I am sitting in a quiet room, having just said goodnight to my student, after spending many hours today on the telephone with her researching and writing about two Cuban poets, Heberto Padilla and Nicolas Guillan. We share a google doc as we develop a term paper on these two men who were famous for their powerful poetry and their opposing views of the Castro regime. Padilla was the outside; Guillan, the insider, and their futures reflect that status, with Padilla going into exile in the U.S. and Guillan remaining in Cuba. Padilla’s counterrevolutionary stance put him in opposition to the Castro government and made his life very tough. Guillan’s willingness to support the regime provided him with a cushy job position as the head of the Union for Writers and Artists for twenty-five years.
Outsiders, insiders. This concept and its subsequent consequences repeat itself over and over in life. The iconoclasts; the conformers. The outspoken, the silent. The skeptics, the believers. We are a world filled with these two types of people and those who fall in-between. The outsiders often do not fare as well as the insiders. They often suffer consequences for their outspokenness, for their unwillingness to adhere to the “accepted” political regime, for their defense of the right to express their opinions freely and without fear. They often are regarded as the “other,” trouble-makers who refuse to go with the flow.
However, consider what our world would look like without them…
Dictators and totalitarian regimes depend on conforming silent believers. Change can only occur when people are willing to rebel, to speak up, to actively question.
As Padilla wrote:
Tell the truth.
Say, at least, your truth.
let anything happen:
that you break the page dear,
that you knock the door with stones,
crowd in front of your body
as if you were
a prodigy or a dead person.