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A Marine Reads the Poem “Politics,” by William Butler Yeats

May 1, 2000 at 12:00 AM EST


STEPHEN CONTEAGUERO, U.S. Marine Corps: I’m Steve Conteaguero. I’m 28 years old. I was born and raised here in Miami, Florida, but I work and live in Buford, South Carolina. I’m a United States Marine. I’m an aviation logistics officer. My wife, Lourdes, is a pretty successful mortgage broker down here in Miami. We live in a sort of weekend relationship. My superiors, I believe, are pretty accommodating about letting me come down here. They respect the fact that she has a career, and I respect that, too. And so I come down, and we have fun. We love to go out. We go dancing. We’ll go out and have drinks somewhere. We go out to all the hot spots here in Miami. We were high school sweethearts.

We graduated, and I joined the Marines right out of high school. And then once I reported to my first duty station, which was Hawaii, we deployed to the Persian Gulf. And so I went to the Gulf War, and that gives you sort of a sense of urgency, you know, when you’re in that type of situation. And so while we were out there, we decided that we would be married when I got back. You know, so it’s been eight years now. But it’s like it was yesterday, you know?

I went to the cemetery today so that we could pay our respects for the seven persons who died on November 26 of /99, while trying to make that arduous journey across the Straits of Florida through the Keys, to try to find freedom. And so the funeral, while it’s a very sad moment, becomes a political statement, also. And so that ties in, you know, to my involvement and my family’s involvement in exile politics. My father was a journalist in Cuba, and the thing is, he was a revolutionary. But then, after Castro came to power, little by little there was a suspicion that he was entertaining joining the Communist Party and turning the government over to the Communists and to Soviet Russia. And when my father found out, he denounced him on radio, on national radio, at the time. And that was pretty much the last thing he did. After that, he left the country, and he came to exile here. So throughout my childhood, I spent the time going to rallies with my father, and going to different events. He always maintained that place as a voice for the exile community, an anti-Communist voice, and that’s where I got that feeling.

Yeats was a guy who wasn’t interested in the political scene in his home country of Ireland early on, kind of like me. And then eventually, he actually fell in love with a woman who was a revolutionary, and that’s how he got involved. And so after that, he became a staunch revolutionary. And yet when he wrote that poem, “Politics,” it was his final opinion on the whole matter of the comparison of politics versus love. And a person like William Butler Yeats chose love, and so I respect that very much. And I kind of like that, because he considers that his parting shot. And I think I’m not that old, but the fact that I joined the service, and the fact that I had that experience, that connection with my father, but the fact that I’m also very much in love, I can see where he’s right, where that love is more important. It’s the most important thing. So that’s how I connected to Yeats. And I think that’s going to be my parting shot, too.

Politics by William Butler Yeats

HOW can I, that girl standing there, My attention fix On Roman or on Russian
Or on Spanish politics? Yet here’s a travelled man that knows
What he talks about, And there’s a politician That has read and thought,
And maybe what they say is true Of war and war’s alarms,
But O that I were young again And held her in my arms!