May 10, 2016

Havana, Cuba

Havana, Cuba

Source: Bigstock

I know there are married couples comprised of one liberal and one conservative, the same way I “€œknow”€ there are fans of pegging, blood pudding, and Dixieland jazz. That is to say: I can”€™t resign myself to the existence of these (rumored) realities.

As I”€™ve said before, I don”€™t remember many traditional romantic milestones, but I have no difficulty remembering when and why I fell in love with my future husband. On one of our first dates, we were walking through Nathan Phillips Square, the concrete courtyard that fronts Toronto’s city hall. The square is a salmagundi of memorials and monuments, like a cake decorated for every holiday at once: a formerly despised Henry Moore sculpture, the world’s least impressive Roman column, one of Oscar Nemon’s statues of Winston Churchill“€”and, in pride of place, the Peace Garden, because, hey, Toronto is a nuclear-free zone! (Remember those?)

The Peace Garden is nowhere near grand or even green enough to quite warrant those proper-name capital letters; its centerpiece”€”a squat, puny concrete gazebo“€”is hideous even by the “€œstandards”€ of public art. That it looks vaguelySoviet, however, is apt, because the whole gray, grim mess would be more accurately designated “€œThe Time America Nuked Japan and Don”€™t You Forget It Garden Chunks of Cement.”€

The monument’s inevitable eternal flame, we”€™ll have you know, was lit by Pope John Paul II with “€œan ember from the Peace Flame in Hiroshima,”€ and the water trickling around it originates from “€œthe rivers that flow through Nagasaki.”€

“€œI”€™ve never visited Cuba and have less than zero desire to do so.”€

The Toronto Peace Garden is a white-guilt night-light, strategically stuck in the center of the city, exuding a gentle, steady spray of smug.

As we strolled through the square, Arnie, a World War II buff, opined, unprompted, “€œThey should stick Churchill beside the Peace Garden so it looks like he’s pissing on the eternal flame.”€

My heart went ping.

Alas, Arnie turned out to be a bit of a mutant.

The only difference between Canadian Thanksgiving and the one you guys celebrate a month later is that, besides having to listen to some 30-year-old who reads comic books “€œgraphic novels”€ and still lives with his parents drone on about Columbus and smallpox blankets, we also have to hear about all the “€œcute little cars”€ they have in Cuba.

Because Canadians have been allowed to visit Cuba pretty much forever, and they do and do and do, without the slightest twang of conscience as (I imagine) they loll drunkenly on the beach chattering about “€œstupid,”€ “€œevil”€ Americans.

“€œI imagine”€ since I”€™ve never visited Cuba and have less than zero desire to do so. Living in Toronto means being asked frequently and breezily (it’s always breezily) whether I”€™ve ever been. I say “€œNo”€ in the most disapproving voice I can muster. If this fails to change the topic, then”€”they asked for it”€”I can”€™t (okay, don”€™t) stop myself from saying something like “€œI don”€™t vacation in communist dictatorships where they put gays in concentration camps.”€

Two kinds of Canadians visit Cuba: the apolitical rubes for whom it’s a cheap, warm, nearby vacation option, and the “€œprogressives”€ who still believe that crap about “€œthe amazing health-care system”€ and all the other talking points CNN issued to its reporters that one time.

Did you know, for example, that Fidel’s “€œintellect is one of the most broad and complete that can be found”€? That “€œhe is an expert on genetics, on automobile combustion engines, on stock markets. On everything”€?

Combined with a Herculean physique and extraordinary personal courage, this monumental intellect makes Fidel the giant that he is. He is something of a superman….

They [Cubans] do occasionally complain, often as an adolescent might complain about a too strict and demanding father….

As if our recent election wasn”€™t proof enough that there’s never an avalanche around when you need one, that’s an excerpt from the writings of Sacha Trudeau”€”our prime minister’s brother. (Fidel, along with Jimmy Carter, was one of the foreign dignitaries at Trudeau père’s state funeral, where Justin delivered The Eulogy“€”this time, capitals are warranted, nay, mandatory”€”that, fifteen years later, helped get him elected to the highest office in the land.

Brother Sacha’s gut-curdling love letter was widely circulated, and Canada’s elite wearily wagged a scolding finger at one of their own. But said elites (and those rubes who invariably follow their lead) continue to visit, defend, and even move to(!) “€œthat imprisoned island.”€ (How liberals on either side of the 49th reconcile their crushes on Kennedy and Castro, I couldn”€™t say.)


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