Freedom has a transparent soul
And it only sings when it beats its wings (…)
Freedom was born without an owner
and who am I to fulfill every dream…
– Silvio Rodriguez.
HAVANA TIMES — I recently took part in a debate that gave me a glimpse into what Cuba would be like after the much-dreamed, feared and avoided transition comes about.
Opinions about, for example, what to do with statues and monuments. Which ones to take down, which ones to keep, which ones to put up? What do you base the decision on? On selective memory? On pain? How do you represent the conquest of real change in a public space?
Someone spoke about keeping monuments to the Revolution’s leaders in a show of genuine democracy. Because no matter how representative it might be to knock down the symbols of a dictatorship, what’s the difference if we start out with the same intolerance?
Others suggested keeping them, but adding a plaque without the name and date. A young man proposed paying tribute to the victims of this same Revolution: those who died when the “13 de Marzo” tugboat sank, Oswaldo Paya…
And everything was so overwhelmingly simple, that I asked myself: why is the truth that the homeland (the place where were born) belongs to everyone and that history is a series of events that we shared or have inherited, dangerous? How many resources and how much time has been spent, how much indoctrination and useless sacrifice to deny a reality that is sitting right in front of our eyes.
Because if the past can be adulterated, what about the present? When the power of suggestion disappears, things will take their natural place.
However, outside out of this space which is still only symbolic unfortunately, traumas caused by the extended abnormal period will already take root in real society. Many people will follow, too afraid to speak out. Many will reproduce the same intolerance they have suffered. Many will even go to great lengths to perpetuate this destructive power of suggestion out of their fear of change.
And I remembered what Khalil Gibran, the profound Lebanese poet, once said:
“In truth that which you call freedom is the strongest of these chains, though its links glitter in the sun and dazzle the eyes.
“And what is it but fragments of your own self you would discard so that you may become free?
“If it is an unjust law you would abolish, that law was written with your own hand upon your own forehead. You cannot erase it by burning your law books nor by washing the foreheads of your judges, though you pour the sea upon them.
“And if it is a despot you would dethrone, see first that his throne erected within you is destroyed.” (From the book: “The Prophet”)
Are we Cubans ready to be free? Surely, we’re not. But, no matter how complex this transition process is, no matter how prone we are to making mistakes or copying fanatic practices, the only way to learn is by experiencing what it is to be free. And the first step is for everyone (who wants to) to publicly voice their opinions about how to build the new Cuba.