Fidel’s ashes.

img_7273(My parents at Varadero Beach in Cuba in the 1940s, blissfully unaware of the upheaval just ahead.)

My parents were ordinary, middle class people. Not wealthy. Not part of any one percent.

Castro’s death opened wounds I didn’t even know were there. It left me with a wistfulness I share with maybe millions of others. We are the children of the revolution, either looking in from the outside…or looking out from the inside.

We inherited the betrayal of a whole generation. To us, Cuba lived in our parents’ stories. A mysterious, elegant beautiful dream that turned into a nightmare.

For exiles and maybe Cubans living on the island, Castro’s death was supposed to revive that dream somehow, liberate us, begin to restore something sacred that was stolen.

But of course it doesn’t. It can’t. Fidel’s ashes travel across the island in an orchestrated funeral march. But they also float across the Florida Straits, mingling with the dust of so many long abandoned dreams of “next year in Cuba.”

My mom died five years ago. My dad has dementia. I’m exactly the same age as the aging Cuban revolution.

In death as in life, it’s infuriating how many people praise Castro or excuse him. President Obama called him “controversial” as if there’s a way to see tens of thousands of deaths, dehumanizing poverty, stolen property, decimated cities, fractured families and fear as anything but tragic. Oh right, literacy is ostensibly at 98 percent.

American slavery lasted hundreds of years. But no one today thinks slavery had any redeeming qualities or calls it “controversial.” No one praises the free healthcare that slaves received or argues plantation owners “loved” their slaves.

Fidel Castro was really one of the world’s last 19th century-style slave owners. No ships needed. His plantation was an entire island.

It’s easy to imagine how fear, starvation, executions, indoctrination and relentless oppression can make anyone a compliant slave, one that mourns the death of his master.

My parents took the Underground Railroad of the day–a Pan Am flight out in 1959. But many others risked and lost their lives to escape in boats or makeshift rafts…and still do.

It’s why I can’t be a tourist there. It would be like going to a picnic on a Southern plantation in 1830 and marveling at all those happy workers in the fields. “Bless their hearts. Look! They’re singing!” I personally can’t do it.

If you want to go dance salsa and drink a mojito in Havana, go ahead. I can’t yet. Not while Cubans are forbidden to leave. Forbidden to speak out against the system or its leaders.

Not while Cubans are unable to own their own property, monitored everywhere, even in their homes. Unable to sell the products of their own making. Unable to read news from the outside world. Unable to buy milk or meat or toilet paper because it’s rationed, plentiful only for tourists.

Cuba’s economy in 1954 was roughly equal to Italy’s at that time. Today it is half of what it was more than 60 years ago. Think about the repression necessary to keep people that hungry and desperate for more than half a century.

If you go there, have fun. Take pictures of the decay and stagnation and of the Cuban people whose spirit is so difficult to extinguish. But please understand it remains a prison for people who deserve better and have no way out.

I thank my parents that I’m an American.

I thank America that I can share my anti-Trump opinions on Facebook without fear of getting arrested come January.

I thank God my greatest worries are as trivial as they are…as they seemed to be for my parents on that day long ago on Varadero Beach.


If you win by identity politics, you lose by identity politics.


My brother in law defended his Trump vote in a series of texts to me explaining that white males are the only group it’s ok to hate and marginalize in our political discourse. He felt besieged politically, socially and economically. He also felt the need to remind me that the Best Man at his wedding to my sister was his gay black best friend.

I let that sink in for a few days.

I scanned my Facebook feed, reading about inconsolable young women, angry gays, frightened Muslims, defiant African Americans. A “million woman march” is being planned for the day after inauguration. I too posted my share of self righteous commentary on my Facebook wall.

That evening I tried to comfort my distraught daughter as she sobbed, “Pence believes in electroshock therapy for gay teenagers! How can anyone vote for him? How can anyone put their jobs or taxes above that?! Maybe they don’t hate gays, but they don’t care about gays!”

Her pain was real. But let me translate: “How can anyone put their self interest above my self interest?!”

First, I was struck by the misinformation of her claim. There is no credible news source that can pinpoint such an outrageous position by Pence. There’s a lot of faux news out there folks. Beware and be discerning. Critical thinking is hard work.

Secondly, the irony of her statement was entirely lost on her. One could easily hear my brother in law’s (more restrained) complaint, “the democrats’ definition of ‘inclusion’ doesn’t include me.”

We don’t have much governing done by leaders anymore; we have identity politics played at every level. Power is acquired and negotiated to groups and through groups. Be it democrat, republican, conservative, liberal, Hispanic, black, Muslim, evangelical, female, or LGBTQ…

You pick your box (or are born into it) and are expected to subscribe to the worldview in that box that some activist told you to believe. The only common ground might be a shared contempt for the one percent, assumed to be white corporate titans with summer homes in the Hamptons.

We need to change that. If this election teaches us anything it is that governing needs to be about policies that impact us all equally as human beings. There are very few truly competing interests and that’s where really good, rational debate can and should happen.

If you voted for Hillary Clinton because she’s a woman, you can’t be angry if someone voted for Trump because he’s a man. If you voted for Hillary because you believe she would defend one type of religious expression then you can’t be angry that someone voted for Trump believing he’ll fight for a different religious doctrine.

Trump exploited identity politics in his win as much as Hillary did in her loss.

There’s a moral superiority in much of the angst about Hillary’s loss that really needs to be examined. Group narcissism may be much more dangerous and damaging to our nation than Donald Trump’s narcissism.

It’s not the Apocalypse.


Ok, I’ve moved through the stages of grief. As a former Republican, I may have gotten to acceptance a bit faster. I was initially as devastated as anyone.

How did we make such a schmuck our president? Seriously.

But here’s the thing: After listening to a lot of analysis and people who voted for Trump, I believe (hear me out folks) that Trump voters are not all racist, homophobic woman-haters. Not even close.

The people I’ve listened to don’t care who you love or marry. Seventy percent of Americans don’t care. They don’t want to deport my Dad’s caregiver. They don’t hate Muslims. Most people don’t want to overturn Roe vs. Wade even if they are against abortion.

People who call this a “whitelash” are conveniently ignoring that whites elected Obama twice. Take that off the table already. It’s offensive. Obama holds a remarkable approval rating. Michelle is the most beloved First Lady in history.

Are there fringe wackos who voted for Trump like the KKK? Yep. Are there idiots who have taken the results as a license to attack minorities. Yep. But they are not who got him elected. The first thing we can do as a nation is denounce that–loudly and forcefully. I’ll march for that.

Let’s stop echoing a narrative of hate to make ourselves feel better about this loss or superior to anyone. It isn’t true. And not looking at the truth about our friends and neighbors is to stay in a place of ignorance and foster more anger.

It’s mostly about the economy. It’s about the very people who likely bought into Obama’s hope and change message and who are more hopeless and still stagnant after eight years.

It’s about rejecting the slick game of politics, where promises are made in public but favors are curried in secret, where minorities are often exploited for power.

It’s about saying, “Wait a minute, I repaid my student loans and I worked through college to pay my own tuition. You can too.”

It’s about getting government bureaucrats out of micromanaging our businesses and our healthcare. Be honest, didn’t Hillary come across like the world’s biggest micromanager? Trump, not so much.

His warts and ugliness are in plain sight. Hillary’s are smoothed over, edited (some might say deleted) to a point that feels phony, making us wonder if she’s phony.

But enough about why and how we got here.

The election is done. Let’s focus on more than just opposition. What do we want to achieve? How do we make each other safer? How do we bring prosperity back to where it’s been decimated? How do we rise up against racism and hatred and call it out everywhere we see it? How do we advance common goals?

How do we heal the wounds this vulgarian, who is now our president, caused? How do we make America great despite him.

It’s not the Apocalypse. It’s just the next day.