Monday, March 26, 2007

Inside the American mind

In my last post about The Lost City, I alluded to what Americans feel about the film. This is no small matter because most of the people that will see the film aren't Cubans or Cuban-Americans but Americans.

On another blog, when I defended the movie, I talked about a scene in which literally the entire theater I was in was in tears (in this screening it was about 99.9% Cubans and Cuban-Americans) was where the main character, Fico, is leaving Cuba. The miliciano at the gate takes the heirloom pocketwatch that he has just received as a going-away present from his father. In this scene we also catch a peek of two small boys being strip-searched behind a curtain (read Carlos Eire's Waiting for Snow in Havana to learn the significance of this). As I told the haters, everyone that left Cuba on those freedom flights in the 60s can relate to that scene, and they did.

But they argued to me that Americans see that and aren't touched. They see a rich man from a poor country being divested of his riches for the benefit of the poor. This they claim is the real message of the movie, that it is a covert love song to fidel castro. I submit to you readers that the haters hate this movie because it doesn't speak to them. I know for a fact that the author of the post in question wasn't part of the exilio historico. That's not a judgement against him, his views are just as valid as anyone else's. But the film doesn't speak to him. Here's the thing, the haters are making judgements about what Americanos would think about the movie but they are not Americano.

Having been born in this country (of parents that are part of the exilio historico) I have different thoughts about the matter. I think these bashers misjudge the American mentality.

America is a capitalist country. Even people that aren't sophisticated enough to know what capitalism exactly is, know that they want "things." They know they want to drive a nice car, have a nice house, have nice clothes and be able to provide those things to their family. The average American doesn't give much thought to the political system which makes this possible but they know they don't like to see it attacked. Everyone in America aspires to be rich. That's why the "soak the rich" tactics of the Democrats always fail in the court of public opinion. The TV commentator Chris Matthews once recounted an old truism that if you tell a guy that you are going to give him $500 but you are going to give another guy $10,000, the guy will say: where's my $500?

The haters in this case are the ones that have bought into the propaganda about the war between the classes and are projecting this on Americanos that have roundly rejected that paradigm again and again. I am convinced that most Americanos (that aren't pink in nature) view that airport scene with sympathy and broken hearts. Much like one would see video of a person returning to their destroyed home after a fire or a tornado. While we can all say that the person is lucky to be alive and that's all that matters (that material things are unimportant) we understand that person's entire life is summed up in the things one owns. And it's not the expensive stuff, but the little things, loaded with memories, that matter most. Americanos intuitively understand the wrongness of taking another's posessions. Our country was founded on one basic principal: that without property rights there are no other rights.

I'm not talking about real estate here, I'm talking about everything. In Cuba, as my astute reades know, everything belongs to the government, even your brains, if you are a prominent doctor like Hilda Molina. That's why there are no rights in Cuba.

Those that agree with haters may ask: what does he know anyway, how can he say what Americanos feel and don't feel, in general and when they see the movie? And that's a good question. First of all my opinion is at least as valid as theirs. Secondly I put forward my qualifications. In my job I am called upon to gather the opinions and feelings of large groups of people. My success in my career has been a result of my ability to do this. Specifically I work in Hispanic advertising and so I am constantly having to compare and contrast the belief systems, cultures and opinions of Hispanics and non-Hispanics (Americanos). But if my credentials don't convince you (I don't blame you) then check out what this Okie says about The Lost City. It's anecdotal evidence for sure (not quantitative) but that's all the other side is offering anyway.


ziva said...

My husband and I saw the Lost City out here in LA. He is not Cuban, nor is he a "pink" and he broke down during the airport scene as he did during a couple of earlier scenes. He thought the movie was wonderful as did other Americans I know who have seen the movie. Everyone I know who saw the movie, whatever their overall opinion of the film, came away hating guevara in a visceral way. There was no confusion about the fact that Batista was bad, but what followed was much worse. Nor that the revolution betrayed the Cuban people. The fact that the family was wealthy did not make them less sympathetic. You’re right about Americans not hating the rich, that sentiment comes from the left.

John said...

I have come to the conclusion that useful idiots like the ones you were up against amount to nothing in life. I've found that what these kind of people value is not knowing the truth, but acting as if they know soley to feel self-important. The sad thing is when this act becomes sincere.