HAVANA TIMES, Feb 6 — One of the greatest examples of dignity I’ve ever seen in my life was shown to me by a little sparrow, that bird that’s so common in cities, the ones that search for crumbs on sidewalks and streets to the indifference of passersby.
Even those kids most skilled at catching and selling wild birds as pets (involuntarily held) know that this bird isn’t demanded on the market. They don’t adapt to captivity. Instead, they refuse their food and ultimately die.
There’s an old saying that’s a metaphor for such sadness…for such hunger for the sky. It’s simply “tener un gorrion” (“being a sparrow”), meaning that one is depressed or homesick.
There’s an image that stuck with me from a few years ago when I found a sparrow chick and tried to feed it bread soaked in milk. I was hoping to care for it long enough for its wings to develop enough for it to return to the air. However it only ate for a day or two.
Then he refused to open its beak for feeding. Instead, it hopped to the edge of some open blinds and remained there, staring at the sky. And there it died.
Even today when I recall this, I feel the pain of my impotence. I also feel shame for us human beings, supposedly on a higher evolutionary plane, as we play around destroying nests, restricting the movements of others and causing their deaths.
I’ve often wondered how many sparrows must have died (and still die) so that human beings could learn to respect their right to space in this country. How many have died for people to see the futility of their traps and cages, the futility of their cunning and their tricks of a spoonful of birdseed and tangible restrictions.
Recently this thought has bounced around in my mind, again and again, stirring my consciousness of impossibilities…and sadness. I read that a “common” prisoner died of a hunger strike in Santiago de Cuba.
Everything else — the aftermath of attacks and gossip, the speculation about the truth or lies that were denied, affirmed, rejected or restated — produced in me a feeling that was even worse than the news.
I don’t want to add a single drop of gall to so much confusion. Everywhere I look, I see the history of humankind as the same, in all epochs and in all cultures there’s no improvement over individual selfishness (or the sum of those), which is the essence of fragmentation and vulnerability to manipulation.
Yet it’s amazing that we’re so mesmerized by the delusive objectives of politics and that we don’t appeal to the slightest bit of common sense to investigate matters for ourselves (if we’re really so distrustful).
But who cares about the truth? Not the youth whose anger or disappointment only serves to intensify their urge to migrate, not those of us who are trapped (distracted) in agony out of our struggle to survive.
Likewise, those who benefit directly from the arbitrariness that they manifest, not those who mutter protests in their invisibility, not those who mutter protests in their invisibility and get lost in surreptitious rivalries for leadership or in the gratification of their supposed altruism…
Individual dramas are just those: individual dramas. What matters is what’s experienced directly, since what one doesn’t personally witness may well not be real.
After all, countries and societies have been built with wars and treachery, with ingratitude and abuse. It’s in those same streets and plazas (still ringing out cries and screams), where monuments are later erected.
No one’s going to change the world, right? So what does it matter that a man has died claiming a right that he was denied – the dignity that he was denied. This individual path we each choose, the end which we too will discover, leads to the realization that we are alone with our dream of freedom, like the sparrow on the edge of the blinds.
But those who confine us or those who don’t support us, they can’t take away our right not to eat – or that small, that restricted view of the sky.