The Cuba Advocate

Year 58 of the Revolution

Who is my neighbor?

By David Farrar

I, like many people with whom I’ve lived, worked, or simply socialized for the last 30 years or so, have been living with a view of the world shaped by one of the most sophisticated propaganda machines in the world — the media of the United States.

This view included distortions, and perhaps more damaging, exclusions of simple fact. That Cuba had become the enemy of the U.S., not long after the Cuban Revolution, was like a mantra repeated aloud until no one, including me, thought to question our relations with this island nation.

For me, this began to change dramatically just before, during, and following the fourth Pastors for Peace Friendshipment caravan to Cuba.

There is a moral question central to the issue of the U.S. blockade, and the Reverend Lucius Walker highlighted this question in a sermon at St. John Church in Buffalo, New York, on November 16, 1994, the evening before our border crossing. It concerned the often used parable of the Good Samaritan.

The sermon began with a question, using the lawyer’s phrase from the Biblical text: Who is my neighbor? A simple question. The person who lives next door? A person who shares our status in terms of wealth? A person who agrees with us politically?

Most people, though loathe to admit it, might subsonsciously, or consciously (but silently), agree with the general definitions just given. This was a point Rev. Walker made most eloquently as he emphasized the question: Who is my neighbor?

The answer, by the act of the Good Samaritan, is that all humanity is my neighbor. My responsibility is not only to people of my economic class, or people who happen to agree with whatever values and prejudices I might have. My responsibility is to any human who might need my assistance.

After enduring the seemingly aimless behavior of the U.S. Customs officials at the border (behavior which reinforced the idea that the U.S. was not only ignoring its neighbor, but had actually been instrumental in creating its neighbors’ hardships), the caravan proceeded to Montreal, where the longshoremen’s local union loaded the 200 tons of aid we had been carrying. The idea of helping people whom I had been taught were my “enemy” was drawing me closer to Rev. Walker’s sermon.

We were then bound for Cuba, and the flight itself was my first introduction to the friendliness and sincerity of the Cuban people. We were hosted as heroes (a response which later led Rev. Walker, during the flight, to remind us that what we were doing was, in reality, a symbolic act — the real heroes were the Cuban people themselves). It was a reminder that the greetings which awaited us when we landed must not lead us to some false sense of self-importance.

It was an important reminder, and I, for one, needed it. When we landed in Havana and were taken by bus to the Villa Panamericana, I experienced the most powerful feeling of joy and belonging (a sense of returning to basic happiness in sharing our humanity). As the buses pulled up to the front of the villa, I heard first, then saw, hundreds of people greeting us with the song “Guantanamera.”

As we left the bus, an aisle formed through this huge crowd. We were hugged, given flowers, and thanked again and again for what we had done. Still, Rev. Walker’s words came back, and I felt some real guilt for the magnitude of our neighbors’ reception. I felt guilt for the fact that I had done so little, really, to help, and that I had allowed myself to believe at times that I was doing something heroic.

As the weed continued, and countless examples of the Cuban peoples’ kindness and sense of sharing affected my life directly, I realized how much I owed the many individuals who helped me. In spite of their shortages, in spite of their continuous struggle to maintain basic life quality, they shared with all of us.

As a dramatic personal experience, I have a central nervous system disorder which sometimes leads to seizures. This, in fact, did happen on two occasions while I was in Havana. When I regained consciouness, in both cases, I was surrounded by concerned Cuban citizens, doing what they could to help me, and by efficient and friendly medical personnel. Again, in spite of their shortages, they insisted on taking care of me.

When I returned, I knew that I had experienced the story of the Good Samaritan firsthand. The Cubans had given me a lesson in what it means to share, without regard for nationality, political beliefs, or economic status.

These experiences gave further evidence to the truth of the statement — The world needs Cuba…the U.S. needs Cuban friendship. We have many lessons to learn. Our congressional representatives need to seek the truth about this tiny, but proud, island nation. Those of us who have seen with our own eyes need to continue to witness and send word of what we have witnessed to those who still live with distorted views created by the U.S. State Department and the media.

To the people of Cuba: Muchas gracias y viva los pueblos.

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March 3, 2009 - Posted by | B - Cuba Articles

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