Cuban Embargo


What began over 50 years ago as Cold War posturing, has evolved into one of the longest standing embargoes in world history. “Posturing” might be a little unfair – Cold War fears and hysteria presented themselves as ever present dread. Communists were the enemy – an enemy poised to unleash global nuclear annihilation. Communists were the reason we built shelters and stock piled supplies. Only 2 years old in 1961 as the Bay of Pigs played out, my mother tells of utter despair listening to news reports – convinced unthinkable was inevitable.

Capsulizing Cuba”s predicament isn’t easy –  In 1959 Fidel Castro led Cuban rebels to victory by ousting Cuban president Fulgencio Batista. Castro’s revolutionary government drastically altered American interests in Cuba. Socialist land reform (three quarters of arable Cuban land, owned by foreigners under Batista) led to seizure of U.S. owned sugar plantations. America countered in 1960 by reducing Cuban sugar imports, the Soviet Union agreed to purchase the difference. Escalating reform of privately held land, business ,and education, coupled with increased Soviet trade, and expulsion of religious organizations (Cuba declared itself an Atheist nation in 1962 – a prohibition removed by the Communist government in 1991) meant one thing, and one thing only – Communism.  Cold war anti-communists lost their minds over socialist reforms and Soviet presence – in 1962 president John F. Kennedy signed an executive order, effectively severing all ties with Castro’s Cuba. Linked below, a good timeline of embargo progression….

http://www.historyofcuba.com/history/funfacts/embargo.htm

The Cold War resides in history books, America trades with Russia, and Cuba is now a member of the UN Human Rights Council – a council that’s voted 22 consecutive times to end the U.S. embargo. The latest vote, an overwhelming majority (188 UN general assembly members in favor) with America and Israel the only hold-outs. More astounding is news that Barrack Obama signed up for another year of embargo under the Trading With the Enemy Act of 1917 – a federal law restricting trade with nations hostile to America – a law requiring yearly review by the President. A law pertaining to Cuba alone, after George Bush removed North Korea from the naughty list in 2008.

Not even the fact I’m Canadian, negates bat shit absurdity of continued embargoes with Cuba. Ponder Obama’s about face – help me make sense of this crazy world.

John Oliver on the Daily Show….

 

 

 

Historical Propaganda


I’ve been thinking about the post I wrote last night, having a day to mull it over led me to ponder historical propaganda. A bitter pill is much easier to swallow with a little sugar. Human nature predictably wants to be on the winning team, and feels much better believing action was justified. Gathering support for unpleasant responses, or defending distasteful action, becomes a lot easier when coated with the right amount of careful presentation. It doesn’t take a genius to understand which buttons to push when outrage, sympathy, or fear justifies the end result.

I was only three years old when the Cuban missile crisis took place, obviously I can’t write as to news reports during October of 1962. I can however remember learning about it in school; being certain that not once did I learn that America had missiles stationed in Turkey within striking distance of Moscow. I was taught the crisis was America’s response to the Soviet Union placing missiles in post revolution, socialist Cuba – practically in their back yard. The Soviet Union agreed to stand down when America agreed to remove their missiles from Turkey. Clearly a lot happened in between but my point is – U.S. missiles aimed at Moscow from bases in Turkey never made it to my history lessons.

Think back a few years to the Weapons of Mass Destruction fiasco giving the Bush administration public justification for the Iraq war. Poppycock swept under the bridge once images of American tanks rolling into Baghdad aired 24/7 on news networks and Saddam Hussein was extracted from his “spider hole”.

How about the great Mississippi flood in the 1920’s. African American share croppers forced at gunpoint into work camps along the levees. Held against their will, forced to fill sand bags in a futile attempt to stop the river, while white plantation owners were evacuated to safety. Edgar Hoover, appointed to investigate allegations of brutality made a back room deal with share-croppers – if they kept quiet, and voted for him in his upcoming bid to become president, he would give them land of their own. We all know that never happened.

Pulling a few examples off the top of my head wasn’t intended as anything other than a gentle reminder – human nature is what it is – far from rocket science, my ponder grows from the realization things have changed. Propaganda has become considerably more complicated; where once the church or government held tight to the reigns of opinion, media has entered the ring with a vengeance. Propaganda used to serve a purpose; it kept people blissfully unaware, while controlling and channelling reaction.  Now news and social media fan the flames; where once a singular propaganda served a nation, we now dial into the propaganda of choice.

The situation is far too confusing for a majority of people to handle. Sadly unable to make the distinction between “fact” and “opinion”, propaganda is out of control. Once upon a time it was simple; right or wrong we were served a single message for the good of us all. Irresponsible doesn’t begin to describe the “information” game we’re now playing.

Another Crisis


I was three years old at the time of the Cuban missile crisis. With no memory of events in October of 1962, all I can go on is   what my mother told me. She remembers going into our orchard,searching for my father to tell him they had to go into town and buy canned milk for the children. She was terrified, fully expecting the world as she knew it to end.Throughout the sixties threat of nuclear annihilation weighed heavily on my mind. Straining to catch snippets of adult conversation, listening to news reports I didn’t fully understand, my only solace the root cellar. Convincing myself our root cellar was safe haven, allowed me to keep dread at bay.

Dread faded over the years; the cold war becoming a chapter in history rather than an ever present threat. Shocked, saddened, outraged, horrified, and speechless describe emotions related to events since then. But no dread, at least not until now.

That dreadful feeling is stirring again. The situation in North Korea has rekindled fears long ago dismissed as childish anxiety. Dread has taken it’s time germinating, the seed was planted four or five years ago when I watched a clip of the North Korean army marching in perfect unison. I told my husband that it scared the pants off me. Dread can be tricky, it’s hard to pinpoint, creeping about just out of reach as it grows stronger. I haven’t felt it in years and wish I had a root cellar to push it away.