from The Huffington Post
The disadvantages of being a writer, who is often written about, are numerous. I begin with an enthusiastic call to my 81-year old mother, hoping to share my enthusiasm from an assignment abroad. "Hey ma..." "I know," she says, "You're on Jupiter, it's all over the Internet. They say you're cavorting with the planet's president! They say he's anti-earth! And Sean, why is your hair so big in the pictures?" I muse, "Lack of gravity?" "That's what Hannity said!!" she tells me. It seems that American movies are pretty popular in far away places, and one must dance a bit to avoid being more a spun story, than the true story one intends to tell. However, there are also grand upsides.
I have been in the public eye to varying degrees, for most of my 48 years, and had many occasions to sit in the front row of popular and political culture. I can speak in firsthand, to bearing witness to an often untruthful, reckless and demonizing media. Yes, in many cases, the smoke would prove an accurate expectation of fire. But, the fact is, that our most respected, call that mainstream media, in print and on television are, in part, conscious manufacturers of deception. In one case, I have photographic evidence. It was widely reported that I had commissioned my own photographer to self-promote my involvement among many other volunteers in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina. This simply did not happen. Though the notion of self-promotion had not occurred to me, I did later regret that I had not gotten some snaps of the devastation I saw. I will probably bring someone along to document the next fuck-up of media or government. Meanwhile, I challenge anyone to hunt up the few pictures that were taken by the random photojournalists who'd stumbled upon me, and find a single one that would've passed the test of my own narcissistic scrutiny. But a benefit greater than the insight offered by this front row seat, is finding that having a public persona, inclusive of a perceived open mind to the qualities of countries outside one's own, may grant breathtaking access.
Who'd a thunk? There I was with the biggest hair on the planet. Oh yeah. Big, big hair. It does that in the tropics. It gets big. And I mean American big, baby. And there I was with my big, American hair, finding faith in American democracy in the unlikeliest of places. Sitting in the Salon de Protocol at the Convention Palace in Havana's Miramar district, all I had to do was tell the five-foot-six bespectacled man who sat in the chair across from me in his khaki dress militaries, that these words would not be published until after the American election. And with that, granting his first ever interview to a foreign journalist since the beginning of the 1957 Cuban revolution, President Raul Castro smiled warmly and simply said, "We want Obama." His initial reluctance was due to a concern that an endorsement by a Cuban president might be detrimental to the Obama candidacy. And this is where the faith came in: Though Obama would be the 11th American president in the long history of the Castro brother's reign, and despite tumultuous U.S. Cuban relations since what Henry Cabot Lodge called, "the large policy," as justification for American violations of the Teller amendment in the late 1800s. Despite multiple assassination attempts by the CIA on his older brother Fidel, the destabilization tactics of Robert F. Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs, The Platt Amendment with the taking of Guantanamo Bay, and even despite an endless and unjustified embargo (in effect: blockade) on Cuba by the United States, here we were in 2008, and Raul Castro said flat out that if the American people, who today stand with candidate Barack Obama, continue to stand with President Barack Obama, then "meaningful and productive advances could be achieved in Cuba and the world."
In my anticipation of a brief interview, I pulled from my pocket the dwindling remains of my small note pad. Again, Castro smiled, and slid a fresh, full pad across the small polished table to me. We would spend the next seven hours together.
Part Two here