American Eyes On Cuba

Reading the below passage, I was reminded of the Cold War attitude and actions toward Cuba. This included the failed invasion and nuclear showdown during Kennedy’s administration.

There has been a longstanding antagonism between the US and Cuba. The US relationship to Cuba has involved paranoia, intrigue, and acquisitiveness. This has also involved conflict in both places, especially conflicts related to race and slavery, but also regional and partisan conflict in the US and class conflicts in Cuba.

The difference back then was that the feared superpower was the Spanish Empire, instead of the Soviet Union. Still, it was the same basic jostling for political power, imperial expansion, and military positioning.

* * *

The California Gold Rush and the Coming of the Civil War
By Leonard L. Richards
Kindle Locations 2109-2145

Upon arriving in Madrid, Soulé immediately alienated the Spanish government. He denounced the monarchy and cavorted openly with revolutionaries. He got into a duel with the French ambassador after one of the ambassador’s guests made a disparaging remark about Mrs. Soulé’s plunging neckline. For this affront the ambassador suffered a debilitating leg wound. From the outset, Soulé also made it clear that his mission was to acquire Cuba by hook or by crook. By this time, moreover, the Spanish, as well as every other European power, had heard that Quitman was raising troops to invade Cuba.

In September 1853, the Spanish government responded. It appointed the Marqués de la Pezuela captain general of Cuba, a post that put him in command of both the military and the government, with orders to take steps to defend Cuba. In December he issued decrees that among other things cracked down on those illegally engaged in the slave trade and gave citizenship rights to blacks illegally imported before 1835. At the same time, he recruited free blacks into the militia. Coming from a government that had no interest in abolishing either slavery or the African slave trade, Pezuela’s policy of “Africanization” made it clear that he was willing, if necessary, to use black troops against Quitman’s invaders and against any Cuban planter who sympathized with them.

Pezuela’s policy was also risky. It sparked fears of slave rebellion throughout the white South and calls for reprisals. It also aroused militants in the Mississippi Delta. They wanted action quickly. In response, the Louisiana legislature demanded “decisive and energetic measures.” Quitman, however, was unwilling to move until he had three thousand men, one armed steamer, and $220,000 at his disposal.11

Meanwhile, the Pierce administration decided that it might be possible to purchase Cuba if firebrands like Quitman were temporarily restrained. On April 3, Secretary of State William L. Marcy sent new instructions to Soulé, authorizing him to purchase Cuba for up to $130 million. If Spain refused, Soulé was then to concern himself with the problem of how to “detach” Cuba from Spain.12 Eight weeks later, the administration announced that it would prosecute all men who violated U.S. neutrality laws. The New Orleans grand jury then required Quitman to post a $3,000 bond guaranteeing his adherence to the neutrality laws for the next nine months. In the interim, in Cuba, Pezuela arrested more than a hundred pro-American planters and put some to death. Later that same year, Pierce called Quitman to Washington and showed him evidence that Cuba was strongly defended.13

Meanwhile, in Madrid, Soulé had no luck trying to buy Cuba. So the Pierce administration decided to let him confer privately with the other ministers in Europe—James Buchanan at London and John Y. Mason at Paris—and decide if it was feasible to persuade Spain to sell Cuba to the United States. Meeting in Ostend in October 1854, the three diplomats put their names to a dispatch that came to be known as the Ostend Manifesto.

The dispatch was a bombshell. Written mainly by Soulé, it urged the United States to immediately buy Cuba at any price up to $120 million. It also proclaimed that if Spain refused to sell and if its possession of Cuba seriously endangered the “internal peace” of the slave states, then the United States would be justified in seizing Cuba “upon the very same principle that would justify an individual in tearing down the burning house of his neighbor if there were no other means of preventing the flames from destroying his own home.”14

News of this saber-rattling manifesto sent shock waves through the Northern wing of the Democratic Party. They had just suffered huge election losses that fall. They had entered the election holding ninety-three seats in the House. They now had only twenty-two.15 What, many asked, was the Pierce administration up to? Didn’t they realize that the “burning house” rhetoric would provide Horace Greeley’s New-York Tribune with even more ammunition to attack the party faithful? One Democratic newspaper after another thus distanced itself from the manifesto, even branding its authors “brigands” and “highwaymen.”The Pierce administration also ran for cover, disavowing the proposal and letting “the three wise men of Ostend” fend for themselves.16

That December, enraged by the reaction, Soulé resigned as minister to Spain. Several months later, in April 1855, Quitman gave back to the Cuban junta the powers it had bestowed upon him. No longer did either warrior have much hope of acquiring “the pearl of the Antilles” to offset the addition of California as a free state.

Good and Evil on TV

Good and Evil on TV

Posted on Sep 6th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer Marmalade
From some recent shows, I’ve noticed two specific types of characters.   The shows I’m thinking of all are based in a small town where normal social order is lacking or shifting. 

One character plays the role of a patriarch of the town, but not necessarily in a formal position of authority.  Even though this character is amoral in his behavior, he isn’t evil.  He values loyalty, and he only hurts those who get in his way.  He isn’t primarily interested in power nor in grand visions.  He just wants to keep the status quo and enforce a loose order.  He is confident in his ability and inspires other people’s confidence in him.  He doesn’t always have a clear plan, but he is a man of action that gets things done.

The other character plays the role of an opposing authority figure and maybe in a less political position.  He isn’t interested in power or money.  He is trying to be a good person, but has personal issues.  He is somewhat a loner in that he feels that its up to him to figure things out, and there can be a conflict between his relationships and his sense of duty.

The two characters have to test eachother.  The latter character in particular doesn’t fully understand the former character.  They have different motivations, but their purposes aren’t always in conflict.  They’ both value the town and are protective of it.  When other people seek harm to the town citizens, these two characters slowly develop an uneasy truce.  An outside threat creates a common enemy.

Neither of these characters play the traditional roles of good and evil.  In coming to a truce with eachother, they come to a more complex and nuanced understanding of morality.  Both characters are capable of good and evil, but the moral lesson is more about relationships than about individual behavior.  What is important is the life of the community.

The shows I have in mind as examples are Deadwood, American Gothic, and Invasion.  In Deadwood, the two characters are Al Swearengen (played by Ian McShane) and Seth Bullock (played by Timothy Olyphant).  In American Gothic, the two characters are Sheriff Lucas Buck (played by Gary Cole)  and Dr. Matt Crower (played by Jake Weber).  In Invasion, the two characters are Sheriff Tom Underlay (played by William Fichtner) and Russell Varon (played by Eddie Cibrian).

Of course, between these two men is a woman.  In Deadwood, its Alma Garret Ellsworth (played by Molly Parker).  In American Gothic, its Gail Emory (played by Paige Turco).  In Invasion, its Dr. Mariel Underlay (played by Kari Matchett). 

This female character is in the middle of the conflict and she is trying to define her own identity.  Her allegiance is uncertain.  She has experienced emotional struggle which might have involved the death of someone close to her.  She both mediates and exacerbates the conflict between the two male characters.

Access_public Access: Public 13 Comments Print Post this!views (180)  

Marmalade : Gaia Child

36 minutes later

Marmalade said

I’m always amazed how a simple thought can take so much time to write up. 

I was watching the tv show Invasion.  I noticed the “evil” character was more amoral than immoral, and wasn’t just a stereotype that lacked depth or development.  It reminded me of other characters from other shows, and that made me think about the opposing character.  Considering those two male opponents then lead me to consider the related female character.

I decided to blog about it.  Of course, its hard for me to write just a quick thought about my observation.  And, after adding in hyperlinks, an amazingly amount of time had passed.  🙂

Anyways, my basic motivation was my interest in the amoral patriarchal character.  In tv shows, this character is often the most interesting.

I just had another thought.  This pattern even fits other types of movies, including movies without small town settings.  X-Men has a similar dynamic between Professor Xavier and Magneto, and Dr. Jean Grey plays the mediating female role.  Its not an unusual pattern, but its interesting to me because it has a more complex message of morality.  This pattern, however, seems to have become more popular.  Complex moral messages in general have become more popular such as with the more gritty realistic comic book movies.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 4 hours later

Nicole said

i’m not familiar enough with most of the references here, but these do seem very familiar themes, very American ones too. Very much about individualism above all, with nods to community but I don’t really get the feeling that it’s about community, it seems to be about these individuals “finding themselves”. I found the X-Men movies troubling on a number of fronts.

I’m not sure it’s so much a more complex morality, certainly more shades of grey, but it seems to me more a delighting in muddying or ambiguities rather than truly searching for morality and meaning. Like aspects of traditional existential that glory in stark aloneness… Sartre and “hell is other people”…

Hmm… not sure what it is that bothers me so much about all this, my friend. Have to think about it some more. It actually surprises me today.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 9 hours later

Marmalade said

Its fine that you feel bothered by it.  I just find it interesting as it seems to represent a shifting view of good and evil in our society.  I would imagine that the basic pattern is archetypal and has precedent in mythology, but I’m here concerned with a specific cultural manifestation of it.  I would agree that they’re very American themes which includes a heavy focus on individualism.  You are right that its not exatly about community, but there is a strong sense of place and town identity.  The town itself is a character in these stories. 

The X-Men movies entirely lack this latter aspect.  I could understand why you’d find those movies troubling.  They are very violent.  I’m sure you’d also find Deadwood in particular quite troubling for it is very violent, but I’m sure its for the most part historically accurate in its portrayal.  American Gothic has the most clear portrayal of good and evil, and the amoral character in that show is the most strongly evil in the traditional sense.  Invasion is the least violent of all of these, and in some ways has the most interesting ideas.

I’m not arguing for the moral merit of these shows.  I just found the pattern interesting.  I don’t know if any complex morality is being communicated, but there is a morally complex message.  It could be seen as shades of grey, but I think that is just a part of it.  I’m a person who is attracted to moral ambiguities because they clarify my sense of what it means to be human.  I understand the desire for moral distinctions and I’m not arguing against that.  Part of what I like is that the characters in these shows are striving to make these moral distinctions.  In all these shows, there are characters trying to do the right thing.  For instance, Deadwood is very violent and yet there are a number of characters that attempt to challenge the wrongs they see.

Another thing is that these shows are actually have merit as quality storytelling.  I like these shows because I like good stories that make me think. 

Don’t worry about it, NIcole.  That it bothers you doesn’t bother me.  I had nothing I was trying to accomplish with this blog other than communicating a mior observation of my own.  Feel free to speak your own mind about morality on tv.  I’m sure I wouldn’t disagree with much of anything you might say.  What are some other quality tv shows that portray what you feel is a complex understanding of morality?

There is, as you say, the traditional American theme of individualism, but these shows don’t leave it at that.  Relationship is important also, especially in the Invasion series.  Invasion has more emphasis on family than the other shows I’ve mentioned.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 12 hours later

Marmalade said

I was thinking about what attracts me to these stories.  There is something compelling to me about a situation where the normal social order is lacking.  In Deadwood, its a frontier town that is having an influx of wealth.  In American Gothic, its an isolated small Southern town that has had a traumatic past.  In Invasion, its a town surrounded by swampland after a hurricane.  All these towns are in transition, but there is still some basic order that is being maintained.

In such a situation, moral questions become more poignant.  People can’t just follow the status quo, but have to make moral decisions for themselves.  Also, the consequences are quickly apparent and will have long-term effects.  During conflicts, the best and the worse is brought out in people.

At the same time, the partial disorder isn’t utter chaos.  Its not a crisis where all of society is under threat and its not a warzone.  People in these shows still have everyday relationships of family, romance, and friendship.  Its these everyday relationships that become of central significance.

about 13 hours later

Asteri said

I recognized the Invasion’s one… but finally the “good” and “bad” go together hand in hand… and I would not consider them patterns because in this TV series, do not know about the other one, the Good is the human kind and the Bad is the alien kind… I watched all 6 DVD’s recently and am sure there will be more… would not consider  the alien species bad either, just looking for survival… but you never know what the director had in mind, right…

Generally speaking, there will always be white and black colors, as contrast, in life or movies… contrast, contradiction provokes and takes out the best in us, developing toward what’s called evolution… is like the Yin and Yang… we are not complete without the other side of ours…

Marmalade : Gaia Child

about 13 hours later

Marmalade said

Hello Lili!
I’d separate Invasion from those other shows.  I recently watched it and it was the reason I was thinking about all of this.  I appreciated that this show didn’t simply make the aliens evil monsters.  Its one of the most unique alien stories I’ve come across.

about 13 hours later

Asteri said

Hi Ben 🙂 Did you watch Taken? I would recommend that one too… I am not the advocate of Alien species, but just because they are different does not make them evil :))) The evil monsters form TV shows are just human nightmares, not the reality… Well, in my real life I just see the good side in people… LOL

Marmalade : Gaia Child

about 21 hours later

Marmalade said

Its because of alien lovers like you that they’re taking over the world.  See if you’re looking on the good side keeps them from turning you into a pod person, that is assuming you aren’t already one… hmmm….  🙂

Yes, I’ve watched Taken.  That is a really good show.

1 day later

Asteri said

hmmmm… shall I answer that? LOL

Nicole : wakingdreamer

1 day later

Nicole said

LOL, Asteri and Ben!

Oh, I know that you won’t be bothered by the fact I’m bothered. We are long past those kinds of worries, you and I. I was just struck as I responded by how much it bothered me. I think it has to do with the moral relativism of postpostmodern society in general and North American society in particular, that this kind of show is prevalent.

I wouldn’t be able to provide you with other shows unless you want my detailed analyses of Voyager or Enterprise. You see, I haven’t watched TV for well over 20 years now, except for recordings on DVDs and the occasional show at a friend’s house. So I’m not au courant.

But the shades of grey and ambiguities are really apparent in Voyager and Enterprise, especially some episodes. The Star Trek universe started out as very traditionalist with Roddenberry but mutated after his death into a more and more accurate reflection of the American society’s ideals that engendered it. It remained tremendously idealistic at its core of course, which makes it very different from the shows you discuss, but very often in episodes these kind of “frontier” worlds’ dilemmas are described, and the faithful Starfleet crew has to find a way to deal with them in terms of their moral imperative – The Prime Directive.

Enterprise is interesting in that regard as it’s pre-Prime Directive, so the crew tends to interfere more – for example on the world where a group of humans had been abducted from Earth and enslaved by the aliens, but rebelled and now were oppressing the aliens, the crew intervened and set in motion events that would lead to the emancipation of those aliens. Very touching episode.

So, I think in all this rambling I am starting to figure out what is bothering me about all this. It is the individualism. I see it as a disconnect from the true self and encouraging of rampant egoism, which is counterproductive IMO to full self-development and the good of the community.

You know I’m not a conservatrve by any means, and I’m not looking for black-and-white, which to me is just as false in another way.

Marmalade : Gaia Child

1 day later

Marmalade said

The individualism thingie is a weird artifact of modern culture.  I know Americans are obsessed with it more than some people (such as Asians), but it seems every society that becomes industrialized also becomes more individualistic.  We Americans just are conveneient symbols of individualism with our Hollywood movies of Bruce Willis. 

It could be insightful to look at which American movies and shows are popular in other countrres that are very different from America.  I know that the differences even between English-speaking countries can be significant.  Even though I occasionally watch foreign films, I’m terribly ignorant of the kind of entertainment that is made elsewhere in the world.  I’m mostly only aware of what the British produce, and the British are more similar to Americans for obvious reasons.  I wonder what the relationship is between individualism and Protestantism.

Voyager and Enterprise you say?  Those are some of my favorite shows.  I grew up watching Star Trek with my dad.  He is a strong conservative, but somehow managed to stomach the liberal idealism in that show.  In Next Generation, they added the Ferenghi to balance out the rampant Socialist idealism of the Federation.  I guess Socialism could be considered the opposite of individualism.

Another good space show is Serenity.  It was created by Joss Whedon (of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame) partly in response to the Star Trek world.  This show has the equivalient of the Federation (called the Alliance) which defeated the rebels.  This government is idealistic like the Federation, but it has a darkside for it has to keep a tight control as its government rules over a wide area of space. 

Some of the characters in Serenity are former rebels that have become smugglers.  The lead character (Mal the captain) has lost some of his own idealism and has been forced in to a more practical lifestyle in order to retain his own independence.  It could be interpreted as individualism, but I don’t think that Mal would see it that way even if he might pretend to just be an individualist at times.  He barely makes ends meet and he demands and inspires loyalty to the ship in order to keep things running.

Most of this show is about the planets on the outer edge of the Alliance’s power.  In Star Trek, the crew visits the “frontier” worlds.  In Serenity, the crew lives in the “frontier”.  So, Serenity shows the Alliance from the view of outsiders.

From a moral pespective, its an interesting show.  Like the previous shows I mentioned, all the characters are in a transitional situation… more similar to Voyager in certain aspects.  One thing about transitional scenarios is that they allow much room for character development.  As the show goes on, the Captain’s true idealistic and impractical side starts showing through.  He regains a larger sense of purpose beyond just keeping his ship running and staying outside of the control of Alliance authorities.  Another character shows clear development.  Jayne was a mercenary who becomes a member of the crew.  He initially represents unadulterated selfishness and rugged individualism.  He joins the crew simply to earn money, but the Captain intends to win his loyalty which he slowly accomplishes.

I like both Star Trek and Serenity, but they seem to show two different sides to idealism and power.  In both, the various captains are forced to consider how to live up to their idealism while maintaining their responsibility to their respective crews.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

2 days later

Nicole said

The individualism thingie is a weird artifact of modern culture.  I know Americans are obsessed with it more than some people (such as Asians), but it seems every society that becomes industrialized also becomes more individualistic.  We Americans just are conveneient symbols of individualism with our Hollywood movies of Bruce Willis. 

Not sure, Ben. The world is also become more and more defined by American culture, so it’s hard to say if  where the causality lies.

It could be insightful to look at which American movies and shows are popular in other countrres that are very different from America.  I know that the differences even between English-speaking countries can be significant.
 

Very much so. For example, though I found the UK heavily Americanised, it still retains a lot of culture and entertainment of its own, and it was fascinating… if I had had time to watch TV I could tell you more. 🙂 And here in Canada, we remain distinct 🙂 especially here in Quebec… lol

Even though I occasionally watch foreign films, I’m terribly ignorant of the kind of entertainment that is made elsewhere in the world.  I’m mostly only aware of what the British produce, and the British are more similar to Americans for obvious reasons. 

Not more similar than Canadians surely?

I wonder what the relationship is between individualism and Protestantism.

Well, you have your protestant work ethic which we don’t suffer from much here in Quebec, merci beaucoup mon ami lol, lots of joie de vivre and wine and weekends away and long holidays… One could argue Protestantism is more individualistic, emphasis on “personal salvation”, but … not sure.

Voyager and Enterprise you say?  Those are some of my favorite shows.  I grew up watching Star Trek with my dad.  He is a strong conservative, but somehow managed to stomach the liberal idealism in that show.  In Next Generation, they added the Ferenghi to balance out the rampant Socialist idealism of the Federation.  I guess Socialism could be considered the opposite of individualism.

Not really. Here in Canada (and in the UK and a number of European) we are quite socialist in our democracy, and are still very individualistic. We see socialism as the best means of nurturing individuals 🙂

I certainly wouldn’t call the Ferengis socialist idealists, or community minded. They are the most selfish individualists of any in the Star Trek universe.

The Vulcans would be the socialist idealists.

Another good space show is Serenity.  It was created by Joss Whedon (of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame) partly in response to the Star Trek world.  This show has the equivalient of the Federation (called the Alliance) which defeated the rebels.  This government is idealistic like the Federation, but it has a darkside for it has to keep a tight control as its government rules over a wide area of space. 


Some of the characters in Serenity are former rebels that have become smugglers.  The lead character (Mal the captain) has lost some of his own idealism and has been forced in to a more practical lifestyle in order to retain his own independence.  It could be interpreted as individualism, but I don’t think that Mal would see it that way even if he might pretend to just be an individualist at times.  He barely makes ends meet and he demands and inspires loyalty to the ship in order to keep things running.

Another familiar American theme – the rugged self-sufficient individualist 🙂

Most of this show is about the planets on the outer edge of the Alliance’s power.  In Star Trek, the crew visits the “frontier” worlds.  In Serenity, the crew lives in the “frontier”.  So, Serenity shows the Alliance from the view of outsiders.

Interesting! You see a bit of this in Voyager and Enterprise, or Deep Space Nine, too, where the Bajorans are very hostile toward and suspicious of the Federation.

From a moral pespective, its an interesting show.  Like the previous shows I mentioned, all the characters are in a transitional situation… more similar to Voyager in certain aspects.  One thing about transitional scenarios is that they allow much room for character development.  As the show goes on, the Captain’s true idealistic and impractical side starts showing through.  He regains a larger sense of purpose beyond just keeping his ship running and staying outside of the control of Alliance authorities.  Another character shows clear development.  Jayne was a mercenary who becomes a member of the crew.  He initially represents unadulterated selfishness and rugged individualism.  He joins the crew simply to earn money, but the Captain intends to win his loyalty which he slowly accomplishes.

I like both Star Trek and Serenity, but they seem to show two different sides to idealism and power.  In both, the various captains are forced to consider how to live up to their idealism while maintaining their responsibility to their respective crews.

Yes… thanks!

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

2 days later

Marmalade said

Not really. Here in Canada (and in the UK and a number of European) we are quite socialist in our democracy, and are still very individualistic. We see socialism as the best means of nurturing individuals 🙂

Life in general is usually a mix.  No government or person is entirely one thing or another.  Individual and community aren’t opposed of course.  I was just thinking in terms of extremes.  Ideas are often shown in extreme form in shows.

I certainly wouldn’t call the Ferengis socialist idealists, or community minded. They are the most selfish individualists of any in the Star Trek universe.

I wasn’t calling the Ferengis socialist idealists either.  I was saying the exact opposite.  I was meaning that they balance the socialist idealism of the show in general.  In Next Generation, they never show how people make a living.  The show presents poor communities on some planets, but somehow everyone in the Federation is born wealthy enough that they need no money.  However, the Federation doesn’t offer everything that people want and in that case people have to turn to the black market (ie capitalism) of the Ferengi.

In case you were wondering, I wasn’t arguing against socialism and for capitalism.  I don’t believe that any system is perfect.  Its probably best when such political systems balance eachother out.  In terms of Star Trek, I was partly just writing of my dad’s view.  My dad certainly isn’t in favor of socialism.  He has some LIbertarian leanings, but he isn’t a Libertarian because he has even stronger leanings towards the belief that the individual has a moral responsibility to society which oddly could be seen as a type of individualism because its still a focus on the individual being the basis of society.

Another familiar American theme – the rugged self-sufficient individualist 🙂

Mal does have this as a persona, but I don’t think its his basic personality.  The rugged individualism became emphasized in his life because the cause he was fighting for was lost.  Instead, I’d say he is more of a natural-born leader type.  He has a strong sense of moral responsibility to his friends and crew, and he doesn’t seem prone to work alone. 

However, the scenario of the story is not one of community although there is a family component.  There is a doctor character who freed his sister form a government facility.  This doctor represented someone who had been dedicated to the idealistic society and to helping people, but put his love of family as a higher responsibility.  Also, Mal’s right hand man (woman actually) from his war days has complete loyalty to Mal, but is married to the pilot.  Mal treats his crew something like a family.