I am often far less upset when our government, regardless of party leadership, throws itself into a bold endeavor. Even when I disagree with said endeavor, because it or some later iteration has the potential to dramatically improve quality of life.
An example that comes to mind is the bold move to legalize the practice of abortion, which was occurring unabated despite legal restrictions prior to 1973. The reason this comes to mind is the work of Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner in Freakenomics that points to the unintended consequence of a dramatic drop in crime 25 years after the Supreme Court ruling of Roe v. Wade. Certain long-term consequences of current policy will assuredly remain elusive but that is not an argument for inaction.[i]
Instead it is an argument to enshrine in our government a fervent belief in active and ongoing assessment of policy. On the twentieth anniversary of landmark legislation we have to be able to point to growth and effectiveness otherwise we have to engage in revision.
The Obama Administration has done precisely this in its recent negotiations to normalize relations with Cuba. There was indeed an era where economic sanctions and broken diplomatic relations made sense given the foreign policy approach adopted by the United States. Yet this era has long since passed and successive Democratic and Republican presidents have failed to recognize that revision of the relationship between ourselves and Cuba was important not only for the principal nations involved but for the standing of America throughout Latin America.
The decision of the Obama administration has upset members of our community, in particular a large contingent of citizens in the neighborhood of Little Havana in Miami, Florida. For many of the residents of Little Havana the experience under the Castro regime was painful and disappointing and shedding those feelings is not easily achieved. To these citizens I wish inner peace, to those who cannot recognize the pain fellow citizens feel as old wounds reopen I wish empathy, and to all members of this nation I wish a greater appreciation for compromise. Perhaps when the houses of Congress are called into session the Chaplin adds the following age-old adage to his opening prayer, “It is not whether you win or lose, it is how you play the game.” Progress only comes through enacting bold and innovative policy, thoughtful and honest evaluation of policy over time, and compromise by both parties every step of the way.
President Barack Obama shakes hands with Cuba’s President Raúl Castro at a memorial service for Nelson Mandela [ii]
[i] Levitt, Steven D., and Stephen J. Dubner, Freakonomics; A Rogue Economist Explores theHidden Side of Everything (New York: William Morrow, 2009), 115-45.
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(Cuban President Fidel Castro shaking hands with former US Vice-President Richard Nixon April 1959)