Breaking News

Posted on September 10, 2021


If there ever was an overused phrase in today’s media, it is “breaking news.” I’m not a journalist, but my sense is that it is supposed to endow anything coming over the telly or social media with an immediacy that is breathtaking. It is transmitted by the newsgirl, who catches the guys’ attention with a stunning figure and the looks of a model, delivering the latest gaffe or brilliant analysis made by the President as he hurries to board a Marine helicopter to his next important (all presidential meetings are important) meeting. Twenty-four hour news channels of all types have to deliver breaking news often to keep the listeners and viewers at the very least sentient.

That’s my George Will word for the day. I like to read George, but it sometimes takes me four or five times to probe through to what he wants to say. Sentient, BTW, according to my old standby, Merriam-Webster’s is “ability to perceive or feel things.” By the end of watching a long news cycle, I am usually losing my sentience and slipping into ennui, feeling little about what is coming through the tube, regardless of the blonde’s long bare legs.

Haven’t I heard all this before? How many ways can we dissect the Communist party’s dictatorship in Cuba, the collapse of government in Haiti, the inability of the surface Navy to compete with the new naval bogeymen—China– in the far Pacific? Should we, or should we not, wear masks?

Or, what about something else [hardly] new, like the critical race theory and the 1619 Project? Or, the parents at the meeting of the local schoolboard of Someplace, USA demanding teachers and their unions stop teaching their children that they are either dominating racists or victimized people of color?

And while we are on white racists and victimized people of color, how about this whopper? One of those victims of systemic white racism, our Vice-President, rose out of racist, destitute circumstances. Never mind that Kamala Harris’s mother was an Indian endocrinologist (Ph.D.) and her father a Jamaican-born Professor of Economics at Stanford University. Not bad credentials, racial or otherwise, for one who claims to represent victimized Black Americans.

Well, returning to breaking news, I find myself drawn to Cuba, Haiti, and the Navy, in no particular order. I was both in the Navy and worked in Cuba, and visited Haiti once in 1965, while in the Navy actually, when under the regime of Papa Doc Duvalier, a notorious dictator who ruled the island through fear and intimidation.

I still can hear the drumbeats of the VooDoo-driven TonTon Macoute drifting down from the dark mountains as we approached the island in the fall of 1965 at night, standing offshore until morning to enter the port of the capital city of Port au Prince. We brought “People to People” supplies in, the predecessors of AID programs, and were the first U. S. Navy ship to visit the island in years because of the embargo in place against the dictatorship of Duvalier.

I had grown up in Latin America and thought I had seen some poverty in countries like Peru but wasn’t ready for the slums surrounding our ship as we docked. People living cheek by jowl with chickens and animals in wooden sheds that passed for houses, smoke curling up from cooking fires.

This was the only port we visited in two years of cruising in the Caribbean and Mediterranean where officers had to wear uniforms when going ashore on “shore leave.” Liberty was for enlisted men. Have to observe the etiquette here. I felt like a time traveler, or from another planet.

“The whole of Haiti,” I recalled in my diary, “is poverty stricken beyond belief. We brought some people to people stuff in but the dent it made was nil at best.”

Even as a relatively callow young American, I was dumbstruck. “From our clean decks and spotless living quarters, through binoculars, we could see the men and women and children wander out of their thatched huts and hovels to urinate and defecate with their animals in the porches, whatever the squalid open places around their shelters can be called.”

We only spent one night in Port au Prince and stood out to sea the next day to return to our homeport of Little Creek, Virginia after having spent three weeks in Guatanamo Bay, Cuba in refresher training before Haiti.

A few weeks ago the President of Haiti was assassinated, bringing Haiti back into the breaking news for a day or two, and then slipping back into obscurity. I returned to Cuba about 1999 while doing research for a book I was writing on a sixteenth century Spanish Dominican friar, Bartolomé de las Casas. The Cuban historians and others I met were friendly, especially since I speak Spanish like a native, having grown up in Lima, Peru with my American father and Chilean mother. Another whole story. I met some anti-Castro Cubans who later emigrated to the U. S. and became lifelong friends. One still lives in Miami area and the other passed away.

And recently two younger Cubans escaped the island, via an eight country trek across South America and through Central America and into the U. S. through Texas two years ago. Both Yadira and Yohandris were taken by ISIS. Yohandris was jailed pending a long investigation, but Yadira, eight months pregnant, was allowed to come to Tuscaloosa where she had a relative. She had her baby and was taken care of by the     Home of the Victorious Life Church in Fosters where they both, with their American two year old Enzo, still live.

The “breaking news” of the day sometimes awakens memories, some very fond, some ugly, a lot reminding me of my own “breaking news” over the years as I wandered around the world with the Good Lord always watching my steps and working to keep me out of trouble!

You all have a “news channel” in your memory bank. Nice to tap in to sometimes and sit back with a cold one, or a cup of coffee, and remember. If you have a buddy, a grandchild, or younger children listening, all the better. Then you can focus on those parts that you can share with children and grandchildren!

Posted in: breaking news