Responses of a Free Person to ‘American’ Conservatism

In memory of Gore Vidal

Armando Chaguaceda

Gore Vidal. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES — I’m not used to responding to the comments of readers concerning my articles in Havana Times (HT). But someone employed some harsh words in reply to my last post in which I expressed my ideas about US society. They tried to brand me as someone who is misinformed, confused, and a prisoner of my lack of freedom and my socialist views.

This attack was followed, that same week, by an anonymous message — one that I’m sure didn’t belong to the same commentator, given the superficiality displayed concerning their right to express themself in HT.

It was a message filled with threatening, fascist and xenophobic content and sent to one of my personal email accounts. Given these facts, I think it prudent and legitimate to share that reflection and my response.

I’ll begin by recalling something I’ve said previously: My position on the US remains akin to the one held and defended by the Cuban patriot and democrat Jose Marti in the last two decades of the nineteenth century.

His admiration for technological progress, the defense of civil rights and liberties, and the promotion and enjoyment of the arts led Marti to publically acknowledge his respect for US writers such as Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.

In the same way, the writer of these lines “confesses” to being an admirer of Woody Allen and Ray Bradbury, Charles W. Mills and Howard Zinn, Martin Luther King and Cindy Sheehan. I am someone who prefers multicultural and multiethnic America to the exclusivity of the white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant nation that hides behind the acronym of WASP.

I defend the vibrant republic that makes up and sustains the character of the people of the United States while rejecting the empire that projects imperialist unilateralism abroad. Its expansionism only contributes to anti-Americanism on the part of those who are humiliated and assaulted by strategies forged in the banks of the Potomac.

Neither the Ku Klux Klan, the white supremacist militias or those who defend exclusionary policies and repressive prisons that have turned the US into the largest ghetto of captive labor on the planet are or will be the subject of my consideration.

In addition, when I am “accused” of flirting with socialism, I always explain that my being left isn’t something that offends me, because everything I’ve done in my intellectual and political life is related to agendas and movements that are identified with that ideological perspective in its various expressions.

Promoting greater public scrutiny and participation in the economy and politics, supporting movements around the struggles of women, ones for sexual diversity and environmentalism, questioning the domination of any framework (be it market-centrism, statism or totalitarian neoliberalism) that makes people appendages of self-referential and dehumanizing systems, are outlooks and actions that I take pride in.

This is why I consider myself free to defend — despite my human errors, doubts and fears — the causes of progress, justice and human freedom everywhere I have traveled and based on my experiences in life.

It also comforts me to have among my good and faithful friends many activists and academics who accompany and participate in struggles as diverse as those of the “occupying” Americans, the “outraged” Europeans, the South and Central American social movements, and valiant democrats in many countries around this unequal world.

As we know through stubborn examples in history, there is no one form of domination that is preferable to another. Although the possibilities for confronting them by legal and peaceful methods differ qualitatively under democratic and dictatorial regimes, they all threaten dignity and integrity in their most essential aspects.

So, my dear commentator, I hope I have clarified my position so you might be capable of inferring that none of this is anti-Americanism to the slightest degree, except that from your personal perspective the nation, the people and the government are merged in the same way that occurs in totalitarian logic and propaganda.

You will indeed find in my position a great deal of respect for democracy and for the rights won through the struggles of so many people, respect that is equivalent in its intensity to the rejection I hold for the philosophy of racism and exploitation embraced by the American power elite and their representatives.

In situations like this, I always like to remember the coherence of Nelson Mandela, someone who fought against Apartheid and criticized the support lent by Western governments and institutions without him rejecting the virtues of representative democracy.

Finally, for those who seek to intimidate in anonymity with their tirades and threats, I advise you not to waste any more time of your time or squander your scant neurons.

For those individuals I reserve my most serene contempt along with the firmest determination to preserver in the course of my ideas and actions, which are the only really important things that deserve the devotion of my best energies.


4 thoughts on “Responses of a Free Person to ‘American’ Conservatism

  • The reason many Cubans feel compelled to take OR defend one side or the other is because of the imbalance of sides that exists within Cuba. In the US, there is no lack of vigorous debate regarding the policies and practices of the US government. As a result, no American need prove to anyone that they are either pro or con anything because someone else is ably carrying that responsibility for them. Only when there is an absence or imbalance of voices for or against a particular issue does the pressure increase to choose a side. With regards to Cuba, because the anti-Castro voice within Cuba is so faintly heard, there is tacit pressure outside of Cuba for Cubans to pick a side. Equally, because of the justified paranoia of the Castros, pro-Castro pressure is constantly being applied as well. This is the nature of totalitarianism. It is always black or white.

  • The clarification by Chaguaceda was worthwhile, since I guess that certain pressures from all sides must have compelled the author to define his position as being on one of those sides.

    Now my questions: Why do we Cubans always have to take one side or another? What’s the reason for this need to constantly set demarcations between ourselves? Is it a result of our having to choose between sharing in the outrages of the colossus of the north or those of state socialism of the rancid Sovietizing lineage? Aren’t there any other alternatives? What kind of inclusive diversity can we aspire to by thinking this way?

    When I try to identify the outstanding value of this website, I think of its ability to break that old mold…

  • To me, those declarations of principle rub me the wrong way.

    They sound to me like an unnecessary apology.

    I don’t think anyone has to justify their positions. They don’t have to describe their dislikes for something by saying they love the other side of the moon.

    They are opinions. You don’t have to take the criticism to heart.

    It would be like before me criticizing Cuban society, I would have to say how Cuban I am – how I like guavas, palm trees and Jose Marti. It seems a little crazy and senseless.

    And I don’t see what the hilarious Woody Allen has to do with all of this. Anyway…the sea.

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