Sunday, May 13, 2007

I Am Cuba

Havana Poster
Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.

- Thoreau in "Civil Disobedience"

I'm not Michael Moore's hugest fan. Though I've appreciated much of his work, I do think he can work a little fast and loose with the truth, and for that reason, he's generally only preaching to the converted. He just happens to often be highly entertaining when he's doing that.

Having said that, I absolutely support his right (I use the word intentionally) to go to Cuba, for which he's currently being admonished.

In fact, I'd very much like to go there, too - especially while it's supposedly illegal to do so. (Actually, I believe it's technically only illegal to spend American money there, and since there are no U.S. flights to Cuba, that effectively keeps most U.S. citizen from going.) Anyway, here are three main reasons I'd like to go:

1. No country should ever be able to tell any human being that he or she cannot visit another country. I assume, obviously, that one isn't leaving one country to escape the law. I'm talking about a country forbidding its citizens from going to any other particular country. Period. What about in time of war, visiting an enemy country, I think now? Even then. If I join forces with the enemy, that's a different matter. There may be other legitimate reasons for going to that country: missions of mercy, visiting friends or relatives, etc. If there are issues of safety, those should be mine to consider. So, I quite seriously suggest that it's a violation of my human rights to prevent me from visiting there. Much more importantly, it's a gross violation of the rights of Cuban expatriates to govern and limit how often they can visit their own homeland. Which, we do, in case you didn't realize.

2. It is my understanding that the United States restricts travel to no other country on earth other than Cuba. That means that, yes, I can travel to Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and countries around the world run by any number of ruthless dictators. I could have traveled to the USSR or China at their most severe. There's no good reason to forbid travel to Cuba that couldn't be applied to any of these other countries. And I'm aware of the State Department's travel warnings. Those do not prevent me from visiting East Timor or Syria for example, they only warn me that I might be attacked by gangs or terrorists. It would appear that the only reason we're not able to go to Cuba is because of the obviously still profoundly resonant anti-communist fervor of the last century - the "reds under the bed" paranoia that the Republicans promulgated so effectively during the 50s and onward. Of course, we're also prevented from visiting Cuba because of some particularly strident, conservative Cuban expatriates, who have seen to it that their own fellow countrymen are now unable to visit their own homeland. Notably, many conservatives and liberals, as well as religious leaders offer numerous reasons for ending the trade embargo with Cuba. Any talk about maintaining the ban due to human rights violations in Cuba is nonsense. If we were prevented from going there for that reason, I shouldn't be allowed to go to Rwanda or dozens of other countries either. In fact, I can.

3. Finally, I believe my traveling to Cuba would be a legitimate act of civil disobedience. Though, to my knowledge, no one has yet been sent to jail for visiting Cuba (which makes the Treasury Department's investigation into Moore all the more suspicious), if I were imprisoned, I think I can safely assume that some future administration would completely pardon me during a saner period of American history.

My desire to travel there doesn't mean I support Fidel Castro or communism any more than my going to Rwanda would mean I supported genocide. Of course, I can get a Visa to travel Rwanda in Washington, DC, but not to Cuba.

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