The Traumas of Freedom

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.

Veronica Vega

Photo: Juan Lagos López

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.

Veronica Vega

Veronica Vega: I believe that truth has power and the word can and should be an extension of the truth. I think that is also the role of Art and the media. I consider myself an artist, but above all, a seeker and defender of the Truth as an essential element of what sustains human existence and consciousness. I believe that Cuba can and must change and that websites like Havana Times contribute to that necessary change.

2 thoughts on “The Traumas of Freedom

  • The transition to democracy will have to be gradual so that every citizen in Cuba will be a stakeholder to make freedom possible. Democracy can only exist when conservatives, liberals and moderates be able to compromise to achieve a happy medium; people are not perfect but must learn to listen to each other’s concerns. Above all, leave any form of ideology, secular or religious, out of politics! Cuba needs a parliamentary democracy with a multi-party system, not just one or two parties.

  • “What then is freedom? The power to live as one wishes.” ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero ~

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