If you are a politically conscious person in the least, you probably have an opinion on Guantánamo Bay, the American Naval Base cum Temporary Detention Center for Haitian/Cuban Refugees cum Indefinite Detention Center for Enemy Combatants, quixotically located on the southeastern edge of Communist Cuba.
Though the existence of the base has been public knowledge since the United States and Cuba signed the lease to the 45-square mile land parcel in 1903, the base falls in-and-out of America’s collective conscious as if it were a natural disaster hitting the third world. We become fully aware and interested in these unfamiliar places when something dramatic happens, but they become all but forgotten once the telethon ends and the last pop-star leaves the scene.
It is astounding how little we, as the American public, discuss Guantánamo once it drops out of the public eye, which is currently situated on the face of a 24-hour news cycle. That is not to say that the American public has completely forgotten about Guantánamo; it’s that there are so few people having meaningful conversations about it that their voices are drowned out by yowling from the “serious journalists” reporting on Celebrity B-83’s Twitter account.
Does blame for our lack of public memory rest squarely on the media? No. To quote Paul Weller “The public wants what the public gets” and we usually ask for things to be as simple as possible, not because we are idiots, but because those who we tend to listen to have been speaking down at us for so long that when the intricacies of a situation are presented, we do not know how to react.
It’s simpler for the media to do a story about the history of the McRib than a story about why we have a military base on Cuban soil. Whereas most people have a McDonalds in their town, Guantánamo is a place that most of us will probably never visit. Though Cuba is located in our hemisphere, due to bad relations between Washington and Havana, it still casts an otherworldly shadow. It’s difficult for even the most imaginative among us to picture what life there is like, on either side of the well-guarded fence, while it’s easier for most of us to relate to a sandwich.
For an issue as large as Guantánamo Bay there is no right or wrong answer; it is complicated, and expecting the public or the media to be able to devote the time and thought needed for insight and introspection on the issue is unfeasible and completely predictable. To treat Guantánamo with such simplicity would be a disservice to those trying to keep it within the public memory. It’s an internment camp.
IT’S NOT THE MCRIB!
Posted by Maximillian Regan – Working towards BA in American Studies and Indigenous Nations Studies