Today is Glenn Frey’s birthday, so this week’s Free Ride honors this founding member of the Eagles, and the great song he co-wrote with Don Henley, Desperado. I’m still not sure after all these years of listening to the song what it means to be out riding fences, and I don’t know enough about cards to understand why the Queen of Hearts is a better bet than the Queen of Diamonds. But I am starting to get what it means to hear you aint’ getting no younger, and your pain and your hunger, they’re driving you home. And I understand more and more that Freedom, oh Freedom, that’s just some people talking.
It seems to me that we live in a country where people talk non-stop about Freedom, worrying about this or that public figure who’s gonna take away some God-given Freedom. This public discourse feels a lot different to me after being in Cuba for a month. Actually, every one of my nine visits there has left me pondering anew what we really mean when we sing about the land of the free. Every group I’ve taken to Cuba has come away with a very similar set of reflections, summed up in this question – how is it that they live without the kinds of political and social liberties that we enjoy, and yet they seem so much freer than we do? A couple of visits ago, I sat in the living room of Orestes, a 30-something pastor and seminary professor, who was excited to show me a particular video. He had me sit down in front of the tv, put the DVD in, and lo and behold, it was the Eagles in concert! He knew all the words to the songs (even though he had no idea what it meant to see a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac). Orestes is indeed a free man, and his wife Wanda is indeed a free woman; they are free spirits in a land without any bill of rights guaranteeing them any liberties.
I remember us sitting there singing Desperado together. Oh Freedom, that’s just some people talking. Your prison is walking through this world all alone. My friend Mark Siler is with his wife and two girls in Cuba now, for a nine-month stay that has him living and working in the seminary where Orestes teaches. The seminary is in the city of Matanzas, which has for it’s city square the Parque de la Libertad, the Freedom Park, with a large statue of the country’s Jefferson-like hero, José Martí, rising above another statue of a nameless and topless lady liberty raising her arms with chains broken. It’s a bit ironic to me that this is the setting for my friend Mark’s work; he is training church folks to go into the prisons and minister to the prisoners. The restrictions on prison visits is pretty harsh there, so for many Cubans behind bars, they really are walking through the world all alone for most of their days. They haven’t yet broken those chains. But maybe, through Mark’s ministry and through the ministry of the Cuban folks he’s working with, the desperados of Cuba’s prisons will be able to let somebody love them, before it’s too late.
As always, your feedback and comments are welcome.