To or For?

I think Henry pretty much covered the Sting and the Police to play in Cuba topic perfectly, but I want to offer my two cents here.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Sting and the Police. I saw them at the Orange Bowl during their Synchronicity tour and I have all of their albums and most of Stings solo works. Not only have I appreciated the music, but the lyrics to most of the songs have always spoken to me in one way or another.

Back in 1987 I first heard a song by Sting called “They Dance Alone.” I remember I purchased the single which also came in a Spanish version and I played that song – both versions – almost on a 24/7 loop. I was living at my parents home during that time and I remember playing that song in Spanish for my mother. Surely, a song about mothers searching for their missing children would speak to her as profoundly as it spoke to me.

And I recall sitting there in my bedroom with my mom and listening to that tune and watching mom as she listened to the words for the first time. The song spoke to her as well, for as she listened intently, I could see her eyes begin to water, I could see her fidgeting with something she had in her hand. Then, before the tune was over, she stood up and said “Esta muy bonito” and she promptly walked out of my room. I was a bit dumbfounded and subsequently a bit peeved.

Why hadnt my mom liked the song? A song about mothers and sisters and wives dancing alone for their children and brothers and husbands had gone missing, disappeared by their government? Now, my parents never instilled politics or their political views in me and at the time, being that I was 22 and a bit rebellious in that I knew so much more than my parents about everything, but I truly believed that my mother had not appreciated that song in the way I did because it was critical of Pinochet.

That moment was the catalyst of much strife in my home for some time. I, after all, felt superior to my mom and dad because I believed that they didnt really care about those missing mentioned in the song simply because they werent of the corrrect ideological stripe. We had arguments, heated discussions. I thought my parents were too hardline, too intransingent, too self righteous.

And I played that song, in English and Spanish, 24/7 and at full blast for weeks always feeling I was better than my parents. Ideologically superior – not because I ever agreed with any sort of communism or socialism, but because I wouldnt let my political beliefs override what I felt was right. What was human. I was angry about my parent’s apparent inability to grasp the human aspect of the issue for their ideology and I was going to rub it in their faces every chance I got. They were, after all , in my eyes, wrong.

One Saturday, on my way to work with my father, I popped the cassete with the endless loop of They Dance Alone into his truck car stereo and began singing along.

“I really wish you would stop playing that song,” my old man said. “Give it a break for a while.”

“Why should I?” I asked condescendingly. “Just because the song criticizes a person you may agree with doesnt mean the criticism isnt merited.” I remember to this day the sarcasm I had used with my father.

The old man turned off the radio, looked over at me and said “You think your mom and I have a problem with that song because it criticizes Pinochet? Are you that stupid?”

“Are you calling me stupid now? Because I dont happen to see things your way?”

“No, so comemierdon,” he said to me looking me right in the eyes. “Your mother doesnt like that song because she has lived it. She has seen everything that song mentions and much more. More than you will ever know or understand.”

I cant describe how small I felt at that moment. How stupid and how comemierdon and I remember that time and that song precisely because it was a milestone for me. A benchmark in my life. One where I found a greater appreciation for what my parents had been through in their lives.

So when someone posted the lyrics to They Dance Alone coupled with Henry’s post with photos of dead or missing people the other day I was more than moved. Because of the beauty of the lyrics, because of the profound sorrow at the loss of those lives, because some of those lives happen to be Cuban and because what my mother felt and experienced is still being felt and experienced in Cuba today.

Sting and the Police can go to Cuba and sing to the people of Cuba, but the question remains: Will they sing for them?

5 thoughts on “To or For?”

  1. Val , If I see Sting publicly saying…Long live the revolution, down with bush , or Long live Raul ,I will be upset… But If they go and bring their a game with their music, a fresh air of hope for the young tired of mesas redondas , and invaluable resources to other musicians in cuba such as donated music equipment then it will be worthy.
    The government could try to use them to their advantage, but it is up to sting to stand firm ..their Pr firm knows the consequences , so they will walk a fine line…. Remember cubans cant buy their Cds on the island … on the other hand cuban americans can …and they know this…Also they know cuba may fold soon, if they can get more famous in cuba , whenever those cubans are liberated they will be purchasing police old records for yers to come

  2. I’d like to know the venue where the concert is performed and who is allowed entrance. Is this really going to be a concert for the “people” or for party members in good standing?

  3. Ziva if the concert is in the Karl Marz teatro , then it will be for the sons and daugthers of the military brass, the cuban fat millionaries. If the venue is outdoors in the plaza , then it will be open for all… heck they may have the two

  4. Val:

    I understand what you say – but I hate that song – it’s about a bunch of communists in Chile. Always knew it even when I was 21 and the song came out. I wonder if Sting will sing it in Cuba about the dissidents there – if he does i will become the biggest sting fan in the world. Slim chance right?

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