Our Cuban Family Chat: A Microcosm of Our Democratic Republic

“The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the How opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.” –J.S. Mill 

As I (Victoria) sat in my Political Science class this semester, in the midst of an election year, I found myself truly blessed with an immense yet intimate family to discuss and share ideas with – not only about my class, but also about what our entire nation was experiencing. Though we, our intimate family of 40, vary in age, education, and geographic location, each family member has the ability to succinctly and honestly express their personal convictions and perspectives in the safety of our family group chat. John Stuart Mill, in the simple quote above, encapsulated the very essence of our family group chat. My family values the power of conversation, especially about our social and political cleavages, rather than partaking in the societally practiced “cancel culture.” As I was studying Mill, who articulated that the only way in which a democracy can flourish and avoid mediocrity is through the celebration and vocalization of differences in perspective, I turned to my cousin (Janett) twenty years my elder, to continue these conversations.  Coincidentally, Janett was re-reading Thurman’s Jesus and The Disinherited, and Sally Kohn’s The Opposite of Hate to strengthen her bridge-building efforts at Interfaith Youth Core, and she thought it would be constructive to celebrate the distinctiveness of our family chat and to focus on what we have in common. There is more that unites us in Christ than separates us. Although not an easy thing to recall in the throes of dissent and disagreement, it has reigned true.  

My cousin and I are Christian, Cuban women imploring for conversation in an effort to present different perspectives, in order to develop our own identities in a society that only seems to value polarization and tribalism. As a society, we seem to have stopped listening to diversity in thought, remaining siloed in our in-group and exacerbated by digital algorithms, political elites, and the realities of a global pandemic. As we navigated a global pandemic, we have seen the simple act of wearing a mask become a polarizing and political topic, when in reality it should be viewed as the preservation of humanity having nothing to do with the two-party political system.   

The divisiveness we experience in media and in civic society is not a possibility within our family -  not because we do not disagree, but rather because we are anchored in our Christian faith, our common disgust of communism, and our genuine appreciation of one another - even when we vehemently disagree. Each of us, regardless of age, education, and geographic location, has had significant time with one another, cultivating real relationships between aunts and uncles, cousins, grandparents, moms, and dads. We have not and do not cancel, exclude, or shun anyone. We do, however, debate and discuss and cite various sources, all the while remaining active in the family chat, and when physically together, at the table. It is not easy to remain engaged, especially in a conversation where you might feel you don’t have the depth of understanding, political or religious aptitude, or temperament, but we have been doing it our whole lives – we have many years of practice. If one day you choose to engage with our family about religion and politics, be prepared to be challenged, but always heard. 

Each of our family members, though sharing the familial trauma of the exodus from Communist Cuba, has created their own distinctive identity. Our family, Cordovés, has created a space, primarily in this family chat, where we do not have to conform to the national “one size fits all” mentality proliferated in the media. Cuban poet and author Richard Blanco stated, “To know a country takes all we know of love: some days better than others, but never easy to keep our promise every morning of every year, of every century, and wake up, stumble downstairs with all our raging hope, sit down at the kitchen table again, still blurry-eyed, still tired, and say: Listen, we need to talk.” The beauty of this country is found in the multitude of passions, cultures, and perspectives that each individual brings to the table; it should be celebrated, not diluted and generalized.  

We are a Cuban, Jesus following, mostly Republican, conservative family, living in dispersed areas connected and interconnected to one another by faith, love, and this family chat.  This year has, quite literally, isolated individuals, which was uncommon and disheartening for this family. We’ve been disjointed, watching and consuming hateful and divisive rhetoric like most of society, yet with the ability to analyze our own beliefs, passions, and ailments. Our hope, as a family, is that this period of introspection that has come with social distance lasts longer than the pandemic and becomes a way of life.  As a senior at Colgate (Victoria) and a working professional (Janett), this group chat minimizes our separation and serves as a window into the current social, political climate but is also distinctive because of our collective love of Christ. Jesus calls us, as Christians, to lead by example and to lead a life of compassion. That message often gets lost in the dilution of the faith when coupled with political pressure and conflated and stereotyped. Our family strives to emulate Christ both within and beyond our family circle, always choosing to love the opposition. Our society is losing the ability to have difficult conversations and often chooses to generalize the opposition without listening to why others vote the way they do. Much like every Christian having their personal testimony, each individual in this grand society has a past that has shaped their present and impacts their future. We owe it to one another to listen to those stories.  

As we move into 2021, we leave you with this piece of scripture and ask that you prepare your heart, reflect and listen with intention.  “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5).

Janett I. Cordovés is on staff at Interfaith Youth Core. Victoria Pino is a senior at Colgate University where she is president of both the Sigma Delta Pi Honor Society and the Colgate University Church.  

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Nuestro Chat Familiar Cubano: Un Microcosmos de Nuestra República Democrática 

Janett I. Cordovés y Victoria Pino, Janett I. Cordovés es la Directora de Educación Superior en IFYC; Victoria Pino cursa último año en Colgate University

 Enero 19, 2021 

 “La peculiaridad del mal que supone silenciar la expresión de una opinión es que supone un robo al género humano, tanto para la posteridad como para la generación existente, y para los que disienten de esa opinión todavía más que para los que la sostienen. Si la opinión es correcta, se les priva de la oportunidad de cambiar el error por la verdad; si es errónea, pierden lo que es un beneficio casi igual de grande, una percepción más clara y una impresión más viva de la verdad, producida por su confrontación con el error.”  –J.S. Mill  

 Cuando yo (Victoria) me encontraba en mi clase de Ciencia Política este semestre, en medio de un año electoral, me sentí bendecida de tener una familia inmensa, pero íntima, para discutir y compartir ideas – no solo sobre mi clase, sino también sobre lo que la nación estaba viviendo. 

 Aunque nuestra íntima familia de 40 personas varía en edad, educación y ubicación geográfica, cada miembro tiene la capacidad de expresar sus convicciones y perspectivas personales sucinta y honestamente en la seguridad de nuestro chat familiar. John Stuart Mill, en la frase de arriba, encapsuló la esencia de nuestro chat familiar. Mi familia valora el poder de la conversación, especialmente sobre nuestras divisiones sociales y políticas, en vez de participar en la “cultura de la cancelación” que la sociedad practica. A medida que estudiaba a Mill, quien articuló que la única manera en la que una democracia puede florecer es a través de la celebración y vocalización de diferentes perspectivas, recurrí a mi prima (Janett) que es 20 años mayor que yo, para continuar estas conversaciones. Coincidencialmente, Janett estaba volviendo a leer “Jesús y los Desheredados” de Thurman y “The Opposite of Hate” de Sally Kohn, para fortalecer sus esfuerzos en construir puentes sociales en Interfaith Youth Core, y pensó que sería constructivo celebrar el carácter distintivo de nuestro chat familiar y enfocarnos en lo que tenemos en común. Hay más cosas que nos unen en Cristo que las que nos separan. Aunque no es fácil recordarlo en medio del dolor del disentimiento y los desacuerdos, sigue siendo cierto.   

 Mi prima y yo somos mujeres cristianas y cubanas rogando por una conversación, esforzándonos por presentar diferentes perspectivas, para desarrollar nuestras propias identidades en una sociedad que solo parece valorar la polarización y el tribalismo. Como sociedad, pareciera que hemos dejado de escuchar a la diversidad de pensamiento, y nos mantenemos aislados en nuestros grupos y exacerbados por algoritmos digitales, élites políticas, y las realidades de una pandemia global. A medida que navegamos la pandemia global, hemos visto que el simple acto de usar una mascarilla se ha vuelto un tema polarizador y político, cuando en realidad debería ser visto como la preservación de la humanidad, lo cual no tiene nada que ver con el sistema político bipartidista. 

 La división que vivimos en los medios y la sociedad civil no es una posibilidad dentro de nuestra familia – no porque siempre estemos de acuerdo, sino porque estamos anclados en nuestra fe cristiana, nuestro disgusto común por el comunismo, y nuestro genuino aprecio por el otro – incluso cuando discrepamos vehementemente. Cada uno de nosotros, a pesar de la edad, educación y ubicación geográfica ha pasado tiempo significativo con los otros, cultivando relaciones reales entre tías y tíos, primos, abuelos, madres y padres. Nosotros no cancelamos, excluimos, o rechazamos a nadie. Sin embargo, sí debatimos y discutimos y citamos varias fuentes, siempre manteniéndonos activos en el chat familiar y, cuando estamos físicamente juntos, en la mesa. No es fácil mantenerse involucrado, especialmente en una conversación en la que no se tiene mucho entendimiento, aptitud política o religiosa, o temperamento, pero lo hemos hecho todas nuestras vidas – tenemos muchos años de práctica. Si un día deciden interactuar con nuestra familia sobre religión y política, estén preparados para ser desafiados, pero siempre escuchados. 

 Aunque compartimos el trauma familiar del éxodo de la Cuba comunista, cada uno de nuestros familiares ha creado su propia identidad separada. Nuestra familia, los Cordovés, ha creado un espacio, principalmente en este chat familiar, donde no tenemos que conformarnos con la mentalidad nacional de “talla única” que prolifera en los medios. El poeta y autor cubano Richard Blanco declaró: “Conocer a un país requiere todo lo que sabemos del amor: algunos días mejores que otros, pero nunca es fácil mantener nuestra promesa cada mañana de cada año, de cada siglo, y despertar, bajar dando tumbos con toda nuestra furiosa esperanza, sentarnos en la mesa de la cocina nuevamente, todavía con la visión borrosa, todavía cansados, y decir: Escucha, necesitamos hablar.” La belleza de este país se encuentra en la multitud de pasiones, culturas y perspectivas que cada individuo trae a la mesa; esta debe ser celebrada, no diluida y generalizada. 

Somos una familia cubana, seguidora de Jesús, de mayoría Republicana, conservadora, viviendo en áreas dispersas, conectados e interconectados el uno con el otro por la fe, el amor, y este chat familiar. Este año ha aislado, literalmente, a las personas, lo cual fue poco común y desalentador para esta familia. Hemos sido desarticulados, viendo y consumiendo la retórica de odio y división como la mayoría de la sociedad, pero con la habilidad de analizar nuestras propias creencias, pasiones y dolencias. Nuestra esperanza, como familia, es que este periodo de introspección que hemos tenido con el distanciamiento social dure más que la pandemia y se vuelva un estilo de vida. Como estudiante de último año en Colgate (Victoria) y como profesional (Janett), este grupo minimiza nuestra separación y sirve como una ventana al clima social y político actual, pero también es distintivo por nuestro amor colectivo a Cristo. Jesús nos llama, como cristianos, a liderar con el ejemplo y llevar una vida de compasión. Este mensaje suele perderse en la disolución de la fe cuando se junta con la presión política y se mezcla y se estereotipa. Nuestra familia lucha por emular a Cristo dentro y más allá de nuestro círculo familiar, siempre eligiendo amar a la oposición. Nuestra sociedad está perdiendo la capacidad de tener conversaciones difíciles y frecuentemente elige generalizar a la oposición, sin escuchar por qué otros votan como lo hacen. Así como cada cristiano tiene su testimonio personal, cada individuo en esta gran sociedad tiene un pasado que ha formado su presente e impacta su futuro. Nos debemos los unos a los otros escuchar esas historias.  

 A medida que entramos al 2021, les dejamos este pasaje y les pedimos que preparen su corazón, reflexionen y escuchen con intención. “3 ¿Por qué te fijas en la astilla que tiene tu hermano en el ojo, y no le das importancia a la viga que está en el tuyo? 4 ¿Cómo puedes decirle a tu hermano: “Déjame sacarte la astilla del ojo”, cuando ahí tienes una viga en el tuyo? 5 ¡Hipócrita!, saca primero la viga de tu propio ojo, y entonces verás con claridad para sacar la astilla del ojo de tu hermano” (Mateo 7:3-5). 

 Janett I. Cordovés trabaja en Interfaith Youth Core. Victoria Pino es estudiante de último año en Colgate University donde es presidente de la Sociedad Honoraria Sigma Delta Pi y la Iglesia de Colgate University.   

 

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