Friday, December 19, 2014

Marco Rubio, Sherwood Anderson, Cuba, and The Truth

This edition now worth $48

Words of wisdom from Senator Rubio on his opposition to normalizing our relations with Cuba: "Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth." 

That reminds me of M.S. Arnoni's Minority of One magazine, which I read regularly in the early 1960's. Arnoni used this from George Orwell as its motto: "There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad." 

Well, maybe. But that's also the credo of fanatics everywhere, including terrorists who find the word of God in the Koran.

I prefer Sherwood Anderson in Winesburg, Ohio:

There was the truth of virginity and the truth of passion, the truth of wealth and of poverty, of thrift and of profligacy, of carelessness and abandon. Hundreds and hundreds were the truths and they were all beautiful. And then the people came along. Each as he appeared snatched up one of the truths and some who were quite strong snatched up a dozen of them. 

It was the truths that made the people grotesques. The old man had quite an elaborate theory concerning the matter. It was his notion that the moment one of the people took one of the truths to himself, called it his truth, and tried to live his life by it, he became a grotesque and the truth he embraced became a falsehood.

That's more like it.

People are now talking about the best books about Cuba, but for a 19-year-old Rob Anderson "Listen, Yankee: The Revolution in Cuba," by C. Wright Mills, was the most important book about Cuba, since it contained "the truth" about that revolution. Alas, Mills died of a heart attack in early 1962.

Ralph Miliband, 1962
New Left Review

...As Mills wrote in Listen, Yankee, he had not thought much about Cuba until the summer of 1960—18 months after Fidel Castro took power in Havana. Cuba was forced upon his attention by visits to Brazil in the autumn of 1959 and to Mexico in the spring of 1960. ‘In both Rio de Janeiro and Mexico City’, he recalled, ‘Cuba was of course a major topic of discussion. But I did not know what was happening there, much less what I might think about it, and I was then busy with other studies’. 

He decided to ‘look into’ Cuba: by the time he went there in the late summer of 1960, he had set up one of his beloved ‘files’ and had read voraciously on Cuba and Latin America. The book which came out of that trip was written in six weeks, at white heat, the way Tom Paine must have written Common Sense, for another revolution. 

Mills was rather detached about his previous books: the next ones would be much better. But he was proud of Listen, Yankee, and with good reason. For it is a good and brave book, in which one Yankee tried to explain, well and bravely, through the fog of misrepresentation with which the American press had shrouded the island, why the Cuban revolution was by far the best and most decent thing that had ever happened in and to Latin America. 

Mills did not go into Cuba gooey-eyed, nor did he come out of Cuba gooey-eyed. As he wrote, ‘...I am for the Cuban revolution. I do not worry about it. I worry for it and with it’. He did believe that Castro, having been his own Kerensky and Lenin, could avoid becoming his own Stalin as well. 

His desperate anxiety to persuade his countrymen that the Cuban revolution should be helped, stemmed from his conviction that nothing was more likely to make the moustache and not the beard the symbol of the revolution than the United States’ attempt to destroy it. 

Long before it happened, he had come to believe that the United States would attempt to destroy the revolution by force. It filled him with bitter, helpless shame. In fact, it broke his heart. It was in December, 1960, that he suffered his first major heart attack. It was altogether fitting that, when Mills died fifteen months later, Fidel Castro should have sent a wreath to the funeral. For Mills was a casualty of the Cuban revolution, and of the revolution of our times...

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