Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Cuba polls in the age of sentiments

For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business. - T.S. Eliot, East Coker (1940)

 In 1983 the American man of letters, Russell Kirk, wrote that the age of discussion was giving way to the age of sentiments that was now dominated by television. 32 years later when observing any public "discussion" one finds that it is defined by sentiment and not argument. The debate over vaccines is a dramatic example with grave real world consequences but it is being driven by feelings and not facts. In this world where policy is driven by sentiments and celebrity but not a dialogue on the facts, the goal of those in power is to shape sentiments.

In the current debate over U.S. policy on Cuba dueling polls compete to impact public sentiment and the numbers, depending on what questions are asked and what information is imparted produces different outcomes.

At the same time, as in the vaccine debate, there are real world consequences. For example, the forces advocating the end of economic sanctions on the Castro dictatorship produced push polls that convinced candidate Charlie Crist in his run for governor of Florida to support ending the embargo and announce that he planned to go to Cuba. As reality hit and his numbers dropped the trip was put off but in the end Crist lost despite running against the unpopular incumbent Rick Scott in a tight race because of the Cuban vote.

The belief that ending economic sanctions and downplaying the Castro regime's continued role in international terrorism as it undermines human rights everywhere may in the short term generate positive sentiments and the image of a foreign policy win for the Obama administration. Sadly the real world consequences since 2009 of loosening sanctions have meant murdered opposition leaders, a worsening human rights situation in Cuba and democracy in retreat in the Americas.

Instead of appealing to the sentiments of avarice, anger, pride and envy persons of principle should seek to appeal to higher sentiments of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, and knowledge that will help to make the world a better place.

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