Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Obama makes good moves on Cuba, but shouldn’t stop until Americans can travel freely there

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Originally published on on Tue, 04/14/2009 – 9:48am

This is the old school way to learn about Cuba. The new way is to actually go there.

If you have recently renewed your passport, you have that new excitement over what stamps to add to this version. Given that the passport lasts 10 years, there is one stamp to add in that time frame: Cuba.

President Obama eased some travel restrictions for Cuba, many of those changes were reversals of Bush policies made even more stringent than the already overbearing restrictions. And restrictions are also being lifted on telecommunications companies applying for licenses to operate in Cuba. While it’s a nice start, and a welcome change after eight years, the moves fall way short of what we need.

In my lifetime, it has never been legal to travel to Cuba. “Traveling” is limited to documentaries, fictional films, lectures by professors, and even first-hand accounts.

We marvel at the loyalty that Democrats received when FDR brought in the New Deal. We have seen the amazing, stupefying loyalty that Reagan Democrats showed, even as he was destroying their middle-class success. This is Obama’s chance to show Floridians that we may not agree with their government, but we will no longer live in tyranny over being restricted to travel to Cuba. If Democrats want Florida in their column for a generation or two, President Obama needs to overhaul restrictions.

Cuba used to be the Third Rail in politics. Generations of Democratic and Republican politicians bowed down to the Fulgencio Batista friendly Cuban immigrants of South Florida. But as we’ve seen generational turnover, the younger generation has an alternative approach, and sees the errors in our restrictive policy. When George W. Bush decided to get tougher, there was a backlash against the GOP even from die-hard Republicans.

Making significant moves takes political capital. But the fears of losing Florida aren’t there anymore. And the rest of the country is befuddled that we are so timid that we can’t go to Cuba. The reward is so much greater for Obama and the Democrats than keeping the status quo. Imagine the freedom Americans say they have, yet Canadians and everyone else in the world can go to Cuba at the drop of a hat, and we can’t — new passport or old beaten up passport.

When Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”) had a pizza delivered to the classroom, he was asked by Mr. Hand, “Just what in the hell do you think you’re doing?” Spicoli got straight to the point, “Learning about Cuba, and having some food.”

Despite Spicoli’s best efforts, the best way to learn about Cuba is not to sit in a confined classroom, eating pizza. It’s tasting the salt breezes as you sit, watching the 1950’s classic cars go by, and waiting for your ropa vieja to be ready.


Written by democracysoup

April 14, 2009 at 9:48 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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