10 December 2013

Missing the point of a handshake

Predictably enough, Republicans are up in arms because President Obama shook the hand of Raul Castro while attending a memorial event for Nelson Mandela in South Africa.  It's the usual complaint: Obama has somehow given extra prestige to a tyrant, if he hasn't also shown his true leftist leanings by greeting the Cuban leader. I'll concede the point that Castro, like his brother, is a tyrant -- or at the very least a dictator, since a distinction can be made. As Americans and as human beings, we should not like tyrants and ought to be wary around dictators. But let's remember the occasion. For starters, it was a memorial service, arguably an inappropriate occasion for the sort of snub Republicans would have preferred. More importantly, it was a memorial for Nelson Mandela. If Mandela was regarded before his death as the greatest man in the world, let's recall again that it was because he was seen as a peacemaker. At least metaphorically and most likely literally, he shook hands with the representatives of the apartheid regime in his own country, when he had more reason to snub them than a President of the United States has reason to snub one of the Castro brothers. But Mandela presumably was less interested in moral posturing than Americans in general and Republicans in particular. He had more practical and principled goals. Republican protests over the Obama-Castro handshake may be meant as moral posturing, but only prove yet again how petty Republicans are.


Anonymous said...

Apparently Sen. Cruz claims that he "walked out" when Castro gave a speech. Not only are Repugnicans petty, they are immature. People like Cruz ought not be allowed to represent the United States at international events.

Samuel Wilson said...

Cruz's father emigrated from Cuba in 1957 after briefly fighting with Fidel Castro's forces against the Batista dictatorship, having decided that Fidel was too much a Commie for his taste. So Cruz doesn't really have firsthand family experience of oppression by a Castro government to excuse his conduct -- and obviously he missed the point of Nelson Mandela's career. Were he of political age back in the day, I'm sure he would have denounced Mandela as a Commie, too.

Anonymous said...

Too bad for him, not many people buy in to the "red scare" anymore.