Is Cuba such a bad place?
I spent my boyhood worrying about communists and the nuclear attack we were sure was coming. We faithfully fought this evil menace by crawling under our elementary school desks in one civil defense alert after another. Why? Because the then leader of the Soviet Union had threatened to “bury" me in his shoe pounding rant at the U.N. Why me? I was just a ten year old boy far more interested in playing doctor with the neighbor girl than fighting communism.
To a kid, communism was just an abstract concept stuck down the throats of the impoverished, war-torn peoples of Europe and Asia. That was until it popped up ninety miles from our southeastern shore, in Cuba of all places. We fought to free Cuba from their Spanish colonial chains and this is the thanks we get. That bad guy that had threatened to bury us was now close enough to give it a go. After JFK pressured the Soviets to get their missiles out of Cuba we immediately led a boycott of all U.S. goods into Cuba as our big retaliatory move. Take that, you pinko bastards, you’ll get no Twinkies or Froot Loops from us.
The western hemisphere’s little experiment with communism just celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. It’s time to take stock of what been going on in Cuba, especially since Fidel Castro is about to take his silla in the big cantina the sky.
Every other country and island republic in the Caribbean enjoys tourism as their number one industry. Not Cuba. The Russians used to tan their big ugly buns on Cuba’s beaches back in the old U.S.S.R. days, but not anymore. Cuba has had to feed itself on its tobacco and sugar cane crops along with a few manufactured products, mainly sugar, rum and, the world’s finest cigars. Needless to say, Cuba is one of the poorer countries in this hemisphere. Poor maybe, but look at how Cuba, or maybe it was Fidel alone, chose to focus their energies and their priorities.
The first thing that jumps out at you in Cuba is that there are no homeless people in this very, very poor country. That’s zero homelessness. Zero! For some strange reason Cuba decided that a right to home was one of the inalienable rights of its citizens, regardless of their position in life, mental capabilities, age, or whatever. Not a bad idea, especially since we have so many homeless people that we can’t even count them all.
The estimates of the U.S. homeless range from 600 thousand to 2.5 million people. One report estimates that 760,000 folks are homeless every night in the U.S. The causes of our homelessness are well known: poverty, substance abuse, mental illness, domestic violence and natural disasters. How can we not provide for these people, the mentally ill, the abused, the sick? How come a poor country like Cuba can lick this problem and we can’t even get it on the agenda?
Another interesting aspect of Cuba’s culture is that they have cured illiteracy. That’s right; their literacy rate is 100%. Everybody, and I mean everybody, can read in Cuba. Wow! They’ve solved a problem we’re probably too illiterate to even understand. Did you know that 46% of adults in the U.S. can’t read the labels on their prescription medicines, and that 85% of juveniles coming before our court system are functionally illiterate. And, three out of four people on welfare are illiterate as are 85% of our unwed mothers. Three out of five inmates in our nation’s prisons are illiterate. And, on and on. Why don’t we do something about this, the pay back would be enormous? Cuba has.
All education at all levels is free in Cuba, from kindergarten through as many college degrees as you’d like to pursue. Have you checked the tuition fees at your state university lately, let alone private colleges. My grandson was recently accepted at Stanford for $55,000 a year for tuition, room, and board. Colleges are once again unaffordable for the average U.S. high school graduate. That’s OK, Cuba’s universities may be free but can they fill their seats with foreign students from oil rich, mid-eastern countries like our schools can?
Lastly, all healthcare in Cuba is free to everyone. Remember in Michel Moore’s movie how he took a group of disabled 9/11 site workers, all who were denied care by their U.S. insurance carriers, to Havana for treatment. Not only is Cuba’s healthcare free; they have the best patient to doctor ratio along with the highest number of locally accessible clinics in the world.
We’ve all heard about the 43 million uninsured people in the U.S. Wow, that’s a bit over 15% of our citizens. Our government helps very few: veterans with service related injuries, the out-and-out poor, and part of the healthcare expenses of those over 65 years of age. The rest of you, good luck.
Unpaid medical expense is the number one cause of bankruptcy in the U.S. Our uninsured are just one virus, one tumor, or one lump away from skid row or death. Develop some life-threatening but treatable disease in the U.S. you might as well just die. Any healthcare you might receive, regardless of the quality or effectiveness, will lead you to bankruptcy and homelessness. Or, maybe you could move to Cuba?
How come this dinky, poor little country has dealt with all of these really important issues while we, in the richest country in the world, would rather wage wars in distant lands, fly missions to the moon, and give enormous amounts of money to failing businesses than deal with these, the most basic of human rights.
This just isn’t right. Who sets our priorities and why do we put up them?
©2009 by Bob Rockwell