More and more often, we Cubans choose to define ourselves by that substantive that for so long has carried a pejorative sense: citizen.
Already in 1973, in Manuel Pérez’s film El hombre de Maisinicú, we hear Sergio Corrieri, offended, respond to a law enforcement officer, “Not citizen, rather comrade,” because the term is taken as an insult by all those who refused to accept the distance implied. In a country where, “Everyone is willing to die for the same cause,” in a nation where, “We are all one in this hour of danger,” the authority calls the alleged criminal “citizen” while the one who helps to capture him is called “comrade.” But it’s a very different thing to distance oneself from power—when the police call the person they are summoning “citizen”—and another to do it from citizenship if a person calls himself by this title to reclaim his rights. Among brothers, among comrades, among the partners in an indivisible couple, it’s almost bad taste to talk of rights. Only by being conscious of the separation can one demand them without feeling guilty.
Amid the perennial provisional state in which we have always lived, there has been a call at “this historic moment in which our country is living” urging a momentary forgetting of rights to pay more attention to the fulfillment of duties. This incitement only works between comrades sworn to a cause, between leaders and led, but it is, at the very least, inappropriate between rulers and citizens. Especially if the rulers are obliged to account for their management and the citizens have the power to change their rulers if they do not comply.
Obviously an enormous difference exists between declaring oneself a citizen and exposing oneself as opposition. But for the fundamentalists—with their narrow conception—this distancing, this separation of “us” in which we are conscious of our citizen identity, in order to demand something from that power whom we place in the third person, is, after all, an act of treason.