Friday, December 19, 2014

Time to move on from Jurassic Age mindset in regard to Cuba

President Barack Obama can’t be accused of being satisfied to sit out his remaining two years in office as a “lame duck” with Republicans now in control of both houses of Congress.  Another two years of do-nothingism—which apparently is what the majority of the voters in November expected to see—is not on the menu. I find it interesting to note that the voters certainly had nothing constructive to go on by voting for Republicans, given the fact that their only “purpose” was partisan extremism to no purpose at all. 

Unfortunately for Obama, the media ignored the failures and folly of Republican obstructionism in Congress, preferring to give them a platform to fulminate illogically, propagandize with no sense of moral or ethical boundaries. It seems also that many voters blamed alleged Obama foreign policy “failures” for continuing chaos in Iraq—despite the fact that the genesis of this failed venture lay squarely with the Bush administration. 

But Obama is not to be deterred. Freed from the shackles of election-year politics, and with nothing to lose, Obama has decided to stop playing “nice” with Republicans and take a page not from the Lincoln playbook, but that of FDR and Truman. Obama, in fact, seems to be channeling Roosevelt’s famous Madison Square Garden speech of 1936, one that could still play to a receptive crowd in a country still in the midst of the Great Depression:

For twelve years this Nation was afflicted with hear-nothing, see-nothing, do-nothing Government. The Nation looked to Government but the Government looked away. Nine mocking years with the golden calf and three long years of the scourge! Nine crazy years at the ticker and three long years in the breadlines! Nine mad years of mirage and three long years of despair! Powerful influences strive today to restore that kind of government with its doctrine that that Government is best which is most indifferent.

For nearly four years you have had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up. We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace--business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. 

They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me--and I welcome their hatred.

No more Mr. Nice Guy; it is time to take off the gloves and show righteous contempt for the purveyors of six years of arrogant stupidity at the expense of the welfare of ALL of the people in this country—not just the “chosen,” privileged people.

Obama began by announcing a unilateral immigration reform policy, using his executive authority. Admittedly its substance does not go far beyond the rhetoric, but if it does serve a purpose, it is to at least widen the perception that the Republicans never had a reform “plan” and never intended to have one—only to continue to use immigration as a racial hate propaganda tool to inflame their base supporters, for whom race is the conscious and subconscious basis for their beliefs. The UK Economist recently editorialized on the hypocrisy of current U.S. immigration rhetoric, pointing out that the rate of illegal immigration is growing faster among non-Latin Americans—who are not “crossing over” from the south end. This is, after all, a country that allowed all Europeans to immigrate to this country legally without any documentation until 1924. 

America is arguably uniquely open to people who want to live here. Not just legally, but also culturally and economically. And thank goodness, in your correspondent’s opinion. But Mr. Obama’s speech is an inevitable consequence of this. If you make it easy for people who come to America to overstay their visas, find friends and get jobs, then it is inevitable that some will build lives. And then it will be impossible, both practically and morally, to deport them. Thus America will always have illegal immigrants—and nearly every president, eventually, will have to make this sort of speech. All the more reason to make it uplifting then.

And why stop with immigration policy? Obama has just announced an even bolder move: The normalization of relations with Cuba, more than fifty years after relations between the two countries where broken off. To hear anti-Castro Cuban-Americans and Republicans talk, they must represent the privileged Euro-elite of the overthrown Batista regime, where the vast majority of the population—particularly in the rural areas—were in deep poverty despite the wealth generated from the sugar market. It should also be pointed out that the black Cuban population was marginalized and denied participation in Cuban politics and public affairs—policies that were codified by the U.S. in its “remaking” of the country in its “own image” in the early 1900s.

There is some reasonable debate over whether Cuba under the Fidel Castro regime necessarily had to follow the path it did; in fact, the 1959 revolutionaries had no set “plan” of government. While the U.S. did not initially oppose the overthrow of the corrupt Batista regime, it played a “wait and see” game with no offer of assistance. To fill the vacuum, the Communist Party of Cuba stepped in to offer their own vision of governing. Cuba began nationalizing private enterprises, including those under the control of the U.S.; the U.S. retaliated with closing its embassy and a trade embargo, hatching failed assassination plots and “invasions” against the Castro regime. It was the U.S. response that led to increased popular support in Cuba for Castro and a move toward the Soviet Union; it was not until 1961 that Castro “officially” announced that he was a “communist.”

53 years later, with Pope Francis played diplomat and secretly mediated between the Obama administration and Cuba—without the knowledge of or likely use as a cynical campaign propaganda tool by Republicans—normalization of relations between the two countries seems a fait accompli in due course. Again, this would have been impossible with the “participation” of Republicans. While the terms of “normalization” amount to tentative steps—opening an embassy and issuing licenses to permit visitation to the Cuba for certain targeted groups and activities—Republicans and older Cuban-Americans are “outraged” by the “sanctioning” of “tyranny,” since other than the exchange of detainees the normalization agreement does not require a change of regime in Cuba.

House Speaker John Boehner, a craven, cowardly man who never seems to have anything intelligent or trustworthy to say, opined "Relations with the Castro regime should not be revisited, let alone normalized, until the Cuban people enjoy freedom -- and not one second sooner. There is no 'new course' here, only another in a long line of mindless concessions to a dictatorship that brutalizes its people and schemes with our enemies." Besides having a rather miserable record in “regime change”—say, in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan—the “sad” fact for these dinosaurs of another age is that everyone else has moved on from Cold War paranoia in regard to Cuba, and no one feels “sorry” for free-ride “refugees” any more just because they are no longer the top dogs enriching themselves, as they once did under the Batista regime. 

Today, just 10 percent of the population is still under the paranoid delusion that Cuba is still a “serious threat” to the country. According to a Florida International University in Miami poll, 68 percent of the Cuban-American community favored restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba under the current circumstances, including 90 percent of the younger respondents. 69 percent supported allowing unlimited travel by Americans to the island, while 71 percent thought that the trade embargo (passed by Congress) was counterproductive. 

Once more, the Right is behind the times, clearly acting in a way stubbornly, stupidly reactionary for solely partisan, destructive reasons. It is unfortunate that the majority of the people who bothered to vote in this past election share this foolish desire to obstruct and destruct. The Republicans have proved over the past six years that they cannot be trusted to be responsible or act in the country’s interest, only their own. It is time to move on, and Obama’s recent actions appear to be a constructive move in that direction.

No comments:

Post a Comment