The politics of language


“It’s not as if active citizens are always right — they’re not,” he continued. “Sometimes people start yelling at me or arguing at me, and, I think, you don’t know what you’re talking about. But sometimes they do. And the question is not whether they’re always right; the question is, do you have a society in which that conversation, that debate can be tested and ideas are tested in the marketplace.”

In recent years, and with official encouragement from Raúl Castro, Cubans have begun to speak more critically of their government, and the island’s dissident activists find ways to publish their views and reach larger audiences than ever before.


Cuba’s political culture, known for its heated argument, passionate gesticulation and short tempers, has not been known for tolerance and civil discourse.

This comes close to caricature, another depiction of Latins as passionate, kissers in public, and volatile versus stiff “Anglos” who don’t love their children and would shoot their cats. I’ll refer again to Miami, Joan Didion’s essential account of the chasms between American foreign policy and Cuban perceptions of what was due to them, and how it culminated during the Reagan administration’s misadventures in Central America. In Nick Miroff and Karen DeYoung’s otherwise fine boilerplate account of Barack Hussein Obama and Raul Castro’s handshake, there was no sense of what Didion called the Cuban’s view of politics, “so central to the human condition that there may be no applicable words in the political vocabulary of most Americans.” Description not criticism. So are “absolutist” and “sacrificial.” To prove she’s human, Didion herself lapses into colonialist pabulum: Miami Cubans as “heirs” to the “Spanish Inquisition, and after that to a tradition of anti-Americanism so sturdy that it had often been for Cubans a motive force.”

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