The Last Iconoclast

Edward Wasserman, departing editor in chief of the Daily Business Review, ruminates on public corruption, ethnic politics, and the Miami Herald

I think immigration is a problem that we don't want to acknowledge. It's a problem because it's cheaper to import skills from abroad than to use the human resources we have here to train them and develop them. For some reason liberal-minded people in this country are inclined to favor open borders to let people of all kinds come into this country.

Now, that's fine. I'm not a bigot. We benefit from immigration. But first of all, we pauperize the countries from whom we're drawing these people, because they're putting their resources into training doctors and professionals, the fruits of which we then help ourselves to by letting them come in here where they can earn ten times the money.

Secondly, what about the human resources here? Look at it this way: If you were in a situation of national mobilization, say a war, suddenly you would look at your criminal code and you would say, “Hmmm, we can't afford to have some perfectly intelligent, able-bodied nineteen-year-old in prison for five years for carrying around some cocaine. We need him in the frontlines.”

Journalist at rest: The domestic Wasserman with daughters Claire (left) and Julia and wife Eva
Journalist at rest: The domestic Wasserman with daughters Claire (left) and Julia and wife Eva
Journalist at rest: The domestic Wasserman with daughters Claire (left) and Julia and wife Eva
Steve Satterwhite
Journalist at rest: The domestic Wasserman with daughters Claire (left) and Julia and wife Eva

It's disturbing to me how little anger there is. I don't understand why black people in this community put up with it. I don't get it. I see a community that is no more receptive to black success and black professionals now than it was twenty years ago. In some ways blacks have been the biggest victims of the successive waves of immigration. And I don't see the emergence of the leaders and spokesmen who are going to press the case on their behalf. It's very depressing.

How about ethnic politics? Do you think this city is divided more by that than other big cities?

I guess many of us were shocked by how deeply the Elian case resonated with Cubans here, and how much hostility it touched off in the Anglos. It illustrated just how weak the exiles had become. In some respects when people take to the streets and have clashes with police, it's the obverse of power. It means this is a group that's not being heard. When their chosen representatives are not being heard, they are left with this ineffective mode of protest. The key issues that were so important to the Cubans here have less and less of a constituency in the wider political culture than they ever had. There's very little interest now in the embargo [against Cuba].

That struggle is very overt. When you go to a concert here, whether it's a bomb scare that cleans out an auditorium at the MIDEM music conference or bottles and rocks flying at the Los Van Van concert, this is stuff that is not going on elsewhere in the nation.

I never understood why that's so. During the Cold War, when the Kirov Ballet went to London, the Russians in London went to see the ballet. They didn't protest; they didn't hold these people up as collaborators with the Soviet regime. The exiles embraced these people as the keepers of the flame of their own culture. They're keeping it alive through difficult times back home. I've never understood why Cuban exiles were willing to characterize their own culture as the property of the hated dictator Fidel. It seems to me these are people who should be praised, embraced for having kept alive the flame during a difficult time.

Would you miss Miami if you had to leave?

Oh, terribly. I've always been intoxicated by the sunshine here, the heat, the tropics. I love the Latin culture. Miami is just an extraordinary place. It's a great news town. The kinds of stories that come up here are unusual and unique. Plus you invest time in a place. In the final analysis, what else have you got? It's the passage of time you share with certain people that binds you to them. It's the investment of time in a place -- you're comfortable, you know people, they know you, you've watched their kids grow up. I mean, that's what makes a place home.

Anything else?

Lord no, I'm sure I've said much too much. I'll probably never work in this town again.

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