Viva Cuba! Viva Democracy! Finally

WFL_015In updating our long-standing policy of aggression with our next door neighbor Cuba, President Obama is doing something historic and significant. Cuba will now finally be open for US citizens to visit for any number of reasons, including religious, familial, and business purposes. However, I think we should question our assumptions in the fifty year Cuban embargo and in easing it.

In the second paragraph of the statement we find, “It is clear that decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba.” We should ask where else has the United States promoted the “emergence of a democratic, prosperous, and stable” nation?

Throughout the Americas via the School of the Americas? In the 1954 CIA-led coup in Guatemala, which led to decades of a dictatorship? The US-assisted Junta in Argentina? When we killed more than 2,000 civilians while invading Panama under Bush I? Pinochet’s CIA-assisted coup de’tat over a democratically-elected president in Chile (1973)? The US support of the Contras in Nicaragua through the 1980’s? The US and French ousting of Haiti’s elected President Aristide (2004) after two hundred years of financially-devastating debts to the first free black country in the Western Hemisphere? Or the numerous assassination attempts on Fidel Castro?

These are sins we’ve not atoned for. And yet we want to model “democracy.”

Where else were we supposed to export our democracy? Iran? I’m sure those under the Islamic Revolution thank us for supporting the Shah. Iraq? That’s why we went in there, remember? Weapons of Mass Destruction and  the War on Terror were pretexts for an oil war, we know. But so was this idea – the most official one – that we were going to liberate Iraqis from Hussein and hand them our model of democracy. It’s supposed to be the one thing we did right in Iraq, which is pretty shitty seeing as our model of democracy means death and disruption. There’s certainly nothing stable there. What about Afghanistan? Yes, thanks for that, America. No wonder we are soooo loved throughout the Arabic worlds.

But really, who is going to rescue us, USAmericans? Who is going to give us the stability and democracy we long for? For if our government is mostly represented by the Tea Party, we’re obviously doomed. This is a horrible version of a democracy. If most US citizens believe that torture is a fine system, then we are doomed and probably shouldn’t be solvent as a sovereign nation. Tortured Jesus, take the wheel!

Who will stabilize us if even after the Affordable Care Act, neither I nor most of my friends can afford insurance or a regular visit to the doctors? How are we stable? Oh yeah, for the bottom 20%, we aren’t. For Millenials, we are becoming less-and-less so. For Black citizens being shot on the street and run from stores on suspicion of guilt (ie, Blackness), where is stability or prosperity? Where is the democracy we’ve all been promised?

It seems obvious that whatever the US’s objectives were towards Cuba, we certainly were not promoting stability or prosperity. Whoever heard of starving someone into prosperity? We don’t believe in punishing children to get them to do the right things – because it doesn’t work. It also doesn’t work for international relations.

Oh, and then there’s the fact that the embargo has not been lifted – though there are talks to begin to do so.

This is not to poo poo all over a rather tremendous step forward for the US and Cuban people. It may finally be the final nail in official Cold War policies in the US – though we can hope that the American people would personally and socially stop being so  It is to say that we should continually hold our own country to a higher standard – particularly if we feel it is our obligation to preach to other countries. And we should continually check our motives, if it’s not to make Cuba yet another footstool for American corporations in the Western Hemisphere.


When he’s not riding both his city’s public transit system and evil mayor, Jasdye teaches at a community college and writes about the intersection of equality and faith - with an occasional focus on Chicago - at the Left Cheek blog and on the Left Cheek: the Blog Facebook page. Check out more from Jasdye in his archives as well!


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