A handshake that shook the world

In the spirit of Nelson Mandela, President Obama stopped and shook the hand of Cuban President Raul Castro at the memorial to Mandela in South Africa.

Instantly and predictably, the U.S. far-right Republicans and their mouthpieces went crazy. Now, nobody in their right mind could argue with following the example Mandela set of talking, negotiating and finally reconciling with one’s enemies, especially when history has moved to a new stage. But nobody said the tea party types are in their right mind.

More important, the idea that Cuba is the “enemy” of the United States is a relic of the last century’s Cold War and needs to be finally thrown on the ash heap of history. Not just the idea, but also the numerous anti-Cuba policies, starting with the U.S. embargo and travel ban. History has indeed moved to a new stage and it is time for our policy to reflect that. It is heartening to see the Obama administration ease the most extreme Bush-era sanctions against our neighbor. Much more needs to be done.

U.S. anti-Cuba policies have hurt our own economy and  isolated our country from the rest of the world, in particular the countries of North, Central and South America and the Caribbean. The United States stands out like a sore thumb, the only country in the hemisphere that does not have normal relations with the socialist island 90 miles from Florida’s shores.

It was a handshake that shook the world, fittingly done at Mandela’s memorial. Yes, Mr. President, let us all honor Mandela’s legacy – a man whom you rightfully described as understanding “the ties that bind the human spirit” – and finally establish neighborly ties to Cuba.

Photo: In this image from TV, President Barack Obama shakes hands with Cuban President Raul Castro at the FNB Stadium in Soweto, South Africa, at the memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013. The handshake between the leaders of the two Cold War enemies came during a ceremony that’s focused on Mandela’s legacy of reconciliation. Hundreds of foreign dignitaries and world heads of states gathered with thousands of South African people to celebrate the life, and mark the death, of Nelson Mandela, who has became a global symbol of reconciliation. AP/SABC Pool