These are questions Vaclav Havel didn't ponder prior to his visit nor ask once he got here. If he had, Havel would have noted a distinct aroma permeating the stately, paneled banquet rooms of the Biltmore Hotel: the smell of stale air and mildewed minds and nowhere an open window for light, breeze, or truthful response.
The Czech president spoke to a friendly multitude of exiles, perhaps unaware of their little nation's long authoritarian history, a history that compromises every tiny step they've taken in the name of liberty during their exile. While Havel's compatriot, Milan Kundera, came to terms with his inevitable "Frenchness," this audience was full of men raised in Miami or even born in Yorktown or Mt. Vernon, but who, regardless of birthplace or nature, harbor as deep a pathological discomfort with freedom's trials and tribulations as their grandfathers. Just note the recent percentages that favored repeal of Miami-Dade County's anti-discrimination ordinance.
In the end President Havel said a few nice words and collected his check. But he failed to address the greatest danger facing Cuba once it gets rid of this four-decade-old Leninist disaster. That danger is an authoritarian, right-wing beast, already lurking in the wings (maybe even at the Biltmore) and biding its time, hopeful of an enduring embargo based on twisted logic -- the embargo, though meaningless, is a sanction nonetheless, an American line in the sand that gives the Cuban people only one choice: armed insurrection and chaos, a precondition if our new Machado or Batista is to graciously step into the vacuum.
Oh, Miami, so close to Havana and so far from the likes of a Milan Kundera.
And they make big, fat, easy targets:As members of the Miami Beach Art in Public Places committee, we want to express our sadness at the loss of our city liaison, James Quinlan, as reported by Brett Sokol ("Rebel Without a Causeway," September 12). For several years James led us in our pursuit of world-class art for our beautiful city, in order to fulfill the goals mandated by the Art in Public Places ordinance. Under his leadership we completed several projects, started others, and developed a master plan that will guide our future accomplishments. James Quinlan was innovative, creative, and dogged in his relentless approach to acquire the best for our community. When there were no apparent funding sources, he helped us find them. When projects appeared too complex to move forward, James simplified them. There were no obstacles he could not help us overcome in his quest to assist us in our role as art advocates for the city.
James is missed by each and every one of us on the committee and we wish him the very best in his future endeavors. Anyone with whom he affiliates will be very lucky to work with such a dedicated, enthusiastic, and intelligent individual.