A Point of View by Paul Montesino

The Difference between Joined and United.
“A Point of View”, © 1996.
By Paul V. Montesino, PhD, MBA, ICCP.

Several years ago, while Cuba and the United States still maintained diplomatic relations and I was still on the island, I had one of those aha moments that one never forgets, and this one remained in my memory not because it impacted my daily life but because it had confused me.

I had a girlfriend who lived in Placetas, one of the major cities in the province of Santa Clara, smack in the center of the island, and I used to travel from Havana to see her with certain frequency via La Ranchuelera, a reputable and punctual bus line.

On one of those trips, a middle age American tourist lady who lived in Chicago and was interested in Cuban affairs happened to travel on the same bus sitting next to me and we initiated a friendly conversation using our limited mutual language skills accompanied with hand and face gestures.

At a lunch stop in the port city of Matanzas, the woman insisted on inviting me to lunch and paying for it. I had rendered a friendly menu interpretation host role that she couldn’t and didn’t want to ignore. Cuba was then in the “post-Batista-nationalist” and “pre-Cuba-USA-conflict” period and the other passengers on the bus were naturally curious about our willingness to establish such a different gender and cultural contact. One of those passengers, without much prodding on our part, introduced himself and offered this unusual opinion: “I lived in the United States for a few months, but I always got the impression that they were the Joined States, not the United States.” And with those contributed words of political “wisdom,” he shut his mouth and remained silent for the rest of the trip.

At the time the comparison seemed innocent enough. Our fifty United States, the man thought, had an association of joined actions, but not united philosophies. It puzzled me for a few moments of my trip from that point on, and I forgot about its implications as soon as I reached the view of Placetas and my girlfriend, but recently, during our Fourth of July celebration, those words hit me back with their meaning. Are we really just a bunch of politically independent states that don’t place our patriotic money where our opinionated mouths are? Are we disjoined while the going is easy and unite only while we are attacked, and the going is hard?

I am not sure if our “fellow traveler” (have you heard those words before?) was using his own words or if he was quoting from some disrespectful influencer who disliked our nation. The men and women who have given their lives defending our country haven’t done it because they are Texans, Floridians, or New Englanders. They have done it because they were Americans. They came from “one Nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” And those words don’t sound to me only joined, their echo is united. And as far as my girlfriend was concerned, my trips didn’t continue much longer, and we ended our “friendship.”

And that is My Point of View Today. So Long.

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