July 09, 2017

How Big Is Cuba? And Why Does She Owe Us “A Better Deal?”

Recently I spent some time at home recovering from a minor injury and Google helped with the entertainment. Here are some things I found out and/or re-discovered.
Cuba is big. I mean BIG. Bigger than her actual size and bigger than most of us realize.
She’s bigger than her music and her food and her history and her beautiful women and her Finlay Institute and her amateur boxers and her free vaccines and her baseball players and her universal healthcare and education… and her undeniable moral superiority.
Some people think she’s ours. She’s not. Or that she can still be ours. She can’t.
Some people think we can still conquer her. We can’t. 
Some think she will allow herself to be ours again through murder and embargos and sabotage and terrorism. She won’t.
One thing that makes Cuba so big is her resiliency, and this makes her an example to developing countries all over the world.
Cuba was Spain’s last colony in the new world, and the first neocolony for the U.S.
In 1898, after a 30-year period of wars and insurrections against the Spanish Empire, the U.S. not only forced the dismantling of Cuban ideas over a hand-me-down constitution that went on to foster many corrupt Presidents… but the Spanish-supporting Cubans got to stay, and made out well during the transition between empires. They stayed in power then, and they want that power back.
A recent book by Francisco López Segrera, “The United States and Cuba, From Closest Enemies to Distant Friends” touches on the touchy history between my two countries, and provides clues about Cuba’s hidden size. It points out how the island’s “collaboration with countries of the third world have given it considerable political capital.” (pg. 33)
“Cuba has always given great importance to its relations with developing countries in a framework of international solidarity.” (pg. 35)
“Cuban doctors and health professionals are present all over the world, from South Africa to the Pacific Islands… The role of Cuban health personnel in Haiti’s earthquake and in the fight against Ebola in Africa is internationally recognized.” (pg. 36)
Segrera’s book is a fast read, but it covers all the basics. You probably already figured out that U.S. policy “made necessary a revolution as profound as Cuba’s,” and that “U.S. policy toward the Cuban revolutionary process from 1959 until the present has brought about exactly the opposite of what it sought.” (pg. 32) emphasis mine-JAS
“…that policy did not leave Cuba any alternative other than a confrontation that it never sought.” (pg.32)
Cuba is not the new kid on the block. She’s just the one that got away.
Cuba existed as Cuba long before the United States appeared.  She’s now just over half millennia young. In her time, she has divorced four empires, some of which took excessive liberties with her.
Only two of them fell in love with the “pearl of the Antilles” (the Spanish and the American empires). The others were just an affair of convenience (USSR) and a one-night-stand (British).
We can accept that the British Empire didn’t love Cuba when they held the Port of Havana so tightly for nearly 2 years in the early 1760s. They made a “deal” and traded for Florida.  
During the British occupation, Cuban merchants could trade their goods in the open market (for the first time) and the freedom that Cuban businesses encountered led to blacks and whites joining hands to form the idea for the Cuba of today.  
Still, imagine trading a “stand your ground” State for Havana. The Spanish made a “good deal.”
After the Spanish Empire got their precious island back, Cubans could only trade with the government, at terms set by the government, who would then sell the goods in the open market and pocket the profits. (It’s good to be Captain General!)
If only the Cubans could get rid of that pesky empire that cares nothing about the people that live and work and die on the island. If only… someone like Martí and Maceo and Gómez would emerge into the Cubano-sphere to inspire the population and unite the variously shaded Cubans to take one small step for man… one giant leap for mankind (thanks Neil) to create one of the most unique nations on Earth.
Cuba was always Cuba, and it was always surrounded by water… and every empire that tried to exploit and/or abuse her… called her Cuba.
Cuba always was and is an island.
The Republic of Cuba… is still Cuba.
Here’s some other stuff.
 I contacted mylifeelsewhere.com (www.mylifeelsewhere.com/country-size-comparison/united-states/cuba) and asked; how many times would Cuba fit in the United States? It seemed like a reasonable question. I should have asked; how many Cubas would you need to “umbrella” the territorial United States? That may have been more scientific…  
A lot of people don’t like the term “territorial United States.” It implies something they don’t want to hear. Maybe I shouldn’t use it.
I’m still waiting for a response, and I may have to look for other ways to figure this out.
Thinking about previous conversations with friends and family in the anti-Castro community, I wonder if Tim Berners-Lee has now, or ever, been accused of being a communist.
Did you know that Cuba, like 95% of the world, still uses the metric system? When are they gonna learn?
How big is Cuba?
Cuba is slightly smaller than the state where American pencils go on vacation when they can afford it; Pennsylvania
The United States is 89 times bigger than Cuba. The island is about 42,803 square miles (110,860 sq km), while the U.S. is approximately 9,826,675 sq km.
The island runs East to West for 760 miles (1,223 km) long and about 55 miles (89 km) wide. She looks like a lizard crawling out of the ocean for a snack. From orbit, the island looks like she’s about to be swallowed by a hungry lizard-eater.
Cuba is the largest country in the Caribbean, accounting for over half of the land mass in the West Indies.
The Royal Palm Tree, which can grow as tall as 75 feet, is Cuba’s national tree. Is it because tall trees get more rebounds? They are beautiful to look at, but not always practical for shade.
According to ifitweremyhome.com (http://www.ifitweremyhome.com/compare/US/CU) Cuba is the 77th largest country in the world!
My Life Elsewhere (http://www.mylifeelsewhere.com/country-size-comparison/united-states/cuba) also has a good comparison tool that I found amusing. You can compare countries to the U.S. or to each other.
Did you know that the United Kingdom is only 2X bigger than Cuba?
And why does Cuba owe us a better deal?
During his run for office last year, President Trump said that he (and only HE) could get us a better deal with Cuba… but why does Cuba owe us a better deal? Does his recent speech in Miami (6/16/2017) represent a better deal? Or is it just the same bad deal we’ve been pushing and Cuba has declined for 57 years?
The answer is found in an obscure and abstract memory from my 7th grade experience at Mark Twain Jr. High School (in Venice, CA): “Because we’re bigger than you and will just steal your lunch money you fucking little runt.*
*Please excuse the cursing, but it was necessary to maintain the integrity of the memory and the hostility it still represents.
Today, the best deal we could make for ourselves is to stop being the bad guys and start setting a good example by taking care of our own people. Sadly, I do not see that happening.


Just don’t misspell her name, she’s the one that got away.” Tom Waits

January 18, 2017

Goodbye Fidel, Hello Donald

Did you ever think he would die? Did you think he would turn 90?
Can you grasp what it means that the most sought-after assassination target of modern times (barring Osama Bin Ladden) died peacefully in his bed after a world-wide celebration of his 90th birthday?
Now that he’s dead, is he not immortal? Is he not more dangerous as a myth? Is he not now and forever the man the empire couldn’t kill? But wouldn’t it be worse if we had killed him?
And, more directly, is there a connection between the many harsh lies told to excuse our actions against Cuba and the rhetoric and lack of facts in Trump’s presidential campaign and post-election rhetoric?
As an immigrant, I’ve never hated Castro as much as my indoctrination demanded. Though I’ve never exactly liked him, as I tend to dislike overt, type-A personalities and authoritarian types… especially in uniform. But I still believe that Cuba’s leader should be up to the Cubans in Cuba, not the ones that left.  Just like I’m certain that our Presidential race should be up to Americans, not Russian President Putin.
The constant barrage of antagonism in describing Castro (tyrant, despot, killer, brutal dictator, etc.) resembles Trump’s “crooked” Hillary and “little” Marco and “low energy” Jeb and “crazy” Bernie and “goofy” Elizabeth and “dishonest” media… they speak to the same audience.  
Why push the truth to such extremes? Why embrace such outlandish exaggerations? Are they convinced that “the truth” would not help their case? Boogyfying Castro only served to hide the true suffering caused by the Cuban Revolution, as the separation of families was ignored altogether. Cuban families like mine paid the highest price.
The anti-Castro rhetoric never looked at the whole picture, faithful only to the points conceived by the CIA prior to the JFK assassination.
What about the improved education and healthcare? What about the many Cuban doctors all over the world? And the free vaccines to third world countries?
What about the fact of Cuba helping defeat Apartheid in South Africa and supporting Mandela? (Remember, we were pro-Apartheid.)
Can we honestly blame the failures of the Cuban system on Castro while ignoring our constant efforts to sabotage and unbalance the island?  Can we also pretend Cuban successes do not exist? That’s exactly what we’ve Trump-ishly done for decades.  
We can choose to ignore the truth and replace it with lies and exaggerations, but we’re the only ones fooled… like members of a cult that can only speak with each other and everything said to outsiders is hype.
The world turned out to celebrate Castro’s 90th birthday with exhibitions and concerts and lectures and books… and they turned out to mourn his death.  Now they’re visiting his grave in record numbers.
We may not have noticed all this, as our media has been busy with Trump almost exclusively, and later with the Miami death parties.  
And then there are our methods of opposing Castro. He must be the devil and nothing less, otherwise our actions can be recognized as over-the-top.
The fact that in opposing Castro we’ve embraced and forgiven acts of terrorism by men like Orlando Bosch, Luis Posada Carriles and others, only brings up the fact that Cuba’s leaders should be up to Cubans in Cuba.  The argument over “human rights” was never an issue under Batista, a truly brutal dictator whose police executed people on the streets.  Am I to believe that those that let George Zimmerman walk away from a murder charge in Florida care about human rights in Cuba?
More recently, in South Carolina, a white policeman that shot an unarmed black man (Walter Scott) in the back as he ran away, said in court that he feared for his life. Despite a phone video that clearly shows this as murder, the case ended in mistrial. Scott had been pulled over for a broken tail light.
Can our continuing war against black skin, now chronicled by phone videos and “not-guilty” verdicts, compare to anything going on in Cuba?
Think about how distasteful it is to recognize Russia’s interference in support of Presidential candidate Trump… by what right do they make that choice for us?  That’s how distasteful it is for us to try to control Cuba.  
Had we “accepted” Castro without the harsh anti-movement, maybe there would have been less suffering in Cuba, which should have been our goal all along.
Our hardliners, it would seem, have made their hardliners relevant.
Will anti-Castro hardliners join hands with alt-right activists? The dust that may remain from Martí’s bones rattles with disgust at the mere possibility.
It seems obvious that the anti-Castro movement helped bring out the Trump factor in American politics with over 50 years of heavy-handed lying.
 So be it.
Now that our great country is to be run with the same ideology and lack of truthfulness, my heart goes out to young Americans.
May the force be with us all.