Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What Do Mahmoud Abbas, Raúl Castro and Mark Twain Have in Common?

The brief answer is absolutely nothing, except somewhere in the twisted neurons of my brain, and there, if you look closely, a slender thread connects the three. In my quest for news of Raul Castro and his just-ended trip to Vietnam, China and Russia (with new cases of cholera in Cuba an everyday occurrence, he could not have picked a safer time to absent himself from island of the palms) I came across a story that appeared in the Monday edition of the Miami Herald, under the headline “Palestinian president urged Raúl Castro to free Alan Gross” (

Why on earth would Mahmoud Abbas involve himself in the fate of a Jewish subcontractor who works for the US Department of State and who is rotting in a Cuban jail? In previous posts, I have written about Gross’s circumstances, but never considered that the Palestinian Authority might want to free him.  The explanation provided by the Miami Herald is that the Palestinian request came from an attempt to accommodate a U.S. Congressman holding the purse strings on a $147 million grant to the Palestinian Authority. This odd development led me to a search for the origin of the phrase, “politics make strange bedfellows.” Certainly, stranger bedfellows never existed.

According to Wikipedia, the phrase was coined by Charles Dudley Warner, a 19th century American essayist, a resident of San Francisco.  As a resident of northern California, my ears perk up, whenever I come across a literary tidbit that is associated with these parts of the world.

Warner was so popular in San Francisco that three different streets were named after him—Charles, Dudley, and Warner Streets. Another of his phrases, “everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it” has been misattributed to Mark Twain. Without the news of Abbas’s attempt (Raúl will not budge on his demand that five Cubans held in the United States be released), I would still be thinking that Mark Twain was responsible for the observation of the ironic human preoccupation with the weather.

Thank you Mr. Abbas.

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