The Unite States placed an embargo on Cuba in the early 1960's, shortly after the island's revolutionary leader, Fidel Castro, declared his regime to be socialist in nature and began nationalizing the mainstays of the country's economy. President Kennedy let the CIA and a couple of power-addled generals convince him to launch an attack on Cuba in 1962 which failed miserably, and ever since that time most of the communications between the two countries (which are only ninety miles apart) has been hostile in nature.
Many wealthy Cubans fled the island during the early years of Castro's leadership, unwilling to share their wealth and privilege with the masses. Most came to the United States. Today several generations of these Cuban-Americans live in the U.S., primarily in Florida, where they have accumulated considerable political power.
But time changes things, and five decades can change quite a bit. Older Cuban-Americans, those past the age of seventy, are still opposed to "normalizing" relations with Cuba, many, no doubt, harboring hopes of one day reclaiming their homeland and their lost property. But those over the age of seventy (the Fox News cohort) represent the only age demographic which still opposes normalization - young Cuban Americans do not.
So this week, with a wonderful assist from Pope Francis, President Obama and Raul Castro swapped a few prisoners and announced that things are changing. It isn't clear what "normalization" will mean, but I for one am hopeful that Americans will finally be permitted to make direct visits to the island nation without having to sneak in through Montreal or Toronto or Mexico City. (Cuba has always been part of my bucket list.)
The two governments have been meeting secretly for some time in order to pull off this accord. Predictably, some Republican politicians, those dependent on the votes of elderly Cuban-Americans, are opposed to any form of reconciliation - but all of their bluster and rage will not hold back the inevitable.
President Obama is to be commended for his successful efforts at finally bringing this last vestige of the Cold War to a close. He is slowly, but very courageously, leading us into a better future - one that makes sense and provides hope of lasting peace.
And Pope Francis is simply amazing! Thank you, Your Holiness, for making religion a relevant and positive force in the course of history.