Brown: Blinded by the past


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The once frigid relations shared between Cuba and the United States has warmed considerably with conversations between President Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro, joint medical research, and removal of Cuba from the list of states that sponsor terrorism.

The U.S. relationship with Cuba has been precarious since the Cold War, but the Cold War has been over for a long time. We are no longer racing to the sky against the Soviets. We have already made it there, and we are currently sharing a space station with the Russians.

Given the ever-changing nature of global relations, taking a moment to re-examine our relationship with Cuba was a long time coming. It is not to say that the United States’ tumultuous history with Cuba should be forgotten. It is only to say that relationships can change and should be given the opportunity to change for the better. As important as it is to take history into account, it is just as important to consider how the future can deviate from unpleasant histories through actions in the present.

History will always have a firmly rooted place in diplomatic relations, but it should merely inform, not dictate, decisions. Knowledge of history allows us to learn from and perpetuate mistakes from the past. The world as it is in the present is a direct result of our predecessors’ actions. It is through our understanding of these actions that we figure out our place in the world in relation to one another, and where we learn distrust and hatred. When the fate of international relationships is at stake there comes a point in which leaders must be willing to look past what has been written in stone and instead look towards the infinite possibilities of the future.

That is not to say our world leaders should be naïve or too forgiving. There is a difference between being too forgiving and being open to the possibility of change. The global political landscape has seen an unprecedented evolution in terms of ease of communication and travel. Not only is it ill-advised to try to restrict the interactions among people all over the world, it is nearly impossible. There comes a point where nations must be willing to turn over a new leaf. Given how small and intertwined the world has become, that point is always fast approaching.

A strong adherence to national history can be source of strength and a way of bolstering the citizen’s connection to the nation. However, this can also foster a habit for hatred and a generally close-minded mentality toward bridging relationships burned in the past. The way things were done does not have to be the way they are currently.

Room for improvement is not housed solely within geographical boundaries. It extends to the intangible manner in which countries coexist and interact with each other. The goal of modern diplomatic relationships should be a holistic focus on understanding history and how that knowledge can better the future instead of attempting to bind the future to mistakes from the past. 

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