McClatcheyDC. It shows President Obama shaking hands with Cuban President Raul Castro at the funereal of Nelson Mandela. Mr. Castro spoke to President Obama as he made his way to the podium, and Obama stopped a shook his hand and spoke to him.
I'm sure this picture is causing right-wing heads to explode across the nation. They will probably accuse him of appeasing communism. Senator McClain has already shown his idiocy by saying the picture reminded him of Neville Chamberlain shaking hands with Adolph Hitler -- and we'll undoubtably hear even worse things from other right-wingers in the coming days.
I disagree. I think the president just showed good manners and a bit of common decency. It would have been wrong to have shunned Mr. Castro and refused to speak to him or shake his hand. That would have made the president look petty and mean-spirited -- and it would have been disrespectful to the memory of Nelson Mandela to act in such a way when he was being memorialized. Personally, I am proud of the president. He represented us in a way that makes us look good in the eyes of the rest of the world.
This brings me to another question. Why have we not normalized diplomatic relations with the nation of Cuba? For that matter, why did we ever break off those relations in the first place? Neither the Cuban people nor the Cuban government has ever done anything to hurt the United States. The Cubans were our friends, and even after the despicable Bautista was overthrown and Castro assumed leadership of that nation, they would have still liked to have been our friends. All they wanted was for the U.S. to not interfere in their internal matters.
It was the United States that destroyed the friendly relations between the two nations -- by supporting an invasion of Cuba, by trying to force them to have the kind of government and economic system we wanted them to have, and by imposing an embargo that seriously hurt the Cuban economy (an embargo that is still in effect, although the rest of the world stopped honoring it long ago).
The truth is that we had no right to do any of that. And we would be quick to anger and action if Cuba, or any other nation, tried to do that to us. Many will say that our actions were justified because of human rights violations in Cuba. But anyone who looks at the past (and continuing) human rights violations in the United States will know that this excuse is little more than a bad joke.
Other nations, including most of our friends, have normalized relations with Cuba -- and it is time that we followed suit. It is time for us to admit that we have no right to interfere in the politics of any other nation, including Cuba. We should have learned by now that we cannot force other nations to do our bidding (after the embargo failed in Cuba, and military actions have failed in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan).
The Cubans would like to re-establish friendly relations with the United States -- and it is time for us to admit our mistakes and re-establish those diplomatic relations. We don't have to like their government to do that. There are many nations who have governments we don't approve of, but we still maintain diplomatic relations with them. Why can't we do that with Cuba?