Embassies reopen in Havana and Washington, and Jeb! and Young Marco go nuts
In Washington, D.C.:
A flag-raising there, a flag-raising here, and the U.S. and Cuba have restored diplomatic relations. In Havana we hear Secretary of State Kerry, the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Cuba since the Roosevelt administration, saying sensibly:
The establishment of normal diplomatic relations is not something that one government does as a favor for another. It's something that two countries do together when the citizens of both will benefit.This didn't stop Jeb! Bush and Marco Rubio from going nuts, but then, that's not a terribly long distance for either of them to travel. Anyone who pays any attention to either of them is even nuttier.
From Havana, The New Yorker's Jon Lee Anderson reported:
The U.S. Embassy in Cuba reopened with a flag-raising ceremony earlier today, fifty-four years after the Embassy closed in one of the angriest standoffs of the Cold War. It was a sentimental and somewhat surreal affair, which took place under the sweltering late-morning sun, on Havana’s iconic promenade, the Malecon, at the edge of the Caribbean Sea.
As a crowd of a few hundred Cubans and Americans assembled inside the Embassy grounds, a larger crowd of Cubans, carefully organized and watched over by Cuban security forces, gathered outside as the official onlookers. They included a number of Cubans who, incongruously, waved miniature American flags as well as Cuban ones, while a series of gigantic Cuban flags hung from the façades of adjacent apartment buildings. The Cubans outside the American diplomatic legation periodically let out a cheer, especially when someone who appeared to be American approached.
At a social gathering in Havana yesterday, a Cuban who has a close relative in one of the adjacent buildings told me that residents there had been visited by Cuban security officials, who informed them that they were expected to appear on the street today and to “be enthusiastic” in their slogans, cheers, and applause. Above all, they were expected to overwhelm and, if possible, drown out any anti-American or anti-imperialist shouts. The Cuban said that his relative had waggishly asked whether the anti-imperialist Cubans were now the “new enemy,” since, for many years, he had been expected to publicly condemn the Americans. In any event, all I heard outside the Embassy today were joyful noises, sincere or not.
With Secretary of State John Kerry’s entourage and the Embassy guests wilting under the sun, waving little paper fans with an American-flag print, Kerry spoke about the Bay of Pigs, the Missile Crisis, and the rest of the history that led to the long freeze. He said, as both sides often have, that differences remain between the U.S. and Cuba—Kerry mentioned democracy and human rights here—but that now, with diplomatic relations restored, Cuba and the U.S. could forge on “as neighbors, not enemies or rivals,” and try to reach new understandings. The Cuban-born poet Richard Blanco, who read at President Obama’s second inauguration, read a poem that he had composed for the occasion. “We all belong to the sea between us,” he said.
After all the years of waiting and the scramble of the past few months, the flag-raising felt, inevitably, like an anticlimax. It went up fast, with almost everyone watching though their iPhones, which they raised like tiny scepters above their heads to record the event.
In a Hollywood-like touch, three elderly men, former Marines who had lowered the flag in 1961, and who, we learned from Kerry, had vowed to one day return to Havana and raise Old Glory again, were seated in the front row. They were given the honor of handing the flag over to their present-day replacements, young Marines who proceeded to raise it.
When it was over, I tapped one of the old Marines on the shoulder as he passed me on his way out. I asked him, “How does it feel?” He nodded, his eyes filled with tears, mouthed something, and pointed to his throat. In the moment, he couldn’t speak. He tried speaking again, but the words didn’t come. He mouthed what I took to be the word “wonderful,” and turned and walked on.