Politics

OMG! Obama Shook Raul Castro's Hand! Assume Outrage!

Maybe some actions don't actually speak louder than words

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OMG, they touched! I hope Obama got his cootie shot first.
SABC

That President Barack Obama shook Cuban President Raul Castro's hand at Nelson Mandela's funeral is currently considered a "top story" by Google. Actual physical contact between U.S. and Cuban leaders is a rare thing, The Telegraph notes:

The handshake between the two historic enemies came as they attended a ceremony in Johannesburg to celebrate the late South African leader's ability to foster reconciliation.

The gesture - which comes despite half a century of hostilities - came as Mr Obama made his way to a podium to deliver a speech. It is only the second time ever that a US president has shaken the hands of a Cuban Communist leader. President Bill Clinton was the first to do so in 2000 after a lunch during a United Nations summit in New York, when he shook hands with Mr Castro's brother, Fidel.

On that occasion, the White House initially denied the handshake had taken place but later backtracked, saying it had been instigated by Mr Castro, who had approached Mr Clinton. Unlike the latest occasion, however, the exchange was not photographed.

Under diplomatic protocols established years ago, Cuba's president and Washington's representatives are rarely invited to the same events. If they do, the meeting is choreographed so that they are not likely to meet face to face.

Subsequently Twitter seemed to turn weird in a way I hadn't experienced before. There's an assumption now that folks on the right reacted to this incident with faux outrage. I follow folks across the political spectrum and I've seen tweets eye-rolling at possible conservative objections to the handshake from tweeters on the left. Oddly, though, I'm not seeing the actual faux outrage from the right. Time quickly tried to steal from BuzzFeed's playbook and posted a list of people "freaking out" about the handshake on Twitter. But many of the responses are actually just sarcastic jokes or assumptions about the right's outrage. Maybe that's the point, and it flew over my head, too. It is an interesting comment about our use of social media that we've come to expect so much pearl-clutching at everything politicians or celebrities do that we now just automatically assume it. (BuzzFeed itself simply posted a couple of pictures and an animated GIF of the handshake. Meanwhile, Fox News' reporting on the handshake seems to lack much outrage.)

After the handshake, Obama's speech at the funeral criticized oppressive governments:

"Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs; and are still persecuted for persecuted for what they look like, and how they worship and who they love," the president said.

"There are too many people who happily embrace Madiba's legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality," Obama added. "There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba's struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people."

More Reason on Cuba here and a recent argument to end the U.S. embargo against Cuba is here.

UPDATE: And right after I posted this, social media actually does start up the outrage machine over the president shooting a selfie at the funeral memorial.