On Tuesday, a huge memorial service for former South African president Nelson Mandela took place at FNB stadium in Johannesburg. Among those in attendance were celebrities—most notably actress Charlize Theron and U2 front man Bono—as well as nearly 100 heads of state and government from all over the world. President Obama was there, of course, and delivered an incredible eulogy. Also there was Cuban President Raul Castro, who assumed control of the Communist nation after his brother Fidel retired in 2008.
As we all likely know, America and Cuba do not get along. Ever since the Bay of Pigs fiasco and Fidel Castro’s attempts to have Russian missiles shipped over in the 1960s, the U.S. has imposed a trade embargo on the island nation. And despite some diplomatic progress in the decades that followed, there is still plenty of “bad blood” between the two countries.
Mandela’s memorial was amazing—and I wish that I had the means to attend, as well as an invitation, I suppose—but the media seems less focused on this and more interested in what occurred between Obama and Raul Castro. Just before delivering his eulogy, as he was greeting a procession of world leaders, the U.S. president did the unthinkable: he shook hands with Castro.
Well, this one innocent—and courteous—act has sparked all sorts of controversy, and the media has certainly run with it. Some are condemning Obama for his actions and fear the Cuban leader may somehow twist and contort this for his own evil purposes. While this may be true, I offer my own reaction in the form of a question: Who the hell cares?
Yes, things have been tense between the United States and Cuba for a long time, but is a handshake really that big a deal? Isn’t it possible this could be the first step towards these two nations finally resolving their problems and working together in a positive and more collaborative manner?
Honestly, people get upset over some of the strangest things. Just imagine the headlines if Obama had snubbed Castro!
Of course, some controversies related to Mandela’s memorial seem more justified. And once again, hands played a major role.
The “issue” involved an alleged sign language interpreter who stood beside every speaker who took the stage, including President Obama. Following the memorial, social media exploded with criticism from deaf people all over the world, who indicated that the interpreter’s gestures were “fake” and “unintelligible.”
“We are shocked by the quality of sign language interpretation at Nelson Mandela’s memorial,” Paul Breckell of the charity Action on Hearing Loss told NBC News later. “If it could be called interpretation at all.”
David Buxton from the British Deaf Association called the interpreter “a total fake” and even urged South African authorities to “name and shame that gentleman.”
I can’t say for sure whether this has actually happened or not, but it certainly would not surprise me. After all, this jackass basically deprived deaf people of enjoying the memorial and paying proper tribute to Madiba.
In other words, he is a great candidate for Jackass of the Week… hands down!
Posted on December 11, 2013, in Perspectives and tagged American Sign Language, Barack Obama, commentary, controversy, Cuba, current-events, deafness, disability, hands, Nelson Mandela, news, perspectives, politics, Raúl Castro, South Africa, United States. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.