On Exploding Right-Wing Heads
Obama stands with officials in front of one of a gazillion images of Che in Cuba. Photo by Dennis Rivera/AP
Now that Obama's left his commie friends behind, a word about the preposterous hypocrisy of an American right that remains so willfully, selectively disingenuous about its own abuses. The visit to Cuba was predicated on the entirely sensible, long overdue notion of putting the Cold War and the Cuban blockade that stemmed from it to rest; as Obama noted, "What we did for 50 years did not serve our interests or the interest of the Cuban people...I know the history, but I refuse to be trapped by it." Walking a fine line, he sounded open to change while challenging Castro about Cuba's human rights abuses - never mind, as many have noted, his own arrogance and disingenuousness, given our own tortuous ones.
Nonetheless, his photo-op appearance at a wreath-laying ceremony at Jose Marti Monument, with a massive image of the ubiquitous Che Guevara in the background, prompted a right-wing freakout the deranged likes of which hasn't been seen since Reagan visited Moscow with Lenin's bust behind him, or Nixon visited China with Mao images everywhere, or Bush visited Vietnam overseen by Ho Chi Minh, or....wait....(That was different: They were Republican, and white.) From the pillorying: "Mr. President, you're a disgrace," "Obama proudly poses in front of a racist mass murderer," "Finally, our POTUS is able to honor the mural of a racist, terrorist, mass murderer who oversaw concentration camps," and our favorite, "To be fair, Obama's probably been saluting images of the blood-soaked Che Guevara his whole life."
There were cooler voices, too, with Jon Lee Anderson rightly noting the "unparalleled iconography" of the moment and Seth Meyers acknowledging the storm with, "Many criticized Obama (for) giving an implicit endorsement to Urban Outfitters." Others wondered what Guevara, who had a "total detestation" for America, would have thought of the visit; his eldest son Camilo Guevara said his father would likely have had mixed feelings: "He didn't trust anything coming from the empire, but he was a man who felt it was important to have relations with the world" - and besides, perhaps Cuba could positively influence the U.S.
The vitriol kept flowing after the Brussel attacks, when Obama, after making a sober speech in response, decided to keep to his schedule and attend an exhibition baseball game in the name of normalization. Cue more meltdowns, including the charge that in the face of terror he was "on a tourist trip" and "giving speeches to commies" - no, really - and he even did the wave. Other shaming efforts - a criticism of Cuban shanties outside the stadium that ended up looking good compared to American ones, and a photoshopped image of Obama holding a Che t-shirt that turned out to be a math challenge - fell short. And it was hard not to draw comparisons to other leaders caught up in other counter-intuitive binds, like George W. playing golf during Israeli bombings and calling for the world to “do everything they can to stop these terrorist killers,” before moving on to, “Thank you. Now watch this drive."
Still, wingers just couldn't let go of that fever dream image of our black, Marxist, Muslim, Kenyan usurper visiting a place they all view as evil incarnate - and even thriving evil, with good health care and education notwithstanding our righteous blockade - even as Western civilization burned. Rants ranged from psycho-babble about a president who "has (no) feelings for other people" to Fox News' Stuart Varney's grave pronouncement, "Here is the president of the United States, in a foreign country, shaking hands with a communist dictator, as people die and Europe is paralyzed by terror," to the outraged call, "Where is our president?"
By then he was in Argentina on the anniversary of a right-wing coup and "Dirty War" that "disappeared" many thousands, with the help of the United States. Though he expressed "regret" about U.S. complicity and vowed greater transparency, many regular Argentinians viewed the presence of an American president on that date in Plaza de Mayo, the symbol of their fight, "a provocation." The head of Human Rights First saw it as a sign of our need to "come to terms with the role our country played...We can't close the gap between our actions and our ideals until we can measure how far we strayed." Still, those so incensed by abuses on the left in Cuba fell strangely mute about worse, and U.S.-funded, abuses on the right in Argentina, with nary a peep. Odd, that. Guess they're all outraged out.
Air Force One comes in over Havana. Photo by Alberto Reyes/Reuters
Photo from Democratic Underground