Sunday, November 27, 2016

Fidel Castro Was No Hero

Growing up in Miami in the 1970s, I had a large number of Cuban friends, many of whom I’m still in touch with today. Most of them were in Miami because they had fled with what remained of their families, from the barbaric dictatorship of Fidel Castro.

One day during my childhood, while playing with a friend, she told me how her male relatives—grandfathers, uncles, and father had opposed Castro and as a result, had been tortured, imprisoned, and sometimes disappeared. She told me that other male relatives were forced to serve in the army. The stories from other Cuban friends were nearly the same and were horrifying.

Years later, when I was in the military, we rescued large and seemingly endless numbers of Cuban refugees at sea. They sailed on anything that would float—old, dilapidated boats and shoddily crafted rafts made of wood, plastic, inner tubes, and any other items they could find, which were barely tied together. The people we rescued were severely sunburned, thirsty, exhausted, and near starvation. By the time we’d picked them up, at least half who’d started out with them had perished at sea. But that was the measure of their resolve; life in Cuba had become so dangerous that death at sea in the desperate quest for freedom was preferable to living one more day under tyranny.

As I read about Fidel Castro’s death, I am seething at comments about how, although he did some things wrong, he wasn’t so bad, that he was “good for the people,” after all they had a good education and health care system and wealth was evenly distributed. Immediately I thought of my old friends and their stories. Fidel Castro was no hero or savior of his nation; he was a ruthless dictator and murderer.

Raul Castro, currently President of Cuba, who has always praised and supported his brother Fidel, and who recently introduced new market-style economic reforms and supported a re-establishment of diplomacy with the U.S., is no hero either. Raul served as an executioner during the Cuban revolution and was widely known for viciousness and brutality in his torture and murder of hundreds of dissidents, even making light of it in later years. Raul has stated he will step down in 2018 and so remains the question of who will succeed him. Will it be more of the same or will the Cuban people demand change?

Some will argue that because so many Cubans stayed behind, and because Cuba has survived under the Castro regime for so long, perhaps it really isn’t that bad; maybe the people are happy with the status quo. Born under a flag of freedom, I cannot imagine living happily under such oppression, but it is not for me, nor America to decide how the Cuban people should live their lives. I do, however, believe we have a responsibility to encourage them to decide for themselves and the only way they can do that is to have free elections with no threat of repercussion for their choices. After nearly 60 years of communism, the Cuban people should have the opportunity to take charge of their own destinies.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Joe Biden's "Note to Self" reminds us of the things that are most important in life...

This is one of the most touching and inspiring things I've seen in a long time. It hits home once again, we are more than what people may see on the outside. Oh, if only we could've shared our wisdom and experience as adults with our younger selves...think of the pain we could've avoided. Then again, if we'd avoided all that pain we wouldn't be who we are today, would we?

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Understanding the Electoral College

If we're going to have a national discussion on this topic, people should understand it first. Here's a very simple refresher of the Electoral College, why it was created, and its importance to our system of government and our nation.

From author, lawyer and Constitutionalist Tara Ross...

Monday, November 14, 2016

Get out there and live...

My grams was a vibrant, energetic, kickass woman who only started showing signs of slowing down around the time she turned 96. (Seriously! :p ) She'd always been active whether it was taking care of her family, working, volunteering. Heck, she worked the polls for nearly 30 years, retiring just after she turned 96. She'd tell me there were days she was so tired she didn't want to get out of bed but she did it anyway because she knew what would happen if she didn't--she would die in it. And there was no way in hell she was going to let THAT happen.

So every morning, including the morning of June 15, 2015, as tired as she was and as much as the arthritis hurt, she got out of that bed. Once again, she'd been given a chance to kick life's least for a few hours anyway, before it was decided for her that she no had do, she had done her share of good, she had lived her best life and it was time for her to move on. And so on that morning of June 15th, she did just that. She moved on.

Image may contain: 2 people
Grams & me
Grams was not amazed, but rather thankful as she moved into her 90's that her mental and physical health was so strong. Her sister, who passed away recently, would often say that grams got the good genes. Grams would credit her Italian father and Sicilian mother for that. She had a little high cholesterol that she took meds for and a little arthritis which was eased by a few Aleve every day. She swore by vitamins especially Gingko Biloba and never missed a day taking them. Also, reading and doing crossword puzzles kept her mind sharp. Then there was the interactions with people, which really, was her favorite thing. Oh how she loved people. The interactions kept her engaged with life.

In the last few years of her life, grams would tell me that every day she woke up was a gift. She was a woman who knew how to live and I'm not talking about living in the material sense, she just knew how to appreciate LIFE. Grams made the best of every single day of her life. She loved working, volunteering, helping people, spending time with her family and friends, going to the mall, social activities--just getting out of the house to do things, even if it was just to go to the store---which she would do just about every day even if it was for the smallest thing like a loaf of bread. Mom would say, "Ma, what could you possibly need at the store again??" and the truth was most of the time, she really didn't "need" anything, she just wanted to get out. And hen she was out, she always took time to talk to people--at the store, bank, post office, the school, doctor's office, gas station, etc.

The day after grams passed away, people were in shock because they'd just seen her, as vibrant and energetic as ever. I don't know how she hid how tired she'd become, but she did. She definitely believed in mind over body and so I have no doubt she willed herself to feel good and it reflected on the outside. The woman had an incredible will and determination.

Grams truly believed she was here for a reason and knew she'd live for that reason, fulfill that purpose until God was ready to take her. And she sure did. She LIVED. Boy, did she LIVE!

I learned a thousand and one lessons from Grams in the 46 years I had her in my life--so many lessons that I could not even begin to list them here. But among the most important were about purpose and about never giving up.

Everyone has a purpose, a reason for being here. And if you don't yet know what it is is, know that you are NEVER too old to find it. You have a gift, sometimes it's right there for all the world to see and sometimes it isn't. Find the gift, make good use of it, take your God-given natural talents and use them in a way that makes you feel happy, fulfilled and brings joy to your life and brings joy to others.

When life sucks and you don't want to get out of bed, get out of bed. When the pain hits, fight back. Don't let yourself wither away. Don't let the age, the pain, the frustration, the sadness, and the loneliness take you over. Life is good, it's good because you're here and you matter and you are a part of this big, stupid, crazy, world and your presence is important. Life is good, living is better--so Live!

Every day you wake up, it means you got one more chance.

What are you going to do with yours?