To Cry for Cuba

In his book entitled I Was Cuba: Treasures from the Ramiro Fernandez Collection, author Kevin Kwan writes  that "oppression becomes intolerable for the poet because the absolute expression of freedom is in the imagination.  The poet who does not know freedom, imagines it...and transforms his vision into a palpable reality or perishes." 

It is thus that author and blogger Yoani Sanchez writes her blog at desdecuba.com/generationy as a testimony to those who still seek freedom in Castro-dominated Cuba.  The site is monitored closely by the government and is inaccessible to Cubans living on the island.

Contrary to the naive Congressional Black Caucus's praise for Cuba during their 2009 trip, the Generation Y blog is a chilling reminder of what life is truly like there.  Posted on May 10, 2013 is a piece entitled "From the Jewish Museum to the Stasi Museum," wherein Sanchez reminds the reader that she comes:

... from the perspective of a Cuban who was detained in the same place, where a window looking outward becomes an unattainable dream. One cell was lined with rubber, the scratch marks of the prisoners can still be seen on its walls. But more sinister seeming to me are the offices where they ripped - or fabricated - a confession from the detainees. I know them, I've seen them. They are a copy of their counterpart in Cuba, copied to a T by the diligent students from the Island's Ministry of the Interior who were taught by GDR State Security..

After this I again need air, to get out from within those walls. I turn away from that place with the conviction that what, for them, is a museum of the past, is what we are still living in the present. A 'now' that we cannot allow to prolong itself into tomorrow.

Do the recent revelations of IRS intrusions, the PRISM program, government tracking vehicles, and the most recent Federal Data Services Hub presage the beginning of a new "now" for America?

It was just a few weeks ago that President Obama stated to the Ohio State graduating class that they should reject the voices they grew up with who had warned them of government tyranny.  He said:

Unfortunately, you've grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that's at the root of all our problems[.] ... You should reject these voices.

Tell that to the Cubans, the Russians, the Bulgarians, and the East Germans, who know only too well the ability of a few to control the many.  Tell that to 24-year-old Cuban baseball player Misael Siverio, who defected to the United States on July 16, 2013.

Tell it to those patriotic organizations that Nat Hentoff describes in "Beyond Orwell: What are the bounds of Obama's spying?"  In their open letter to all members of Congress, these 86 angry patriotic organizations resounded:

This type of blanket data collection by the government strikes at bedrock American values of freedom and privacy. This dragnet surveillance violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, which protect citizens' right to speak and associate anonymously and guard against unreasonable searches and seizures.

In fact, "a recent CNN poll found that 62% of Americans say 'government is so large and powerful that it threatens the rights and freedoms of ordinary Americans.'"

In the Generation Y blog entry entitled "Prohibitions," the post remarks how:

... [t]he principal contrast lies in what is and is not permitted [.] So for me, the big differences are not the delicious seeded bread, the long-lost beef that now returns to my plate, or the sounds of another language in my ears. No. The big difference is that I don't feel I'm permanently marked with the red badge of the outlaw, the whistle that surprises me in something clandestine, the constant sensation that whatever I do or think could be prohibited.

As Americans incrementally lose freedoms, will the populace, in the not too distant future, have to be clandestine in their actions?  Freedom of speech is already under attack in this country.    

In her 2009 book Havana Real, originally published in Italian as Cuba Libere: Vivere E Scrivere All'avana, Sanchez writes that the "previous scarcity [of goods] hadn't been born of an incapacity to produce, but rather from ironclad State controls on private ingenuity."

But, sadly, Cubans "had to say good-bye to this boom in creativity and ingenuity, the moment the 'higher-ups' came to understand that economic freedom would imply, inevitably, political autonomy" (35).  Thus, "swamped with high taxes, controls, and a growing list of prohibitions[,]" those in power effectively shut down private business enterprise.

What of the assault on business here in America?  Regulations of all kinds are choking American companies, hurting employer and employee alike.

Sanchez writes of "Incubating Mediocrity," where "academic ability will not be the determining factor when it comes time for students to pursue higher education."  Instead, "participation in demonstrations and political/patriotic activities" will be a key parameter to determine which students excel.  Is it merely a coincidence that Obama speaks so often to young people, exhorting them to support his policies?  Is it possible that as more students find themselves in financial straits (brought upon by government intervention), they will look to do Obama's bidding and become ObamaCare negotiators or IRS agents to enforce government health care?  In every tyranny, the Pied Piper comes to take away the children.

When reading Havana Real, a reader is hard-pressed not to compare what is the norm in Cuba with the direction of America.  In "Hospitals: You bring everything?," one learns that patients fortunate enough to have family members must rely upon them to bring cleaning supplies, sheets, a fan, and medical supplies (obtained on the black market) to the hospital.  So while Peter Jennings in 1989 exulted that "health care ... is available to every Cuban and it is free ... [that h]ealth and education are the revolution's great success stories," the people of Cuba know better.  In fact, "the truth is that Cuban medical care has never recovered from Castro's takeover -- when the country's health care ranked among the world's best."  And while infant mortality is very low in Cuba, that is in large part because Cuba has "one of the world's highest abortion rates."  The government "encourages abortion of babies with disabilities[,] and infanticide is not uncommon."

Under the oppressive weight of ObamaCare, as costs rise and rationing begins, will this become the state of medicine in the United States?  Already diabetics are being informed that they will be limited in the daily testing of their blood sugar and that in order to be covered, a patient has to document every single home test, which can sometimes be up to ten tests in an hour.  This limit on the tests coupled with the bureaucratic nightmare is only the beginning. In 2009, Cuba closed 465 medical centers and fired their employees.  In the often-touted health care system of Great Britain, up to 20 hospitals in the country are closing.  Why won't it happen in America?  In 2002, Dr. Miguel A. Faria, Jr. wrote about how the Cuban "free socialized system of medical care is in shambles, ... a disgraceful tragic regression from the once advanced medical care system ... in the pre-Castro years."  Moreover:

... Fidel, in fact, proudly counts the number of physicians and professors in Cuba as another great achievement of the Revolution. But of what good are these highly educated and trained professionals to the nation when the country remains drawn into a perpetual economic black hole? There are no incentives for these professionals to work hard and be productive because individual initiative is not rewarded.

Already U.S. doctors are retiring early, as they see the handwriting on the wall.  Others are attempting to avoid the penalties of ObamaCare.  Furthermore, doctors will be forced to accept lower payments, and a doctor shortage is expected by 2020.

Livid at the lack of privacy afforded Cubans, Sanchez writes in "The Patient":

Now, the same media officials who have used intrusion into medical records as an ideological tool, defend the secrecy over Hugo Chavez's state of health. On TV where we have seen attacks on the privacy of so many patients, they now charge that those who demand information about the Venezuelan president are being morbid. They forget that they are the ones who have accustomed their audience to snooping in hospital records, as if it were ethically acceptable. And all these little people with their privacy violated by the national press? Don't they also deserve respect? And all these physicians and medical institutions that failed to hold to their most sacred principles?

The federal government, under Obama, has quietly enacted the largest consolidation of personal data in the history of America.  The Federal Data Services Hub will "store names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, taxpayer status, gender, ethnicity, email addresses, and telephone numbers" as well as "tax return information and financial information from other third-party sources."  The potential for abuse is enormous.

Thus, Sanchez and her fellow Cubans wait for the "anticipated reforms" which never come.  In fact, she speaks of "a people whose actions are reduced to the deliberately complacent verb: to wait" (86).

In an effort to attract visitors to the Island, Sanchez creates a slogan "Come stay 'a lo cubano,'" like a Cuban.  Thus, visitors would stay in dingy rooms, have a budget allowance that would be half the average monthly wage, not be able to use taxis or drive rental cars.  Restaurants would be forbidden, but tourists would receive 80 grams of bread each day.  And instead of spending three days in line for a ticket to travel the island, they would need to spend only one day in line for ticket.  Of course, they would be prohibited from sailing or renting a surfboard "so they wouldn't end their stay 90 miles away rather than in the Caribbean 'paradise.'"

She speaks of "Linguistic Reforms" not as a philologist, but as one who can see through the euphemistic garble used to disguise the real actions of the government.

... Nor are the unemployed designated with the corresponding word, but rather given the label of 'available workers,' a very smooth way to describe the drama of unemployment. In hospitals, when they greatly reduce the number of X-ray and ultrasound technicians, it's explained as a chance to 'enhance the clinical diagnosis.' Which, translated into a truthful statement, means that the doctor must discover with her eyes and her hands everything from a fracture to an internal hemorrhage.

I don't understand anything and neither do you. A meta language has taken over our lives and no word is what it seems. But trust me, reader, and 'don't worry yourself,' which is just the way we say every day that 'the situation is worrisome.'

Eileen can be reached at middlemarch18@gmail.com.

In his book entitled I Was Cuba: Treasures from the Ramiro Fernandez Collection, author Kevin Kwan writes  that "oppression becomes intolerable for the poet because the absolute expression of freedom is in the imagination.  The poet who does not know freedom, imagines it...and transforms his vision into a palpable reality or perishes." 

It is thus that author and blogger Yoani Sanchez writes her blog at desdecuba.com/generationy as a testimony to those who still seek freedom in Castro-dominated Cuba.  The site is monitored closely by the government and is inaccessible to Cubans living on the island.

Contrary to the naive Congressional Black Caucus's praise for Cuba during their 2009 trip, the Generation Y blog is a chilling reminder of what life is truly like there.  Posted on May 10, 2013 is a piece entitled "From the Jewish Museum to the Stasi Museum," wherein Sanchez reminds the reader that she comes:

... from the perspective of a Cuban who was detained in the same place, where a window looking outward becomes an unattainable dream. One cell was lined with rubber, the scratch marks of the prisoners can still be seen on its walls. But more sinister seeming to me are the offices where they ripped - or fabricated - a confession from the detainees. I know them, I've seen them. They are a copy of their counterpart in Cuba, copied to a T by the diligent students from the Island's Ministry of the Interior who were taught by GDR State Security..

After this I again need air, to get out from within those walls. I turn away from that place with the conviction that what, for them, is a museum of the past, is what we are still living in the present. A 'now' that we cannot allow to prolong itself into tomorrow.

Do the recent revelations of IRS intrusions, the PRISM program, government tracking vehicles, and the most recent Federal Data Services Hub presage the beginning of a new "now" for America?

It was just a few weeks ago that President Obama stated to the Ohio State graduating class that they should reject the voices they grew up with who had warned them of government tyranny.  He said:

Unfortunately, you've grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that's at the root of all our problems[.] ... You should reject these voices.

Tell that to the Cubans, the Russians, the Bulgarians, and the East Germans, who know only too well the ability of a few to control the many.  Tell that to 24-year-old Cuban baseball player Misael Siverio, who defected to the United States on July 16, 2013.

Tell it to those patriotic organizations that Nat Hentoff describes in "Beyond Orwell: What are the bounds of Obama's spying?"  In their open letter to all members of Congress, these 86 angry patriotic organizations resounded:

This type of blanket data collection by the government strikes at bedrock American values of freedom and privacy. This dragnet surveillance violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, which protect citizens' right to speak and associate anonymously and guard against unreasonable searches and seizures.

In fact, "a recent CNN poll found that 62% of Americans say 'government is so large and powerful that it threatens the rights and freedoms of ordinary Americans.'"

In the Generation Y blog entry entitled "Prohibitions," the post remarks how:

... [t]he principal contrast lies in what is and is not permitted [.] So for me, the big differences are not the delicious seeded bread, the long-lost beef that now returns to my plate, or the sounds of another language in my ears. No. The big difference is that I don't feel I'm permanently marked with the red badge of the outlaw, the whistle that surprises me in something clandestine, the constant sensation that whatever I do or think could be prohibited.

As Americans incrementally lose freedoms, will the populace, in the not too distant future, have to be clandestine in their actions?  Freedom of speech is already under attack in this country.    

In her 2009 book Havana Real, originally published in Italian as Cuba Libere: Vivere E Scrivere All'avana, Sanchez writes that the "previous scarcity [of goods] hadn't been born of an incapacity to produce, but rather from ironclad State controls on private ingenuity."

But, sadly, Cubans "had to say good-bye to this boom in creativity and ingenuity, the moment the 'higher-ups' came to understand that economic freedom would imply, inevitably, political autonomy" (35).  Thus, "swamped with high taxes, controls, and a growing list of prohibitions[,]" those in power effectively shut down private business enterprise.

What of the assault on business here in America?  Regulations of all kinds are choking American companies, hurting employer and employee alike.

Sanchez writes of "Incubating Mediocrity," where "academic ability will not be the determining factor when it comes time for students to pursue higher education."  Instead, "participation in demonstrations and political/patriotic activities" will be a key parameter to determine which students excel.  Is it merely a coincidence that Obama speaks so often to young people, exhorting them to support his policies?  Is it possible that as more students find themselves in financial straits (brought upon by government intervention), they will look to do Obama's bidding and become ObamaCare negotiators or IRS agents to enforce government health care?  In every tyranny, the Pied Piper comes to take away the children.

When reading Havana Real, a reader is hard-pressed not to compare what is the norm in Cuba with the direction of America.  In "Hospitals: You bring everything?," one learns that patients fortunate enough to have family members must rely upon them to bring cleaning supplies, sheets, a fan, and medical supplies (obtained on the black market) to the hospital.  So while Peter Jennings in 1989 exulted that "health care ... is available to every Cuban and it is free ... [that h]ealth and education are the revolution's great success stories," the people of Cuba know better.  In fact, "the truth is that Cuban medical care has never recovered from Castro's takeover -- when the country's health care ranked among the world's best."  And while infant mortality is very low in Cuba, that is in large part because Cuba has "one of the world's highest abortion rates."  The government "encourages abortion of babies with disabilities[,] and infanticide is not uncommon."

Under the oppressive weight of ObamaCare, as costs rise and rationing begins, will this become the state of medicine in the United States?  Already diabetics are being informed that they will be limited in the daily testing of their blood sugar and that in order to be covered, a patient has to document every single home test, which can sometimes be up to ten tests in an hour.  This limit on the tests coupled with the bureaucratic nightmare is only the beginning. In 2009, Cuba closed 465 medical centers and fired their employees.  In the often-touted health care system of Great Britain, up to 20 hospitals in the country are closing.  Why won't it happen in America?  In 2002, Dr. Miguel A. Faria, Jr. wrote about how the Cuban "free socialized system of medical care is in shambles, ... a disgraceful tragic regression from the once advanced medical care system ... in the pre-Castro years."  Moreover:

... Fidel, in fact, proudly counts the number of physicians and professors in Cuba as another great achievement of the Revolution. But of what good are these highly educated and trained professionals to the nation when the country remains drawn into a perpetual economic black hole? There are no incentives for these professionals to work hard and be productive because individual initiative is not rewarded.

Already U.S. doctors are retiring early, as they see the handwriting on the wall.  Others are attempting to avoid the penalties of ObamaCare.  Furthermore, doctors will be forced to accept lower payments, and a doctor shortage is expected by 2020.

Livid at the lack of privacy afforded Cubans, Sanchez writes in "The Patient":

Now, the same media officials who have used intrusion into medical records as an ideological tool, defend the secrecy over Hugo Chavez's state of health. On TV where we have seen attacks on the privacy of so many patients, they now charge that those who demand information about the Venezuelan president are being morbid. They forget that they are the ones who have accustomed their audience to snooping in hospital records, as if it were ethically acceptable. And all these little people with their privacy violated by the national press? Don't they also deserve respect? And all these physicians and medical institutions that failed to hold to their most sacred principles?

The federal government, under Obama, has quietly enacted the largest consolidation of personal data in the history of America.  The Federal Data Services Hub will "store names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, taxpayer status, gender, ethnicity, email addresses, and telephone numbers" as well as "tax return information and financial information from other third-party sources."  The potential for abuse is enormous.

Thus, Sanchez and her fellow Cubans wait for the "anticipated reforms" which never come.  In fact, she speaks of "a people whose actions are reduced to the deliberately complacent verb: to wait" (86).

In an effort to attract visitors to the Island, Sanchez creates a slogan "Come stay 'a lo cubano,'" like a Cuban.  Thus, visitors would stay in dingy rooms, have a budget allowance that would be half the average monthly wage, not be able to use taxis or drive rental cars.  Restaurants would be forbidden, but tourists would receive 80 grams of bread each day.  And instead of spending three days in line for a ticket to travel the island, they would need to spend only one day in line for ticket.  Of course, they would be prohibited from sailing or renting a surfboard "so they wouldn't end their stay 90 miles away rather than in the Caribbean 'paradise.'"

She speaks of "Linguistic Reforms" not as a philologist, but as one who can see through the euphemistic garble used to disguise the real actions of the government.

... Nor are the unemployed designated with the corresponding word, but rather given the label of 'available workers,' a very smooth way to describe the drama of unemployment. In hospitals, when they greatly reduce the number of X-ray and ultrasound technicians, it's explained as a chance to 'enhance the clinical diagnosis.' Which, translated into a truthful statement, means that the doctor must discover with her eyes and her hands everything from a fracture to an internal hemorrhage.

I don't understand anything and neither do you. A meta language has taken over our lives and no word is what it seems. But trust me, reader, and 'don't worry yourself,' which is just the way we say every day that 'the situation is worrisome.'

Eileen can be reached at middlemarch18@gmail.com.

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