From England to Cuba

Letters, telegraphs, telephone calls, the parchment takes various forms, but connections to those at home, when in wartime provide a comfort to those who are far from the lands they call home, the things familiar and meaningful, and the loved ones there.

In Vera Brittain’s era, early-mid 20th century, handwritten letters were the primary source of communication between those at home and their sons, boyfriends, husbands, and friends who seemed a world away.  Scenes of war became vivid when correspondence was maintained between domestic parties in England and soldier immersed in the war.  In the case of our heroin, Vera, the reader witnesses the demise of her innocence and naive idealism as she maintains her role as devoted girlfriend of Roland.  They exchange letters often, and although Roland never vocalizes how vital he considers her letters, it can only be imagined what it would be like to be in a foreign land without a connection or communicative abilities to those we know best.  Having Vera has his confidant allows him to speak freely of his thoughts, and deepest woes — undoubtedly miseries that are difficult to live with.  Vera is not void of Roland’s reality and this is evident; fore he writes:

” . . . no longer a dream but a reality, and found in My lady of The Letters a flesh-and-blood Princess. . . . I am feeling very weary and very, very triste — rather like (as I said of Lyndall) ‘a child whom a long day’s play has saddened.’ . . . There is sunshine on the trees in the garden and a bird is singing behind the hedge. I feel as if someone has uprooted my heart to see how it was growing.” (pg.193)

In addition to receiving Roland’s letters, Vera pens thoughts to him, too, of her daily activities, her thoughts, and at times poetry she feels appropriate.  Her, and her letters serve as his the connection to the thing that he wants to come home to.  Her letters are normalcy.  Her letters never stopped being sent, until the very end.

Flash-forward to modern day Cuba.  Remember when former President Bush rounded up so-called enemy combatants . . .  or were they prisoner’s of war? Don’t worry, just logistics, heh.  Geneva Convention, what?  Anyway, these men have been detained in Cuba since 2002.  That is over half a decade away from their homelands and families.  The ICRC (mentioned in the previous post) has inaugurated an initiative allowing detainees to make video-calls home, to immediate family and relatives.  The calls, employing video capabilities, allow the two parties to not only talk, but see one another for the one-hour duration of the call. “Although nothing can replace the face-to-face contact of personal visits, this video link offers detainees and their families a new way of communicating with each other,” said Jens-Martin Mehler, the ICRC delegate in charge of visits to Guantanamo. “Wherever the ICRC visits detainees, it seeks to ensure that they have the possibility of maintaining contact with their families (ICRC, 2009).  The ICRC hopes to eventually launch more branches of this humanitarian initiative to connect 30 different locations in 20 various countries.  Be on the lookout!

Detainees, enemy combatants — whatever the political term — these people are now enjoying a link back to their homelands, a place they hope to one day view again, and not just on a video monitor.  Most recently President Obama has put a one-year closing date for the center.  Until then, the detainees are in limbo.  Crossed fingers that video conferencing will soon end, and face-to-face contact can resume.

18 September 2009
Full Article


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