Water Man Spouts

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A Chain Reaction

(Note: This is an essay I posted on the Democratic Underground discussion forum.)

"I am happy to be friendly with the conservatives. If a boat is sinking, it is not a question of progressive and conservative, socialist and capitalist, Catholic and Protestant, Moslem and Hindu – for we are all in the same boat. Better a calm and courageous conservative than a frightened progressive if you want to save the boat. …. We are reaching a critical mass. A chain reaction will soon take place. But it will not be a controlled reaction …."
--Fidel Castro to Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.; Journals; page 5

This quotes, taken from page 599 of Schlesinger’s recently published journals, was from a meeting that the former Kennedy speech writer had with Fidel Castro on what would have been JFK’s 68th birthday. I think it is interesting, for a number of reasons. The most obvious one, of course, is its historical value: the idea of these two men sitting down and discussing subjects such as the idea of cooperation between adversaries is fascinating.

More, it is worthy of our consideration in the context of the questions asked to Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama during the CNN debate this week. Do we as a nation want to continue the current policy towards Cuba? Or do we wish to continue to hold Cuba to a very different standard than we hold every other country on the planet?

Although it is speculation on my part, I cannot help but think that if Arthur Schlesinger were here today, and heard Senator Obama quote President Kennedy’s line about never fearing to negotiate, but never negotiating out of fear, he would say that Obama understands the meaning of JFK’s words.

And finally, I think the quote is of value, because there are people on DU who – for a variety of reasons – attempt to smear Senator Obama by saying he will compromise democratic values by talking to and working with republicans. President Kennedy talked to and worked with his opponents; he did not compromise his values. Martin Luther King Jr., talked to and worked with his opponents; he did not compromise his values. And Castro, who is probably going to be recognized by history as more of a radical than even the most fierce-talking DUers that support Obama’s opponents, displayed a willingness to talk to others in an attempt to save a sinking ship.

The Bush-Cheney administration has done significant damage to our standing in the international community. I’ve long thought that it will take a generation’s time to repair that damage. One of the reasons that I have decided to support Barack Obama’s campaign is because I am convinced that he has a unique ability, among the candidates from both the democratic and republican parties, to communicate with both our friends and our enemies. I do not think that we have had a president with that ability since JFK.


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