly by media outlets as the panacea to the world’s suffering. But remember that media outlets are more concerned with profit margins than with finding medical cures.

It was only after Cecille – with the help of a former boyfriend – took the decision regarding what to do with her late father’s ashes that she found redemption for herself and for all the people that she had previously victimized. It was a much more arduous path to follow, but at least she came to the right decision. Cecille had to learn on her own that when it comes to fixing yourself, it’s up to you to take the first step.

The next movie that I saw is called “Miss Angela” – an insignificant title for a masterpiece – released in 2021. 

Miss Angela is the story of Angela “Nana” Alvarez – a 91-year-old Cuban American woman who vividly narrated her story as a political refugee in the United States. 

Stories like Angela’s are like a dime in a dozen.  There are so many that have been written in the past that to find a good one you have to walk a mile in your shoes! It’s the same thing when trying to find a good Cuban-American restaurant – most are holes in the wall. 

Angela’s life story did resonate with me and I’m sure with many others.  For one, the Cuban-American actor Andy García supported the project.  Andy is one of those rare human beings who realizes that one of the best ways of finding a purpose in life is not by accruing accolades or augmenting your bank account.  It is by helping others less fortunate than you are reach their dreams.  In the past, he made this possible for Manbo King “Cachao” by introducing this talented, Cuban-American musician and composer to American audiences.  And now, he’s done it again with Miss Angela.

As a young girl, Angela’s passion was music.  When her father asked her what career she wanted to pursue at the university, she responded that she wanted to be a singer.  But those were different times where the father was usually the sole breadwinner of the family and his decisions always carried the day.  His response to Angela’s dream was: “No, no, no!”  Later in her life, when Angela won a singing contest on the radio and the prize was a singing debut at a nightclub, her husband also crushed her dream.  Women were not allowed to pursue such endeavors.  Nevertheless, Angela never lost her passion for music.  She composed myriads of songs for every occasion and to liven her up her spirit. 

Angela lived a very happy life in Cuba BC (Before Castro).  She had four children, and her husband had a good job as a mechanical engineer.  But all this came to an end when Fidel Castro and his communist rag-tag guerilla fighters seized power on January 1, 1959.  Secularism replaced religion.  Fidel took the place of God.  The Government became the sole employer.  Public schools displaced private and religious schools.  And the State took over the indoctrination and rearing of children into the Marxist ideology, and relegated the parents to mere bystanders in their children’s education. 

It was then that Angela made the decision to emigrate with her four children to the United States.  The Cuban Government would not allow her husband to do the same.  Things were rolling fine until they got to the airport, and the bureaucrats refused at the last minute to allow Angela to leave the country. 

Angela made one of the most difficult decisions that a mother could be called upon to make – let her children leave to a foreign country by themselves.  But Angela was not alone in making this decision.  From 1960-62, over fourteen thousands Cuban kids arrived alone in the United States via the Operation Pedro Pan and through the stewardship of Father Bryan O. Walsh of the Catholic Welfare Bureau. 

Angela’s children were first placed in orphanages and later moved to Pueblo, Colorado, where a welcoming family took them in.  Angela was able to exit Cuba after four excruciating years to join her children.  Her husband left Cuba much later via Mexico, but died at the early age of 53 of lung cancer.

What made Angela and her children survive in a country with a strange culture and language was the strong family bond.  Everyone in the household had a role to play, and he/she played that role(s) willingly.  This family honored Alexander Dumas’ quote from The Three Musketeers: “All for one and one for all, united we stand, divided we fall.”  

Angela never lost her nostalgia for her idyllic days in Cuba BC, but she always kept her eagerness for adventures of the future.  The storyline always goes back to the fulfillment of Angela’s lost dream of her love for music and the sharing of those talents with the world.  For those who learn never to give up and face adversity with uncomplaining stoicism, Angela is one of many heroines who did it her way. 

At age 91, Angela gave her first music concert at the historic Hollywood nightclub, Avalon, with a band made up of world-famous musicians and with Andy García in charge of the bongos.  She got a record deal, and her fans anxiously wait for its release.

One of the most agonizing and disturbing questions that I often get when I’m introduced to some Americans and they find out that I’m Cuban-American is a display of extreme curiosity regarding whether I have gone back to my homeland.  I think that the goal that this question tries to convey is an exposition of erudition.  But to Cuban-Americans, the opposite takes place.  Taking into consideration that the majority of Cuban-Americans left Cuba to escape a communist regime and that the same communist regime continues to oppress the Cuban people after sixty-two years, why would a self-respecting and honorable Cuban-American opt to return to this hellhole?!!! These Americans would be better served in displaying their erudition and compassion by making reference to stories like Miss Angela’s.

Angela’s story serves as an uplifting tale of love, loss, struggle, and triumph by achieving the American Dream. It’s never too late for those who never lose sight of their better angels and talents.

BLACK LIVES MATTER AND CUBAN PEACEFUL PROTESTERS

In the middle of the recent peaceful protests in Communist Cuba and the repression of protesters at the hands of the Cuban security apparatus, Black Lives Matter (BLM) issued a statement on its official Instagram account on July 14, 2021, in support of the Cuban Government.  I will analyze and rebut the different parts of the BLM statement in the following paragraphs.

It merits our attention that while BLM professes a Marxist ideology, its willingness to betray it evinces its opportunistic demeanor.  According to Marx, society was divided into two categories that were in dialectical conflict constantly: the oppressors or bourgeoisie, and the oppressed or the proletariat.  Let it be known that when the bells of freedom tolled in Cuba, BLM stood with the oppressors rather than with the oppressed – in direct contradiction of the Marxist ideology. BLM apologists only invoke Marx when he is useful to their leftist propaganda. 

BLM wrote that “Cuba has historically demonstrated solidarity with oppressed peoples of African descent,” praising it for “protecting black revolutionaries” like Assata Shakur. 

Assata Shakur – also known as Joanne Chesimard – is an African American woman who was convicted of being an accomplice in the 1973 slaying of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster.  She later escaped prison and fled to Cuba, where Fidel Castro granted her asylum.  Considering that BLM has sided with the oppressors in the Cuban debacle, you think that they would have sided with State Trooper Foerster – a White male and in eyes of the BLM doctrine, another oppressor.  But the fact that they supported Assata Shakur (the “alleged” victim in BLM’s eyes) shows the inconsistency of their actions to fit the needs of the moment.   

Through its support of “critical race theory,” BLM looks at white as the color of discrimination.  But the majority of the security forces of the Cuban Government are white, while many of the protestors are Afro-Cubans. BLM sided with the oppressors this time around.  Afro-Cubans have played important roles in the liberation of Cuba from tyranny – dating back to the War of Independence against Spain to the present human-rights dissidents. By its actions, BLM stands with the forces that deny the Cuban population its freedom.

BLM writes “The people of Cuba are being punished by the U.S. Government because the country has maintained its commitment to sovereignty and self-determination.”

Freedom House, a nonpartisan organization in Washington, DC, ranked Cuba as one of the least free countries in the world by scoring 13 – out of a possible score of 100.  When it comes to political rights, Cuba got a 1 out of a top score of 40.  And regarding civil liberties, Cuba got a 12 out of possible score of 60.  One thing is for sure, Cubans of all colors, races, ethnicities, and genders are deprived of most of their liberties by the Cuban Government.  The only “sovereignty and self-determination” that exists in Cuba is controlled by the communist despots who have ruined the country since 1959.

But BLM argues that the U.S. embargo is “at the heart of Cuba’s current crisis,” and urges the U.S. Federal Government to lift it immediately. 

On October 19, 1960, President Eisenhower imposed an embargo on exports to Cuba except for food and medicines after Cuba nationalized U.S. businesses without compensating its owners for their losses.  On February 7, 1962, President Kennedy extended the embargo to include all exports.  In 1996, the U.S. Congress codified the embargo by passing the Libertad Act (Helms-Burton Act) – after Cuban fighters shot down two privately-owned planes by U.S. citizens over international waters. So, the embargo can only be changed by an act of the U.S. Congress.  Its key requirement is that Cuba must pay for U.S. exports with cash only – not credit. The main responsibility of the U.S. Government is to protect its own citizens – not the Cuban Government – and this is precisely what the U.S. embargo tries to enforce.

And, let’s clarify some other important details about the U.S. embargo.  Although the Cuban Government and its Marxist acolytes at the United Nations and other leftist organizations are in the habit of calling it a “blockade” for propagandistic purposes to impugn the United States, it is only a trade embargo, not a naval blockade.  It is also unilateral in nature.  The Cuban Government has traded extensively with other countries in past decades.  In fact, Cuba received a generous subsidy from the Soviet Union prior to its dissolution in 1991, and subsidized oil shipments of crude oil from Venezuela. And despite all of these subsidies from communist countries and despite a myriad of empty promises for sixty-two years, the Cuban people have to endure the daily indignities of standing in long lines to buy food and medicines, suffer repeated electricity outages, and earn a monthly salary of $30. 

It is obvious that BLM is supporting the wrong side in this uprising!

You don’t see many Americans fleeing to live in Cuba. But there are more than 2 million Cuban Americans who left Cuba, or whose families left Cuba, to come to live in the U.S.  And they have been very successful in our country.  Even former President Obama acknowledged the obvious when he said in a speech in Havana: “In the United States, there is a clear monument to what the Cuban people can build.  It’s called Miami.” In fact, I think that most Americans would support legislation to allow BLM members to immigrate to Communist Cuba and allow freedom-loving Cubans to come live in the United States.

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel used the same line of reasoning for assigning blame for the anti-government protests: the United States Government, the U.S. embargo, and the alleged Cuban-American mafia/mercenaries paid by the U.S. Government.  He urged his supporters to take to the streets and fight the peaceful protestors in “a decisive, firm, and courageous way.” The Cuban Government security forces have resorted to arbitrary detentions and torture of its own citizens for criticizing their government and protesting peacefully.  It is the Cuban people who must be yelling “No Justice, No Peace!” – and rightfully so.

The government of Cuba denies the most basic human rights and civil liberties to the Cuban people.  It has been acting in this manner for over sixty-two years.  It has been making excuses for the lack of freedoms by invoking slogans like “Patria or Muerte” or “Homeland or Death.”  Deprived and oppressed Cubans have reached their boiling point this month, and have revolted against their oppressors.  They are demanding an end to the communist rule and its replacement with liberty, freedom, and democracy.  Their new slogan is “Patria y Vida” or “Homeland and Life.” 

You don’t hear the Cuban protesters crying for an end to the U.S. embargo, or blaming the United States Government for the poor living conditions in the Caribbean Island, or calling Cuban-Americans pejoratives. None of that! Instead, protesters are crying “Abajo la dictadura” (“Down with the dictatorship) and “Libertad!” (“Freedom!) – while waving American flags. 

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) had the right thing in mind when he commented; “The extortionist ring known as the Black Lives Matter organization took a break today from shaking down corporations for millions & buying themselves mansions to share their support for the Communist regime in Cuba.”

These protests are the beginning of the end for the Communist dictatorship in Cuba.  Cuba will be free again.  Cubans will never forget who stood with them at the moment of utmost challenge and controversy.  It was not Black Lives Matter!!!

THE CASTRO BROTHERS, ENEMIES OF THEIR OWN PEOPLE AND THE UNITED STATES

Great heads of state are remembered for the good that they’ve done for their people while in office.  Fidel Castro ruled Communist Cuba with an iron fist for forty-nine years (1959-2008).  History will remember him not for the good that he did for his countrymen, but for the bad decisions that he took to deprive them of a better life.  Fidel was an egomaniac whose sole purpose in life was to promote and enrich himself.  He had a double standard when it came to women.  He was not an equal-opportunity magnate.  Moreover, he displayed extreme hatred and disdain for Americans.  His brother Raul is not any better.

Fidel blamed the U.S. embargo for the hardships that Cubans suffered.  But, the U.S. embargo was unilateral.  In other words, Cuba was free to trade with other countries, and it did.  In fact, Cuba received a subsidy from the Soviet Union until its disintegration in 1991, which ranged between $3.5 billion to $4.5 billion annually.    With the ascension to power of strongman Hugo Chávez, Venezuela subsidized the Castro regime with 100,000 barrels of oil daily, at an estimated value of over $5 billion annually – which Venezuela will be unable to honor much longer due to the recent drop in oil prices in world markets.  Between 1990 and 2000, more than $3.5 billion were invested in the tourist industry by Canada and Europe.  Thus, Fidel is not being truthful when he claims that the U.S. embargo has triggered all this misery on the Cuban population of approximately 11 million inhabitants.

It is truly appalling that after all these years of the revolution’s failed promises, the average monthly salary for a Cuban worker is $20.  After all these years, the only accomplishments of this communist state are oppression, hunger, and repression of any kind of dissent.  Fidel’s socialist, economic policies eliminated the powerful upper and middle classes that existed prior to 1959, while impoverishing most of the population.  Employees involved in the military and the Communist Party became the new privileged group. After 1959, Cubans rose to the top based solely on their blind allegiance to Fidel.  It was Fidel, and now Raul, who have caused Cuba’s economic straits — not the U.S. embargo.

Despite all the angry diatribes against capitalism, Fidel was a capitalist at heart.  For those seeking a better explanation for the extreme poverty of the Cuban population, you have to look no further than Fidel.  In 2006, Forbes magazine placed Fidel among the top richest men in the world.  His financial worth was set at $900 million, which exceeded even the fortune of British Queen Elizabeth.  Naturally, this enraged Fidel to no end, and he claimed that his fortune was limited to a $38 monthly salary – a laughable assertion given that Fidel is the undisputed latifundista (rich landowner) of Cuba.  Nothing gets done without Fidel’s approval.  According to Juan Reinaldo Sánchez’ book “The Double Life of Fidel Castro: My 17 Years as Personal Bodyguard to El Máximo Líder,” Fidel had a special account that was maintained by transferring funds from the national coffers.  Moreover, Fidel was not content with owning one house.  In a country suffering from a severe housing shortage, Sánchez indicated that Fidel had twenty residences reserved for his exclusive use.  Obviously, Fidel was not a man of the people.

While proclaiming that rampant discrimination was abolished after the Cuban Revolution, Fidel practiced a double standard when dealing with women’s rights.  According to Sánchez, Fidel cheated on his first wife (Mirta Díaz-Balart) with Natalia Revuelta.  He cheated on his second wife (the teacher Dalia Soto del Valle) with Celia Sánchez and his English interpreter Juana Vera.  You would think that he would have been more tolerant after finding out that his wife Dalia was having an affair with Jorge, a member of his security detail.  But this was not to be.  Upon discovering his wife’s infidelity, Fidel did not set foot in his house for a month.  This was his way of punishing her. Clearly, Latin-American machismo was more congruent with Fidel’s behavior. 

Members of Fidel’s security detail were trained to take a bullet, if necessary, to protect his safety.  They were the eyes and ears of El Comandante.  They traveled ahead of Fidel’s overseas trips to make all necessary security arrangements.  You would think that Fidel would be sensitive and appreciative of the twenty-six years that Sánchez spent in the service of El Comandante — seventeen of them serving within his escort. In his book, Sánchez explained how Fidel fired him from his job after his daughter married a Venezuelan and went to live in Venezuela, and his brother left on a raft and settled in Florida. After considering and rejecting less prestigious offers, he decided to retire from the military.  But, he was in for the biggest surprise of his life.  He got thrown into prison, declared a “traitor to the homeland,” tortured to get him to sign a statement admitting his culpability, and served a 2-year prison sentence.  Similarly, Sánchez indicated how after Paco Cabrera, the head of Fidel’s Escort, got his skull cracked by a spinning propeller during a trip to Venezuela, all that Fidel uttered was “What an imbecile!” And just minutes after expressing his condolences to the widow of Captain Armín Pompa Álvarez, who died of a sudden illness, Sánchez indicated that Fidel left to have sex with his mistress Juanita Vera. The latter incident led one of the members of Fidel’s escort to say “So, the last thing you should do here is die – if you die, you’ll be forgotten in a flash.” In Communist Cuba, the chant of “No Justice, No Peace” has less resonance than “No Justice, Keep Your Mouth Shut.”

Despite his many statements to the contrary, Fidel has never ceased being an enemy of the United States.  He shared a belief with Iranian ayatollahs that America was the “Great Satan,” and, as such, could not be trusted.  Sánchez revealed in his book how several drug traffickers arrested in Florida in the 1980’s indicated that the Cuban government was linked to Pablo Escobar and the Medellín Cartel.  In fact, Sánchez eavesdropped on a conversation where Fidel approved a cocaine shipment to the United States.  According to Sánchez, Fidel opined that drug trafficking to the United States brought in cash to bankroll subversion, in addition to corrupting and destabilizing American society. 

When Americans became suspicious of Cuba’s involvement in drug trafficking in the 1980’s, Fidel jumped into action to clear his name.  Sánchez stated that he arrested General Arnaldo Ochoa (the hero of the Angola War and the most decorated soldier with the title of “hero of the Republic of Cuba), Tony de la Guardia of the MC Department (which was part of the Ministry of the Interior), and José Abrantes (Minister of the Interior).  After being charged with spurious charges by a kangaroo court – where Fidel and Raul interrupted the trial to give direct instructions to the judge, prosecuting attorney, and jurors about the desired outcome – Ochoa and de la Guardia received the death sentence which was carried out by a firing squad, while Abrantes received a 20-year sentence.  Sánchez stated that despite being in perfect health, Abrantes died two years later of an alleged fatal heart attack — just like Laura Pollán (co-founder of the protest group Ladies in White) and Oswaldo Pallá (one of the most powerful voices of dissent against the Castro brothers) died under similar mysterious circumstances. Fidel made the members of his security detail watch a film of the execution of Ochoa and de la Guardia as a training exercise.  To many, it had the opposite effect as they began to question their loyalty to El Jefe.

Some people try to differentiate Raul from Fidel by indicating that the latter is different, that Raul is more empathetic than his brother.  This is not the case.  First, let’s deal with the allegations of Raul’s involvement in the drug trade.  According to a 2009 post in the Capitol Hill Cubans blog, federal prosecutors were ready to indict Raul Castro in 1993 as the head of a major cocaine smuggling conspiracy to the United States, but the Clinton Administration’s Justice Department overruled them.  Justice Department officials indicated that Raul, who was then serving as Defense Minister, allowed Colombian drug lords to pay for the use of Cuban waters and airstrips as staging grounds to smuggle drugs into the United States in the 1980s and early 1990s. In fact, convicted Colombian drug boss Carlos Lehder of the Medellin Cartel testified in a 1991 federal trial that he met twice in Havana with Raul Castro to arrange safe passage for cocaine flights over Cuban airspace.

Raul and his wife, Vilma Espín, were close friends of General Ochoa and his wife.  Sánchez revealed that after Ochoa received the ultimate sentence, Espín showed no mercy for her friend and stated to the Council of State: “Let the sentence [death by a firing squad] be confirmed and carried out.”  I think that the nickname “The Iron Lady” better suited Espín than former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

After Ochoa’s death, Raul went on a vodka-drinking binge that impaired the execution of his duties as Defense Minister.  But his depression was not triggered by a sense of guilt at his inability to prevent the execution of his friend.  Sánchez stated that he was preoccupied that Fidel would get rid of him, too. His logic being that if Tony de la Guardia reported to José Abrantes and the latter received a 20-year prison sentence, a similar fate would befall him as the former supervisor of General Ochoa.  It was only after Fidel reassured Raul that his life would be spared because of his Castro surname that Raul went back to his normal life.

As long as a Castro is in power, nothing will change for the betterment of the Cuban people.  As long as a Castro remains in power, Cuba will be an enemy of the United States.  As long as a Castro is in power, the world will not be safe. 

THE MEANING OF LIFE

During the holidays, I’ve gone back to asking myself a question that I used to wonder about when I was an adolescent. While celebrating the festive season and enjoying the company of my family and friends, I also thought about all the turmoil that is prevalent in the world today.

The question is one that I’m sure that you have heard of before – Why do bad things happen to good people?

My problem is that the answers that I’ve received when I’ve asked this question in the past have been unsatisfactory. Thus, I have been searching for a good answer for a very long time.

When I was younger, my mother used to tell me that there were things that were incomprehensible to mankind. Thus, I had to rely on my faith and accept that God had a master plan for all of us. While I loved my mother immensely, her answer did not satisfy my curiosity.

I was not seeking a religious answer to my question, but one that was logical. I soon found out that the best answer that I could come up with was one that had elements of both.

On my way to solve this puzzle, I accepted several truths: 1) that we were all sinners; 2) that to redeem ourselves, we had to do penance; 3) that since we had the ability to choose, we would make some good and bad decisions; 4) and, most importantly, that we were not divine. Therefore, we could not enjoy everlasting happiness during our stay in this planet.

After dwelling on our flawed character, I concluded that God had a master plan to ensure that we had an equal share of the good and bad times.

Thus, someone might be a brilliant scholar, graduate with honors, and earn a top salary from a prestigious corporation. Nevertheless, this same individual may have an unhappy marriage, die young from a terminal disease, get a long jail sentence in a totalitarian country, or be in the Twin Towers when the two planes crashed into them on 9/11.

On the other hand, there are other individuals that while lacking the intellectual and scholastic achievements and the earning power of the first group, might have a happy, healthy, and long life with a wonderful marriage partner.

Some of us have the bad habit of analyzing the now, what’s in front of us. So, when we see someone having a terrific streak of good luck, we conclude that this is the way that it’s always been with this person. These individuals don’t realize that just a couple of years ago, when they themselves were at their peaks of good fortune, these other individuals led miserable lives. So, the tables have turned now. Now, it’s their turn to find happiness. They deserve it.

And is it fair to think, for those who are practicing Catholics, that the punishment that priests render during confessions would be limited to saying a couple of “Our Father’s” and “Hail Mary’s? Who is kidding who? It is more logical and fair to think that bad things happen to good people because of their need to atone for their bad deeds throughout their lives. The prayers are a way to place our fate in the hands of God, but they are not a free pass to escape our well-deserved punishment. 

We need to be reminded of the words of Exodus 20:5-6, regarding the Lord “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations …” This means that in order to escape living under a curse of our ancestors, Christians have to live completely obedient lives, never disobeying the laws of the Lord. 

In fact, it is not sufficient to ask for forgiveness for the sins of our ancestors to rid ourselves of their curse.  It is mandatory to address the issues that brought about the Lord’s curse on them. 

You can reason that the Lord brought a curse to the United States in the past for the sins of slavery by triggering a Civil War that resulted in approximately 620,000 casualties.  It took the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution to erase this stain from the Nation’s soul.

Similarly, you can argue that the Communist Cuban Revolution led by Fidel Castro in 1959 was payback by the Lord for the betrayal in the early years of the Republic in 1902 for the lack of rewards offered to the bulk of the soldiers who fought in the War of Independence.   Many of these war heroes (the manbises) wondered what had the War of Independence been all about? Cuba suffered many ills because corrupt politicians replaced these men of honor who liberated the homeland from Spanish rule.

And let’s not forget the number of babies that are killed in the United States by abortions.  According to the latest statistics compiled by the American Life League, over 61.8 million abortions were performed in the United States between 1973 through 2018. And Joe Biden brags about his Catholic faith, despite the fact that he embraces a pro-choice posture.  While there are some valiant priests like Father William Kosko of Buckeye Arizona and Father Altman of La Crosse, Wisconsin who have given wonderful homilies stating that you can’t be a Catholic and be pro-choice and that you can’t be a Catholic and vote for a Democrat, the majority of priests and bishops stay silent on this issue because they don’t want to rock the boat! America will continue to suffer the wrath of God as long as Roe v. Wade is the law of the land.

But, in the end, the good and bad times are all cyclical. Everyone will go through winters of solitude, before attaining the rebirth of spring – until the cycle starts all over. Remember, one’s trajectory is cyclical until the end.

While my problem was that I wanted to be God and always enjoy the good times during my stay in the planet, I was able to come to grip with the fact that God’s plan was fair. After all, if we were all children of God and He was all good, then I could not see Him playing favorites.