Here’s something unexpected: a staunchly anti-Communist Cuban-American (that would be me) did not mind President Obama’s handshake with Raul Castro today.
This is why:
a) the occasion: it’s a memorial — and it’s a memorial for Nelson Mandela. This an event for attendees to pay their respects — it is not a time for politics. Picture this: a friend passes away and you attend their funeral. Among all the hugging and kissing of cheeks, you suddenly find yourself face to face with your nemesis. What to do? In the light of the event’s nature, you put your own personal views aside and are diplomatic — a courteous nod or a quick ‘hello’ is in order. It does not mean you two are now buds or even approve of one another — it simply shows you are respecting the nature of the event.
b) watch the video: Obama did not seek out Raul Castro. The video shows Obama climbing the stairs, presumably to greet, as he does, the event’s attendants who are sitting in that particular row. Castro is first in the row and they shake hands. What else could one do in that situation, with the person 3 inches from one’s face? Completely rebuff Castro? No. A quick handshake and continuing to move down the line is natural — and that is what Obama did.
c) Obama kept it short. In the video, it is clear Castro wanted to say more, chat longer… but Obama quickly moves away, continuing down the line. He did not linger longer than what was necessary for a basic level of courtesy.
The Castros caused more misery and suffering in my family than I can explain in this or any post. The very sound of the “Castro” name makes my blood boil. But criticizing Obama over a quick handshake at an international figurehead’s funeral? Not only is it not worth our time but it is counter-productive. Much like the boy who cries wolf, if we conservatives are quick to criticize Obama on any little thing, who then will listen to us on those (many) issues where criticism is merited?
Pick the criticism-battles wisely and we will be the better for it. The ‘handshake’ is not one of them… nor was the selfie. Now, Michelle possibly making Barack switch seats? Well, pass the popcorn because that meme is just plain ol’ fun.