Hannover, 20.10.2004Dear Mister president Bush,
grown up on the Berlin Wall, a child of Germany's division, Bernd Seestaedt, Doctor of Computer Science, calls from Germany for a word in your tumultuous election campaign.
I love your people, your land. I happily remember wandering with the bankers of the morning from the Space Needle to downtown Seattle, whose fantastic music scene is closed this time. I had black tears on that terrible september day.
In East Berlin, in August 1961, my history teacher, scarcely 5' tall, stood with his "Kalaschnikow" before a heap of stones that people would later call the iron curtain. Nobody, neither police, soldier, ombudsman, could stop my father, that Party member, from waving to the relatives on the other side. I stood beside him. It lasted still long, until two german represents, Willy Brandt and Willy Stoph, met, in order to rethink the right of the German family.
One or the other of you will meet Fidel Castro,
for the same important reason.
You will begin to lift the years of Cuba's isolation.
In this moment a young polish woman, "my beauty Countess Walewska", will kiss me in admiration, but without the sabor cubanisimo of love on the lips -
and on the other side, you will be standing, you or you, and him, Fidel, and you will give him your hand.
Challenge all those lies that cause the American people to act in a provincial political cloud beyond 'Old Europe'. Look at the Emperor's old clothes, look at the Iron Curtain before your own door. Open the way once again to a Sunday's boat excursion from Miami to Havana.
The city, Havana, is a music capital of our common culture and Omara Portuondo is its ambassador. No one can resist this music.
Help Cuba to emerge from poverty.
Free the path for a peaceful change in Cuba.
The East Germans in the streets of 1989 called ever louder
"We are the People!" until a "revolution in silence" was succesfull.
East Germans who turned their backs on their land before 1989
never had a good reputation among us who remained.
One comparison to the exiled Cubans would be allowed:
Some would return home and act on behalf of that home, as happened in East Germany, but many would descend like vultures in the name of their legal title.
Forget the voters in Florida and the great influence
of the exiled Cubans there.
Freely renounce those voices in the election. Honor the memory of Don Quixote.
Everything is possible and especially for you two. An East German, into whose head they tried to hammer the iron "laws" by which history practically makes itself - how could he act differently other than to write his history anew?
Do we not know yet that men like you can make history? We know it. But also, Omara's songs cause the Iron Curtain that separates Cuba and America to tremble. With songs from the time before Fidel, who does not dance nor sing.
Meet the great elders of Cuba, as Helmut Kohl met Honnecker. Give the sign. Send new signs for the powers of chance that can lift the iron gates. Think about the little memo, which a Communist politician one day in 1989 in East Berlin read out too early or wrongly, so that already by evening the hammering at the wall had begun. There was a hammering for Fidel too, who had opposed the "construction of a wall".
In April, an East German Don Quixote will stand in Havana's streets and see derelict facades and rusting window grilles, and he will shed a little tear for his old homeland, the very cheap three B's: busses, bread and books, the varied art for the general people. And he will see Cubans who need dollars just to get a ridiculous little luxury, as once the East Germans saved every West German Mark for the "Intershop". People divided into two classes by a green papersheet named the Dollar.
Two from the East Bloc, from behind the Iron Curtain, as if there was a before and behind - but united in their enthusiasm for the music of old Cuba, played by the pensioners, so old is Cuba's isolation, will see Havana's streets to search for the mirrored halls of old Cuban music of Trova, Bolero, Son. And will sing "Nosotros" with street musicians -
and at the other side, you or you, and Fidel, will applaud, perhaps.
In our shared old World, without terror or religious fanaticism, only still separated by a banal trifle: Today, after 1989, no thinking person and also no East German can be communist and Fidel too is no longer communist or never was.
Cuba is a part of our history:
"In the center of your Heart, Athens, I have intoned songs", sang Theodorakis against the putschist Patakos.
It is the song of old Europe, it is also the song of the Americans, for you are an offshoot of the old world.
Havana, April 2005, could be our shared Athens.
The mantle of history lies ready:
For presidents, for former presidents, for Don Quixotes, for a Polish Countess.
And perhaps in this moment, the most beautiful septuagenarian in the world will sing a serenade - Omara,
I am sending this letter to all the great German newspapers,
and -- how could it be otherwhise -- on the "Washington Post".
My thanks to the young canadian professor of history and philosophy, Warren Breckman, for his translation.
And the "message in a bottle" for Fidel.
Dr. Bernd Seestaedt