It is about time! The first steps that President Obama took recently to open up the U.S. policy towards Cuba are long overdue. It has been clear to me for the past 15 years that the Federal Government’s policy on Cuba, instituted 50 years ago is a worn out relic of the Cold War era.
In the second half of the 20th century, at least until the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Americans were raised and educated that the bad guys were communists and that these communists threatened the way of life of the country and all that wanted freedom. Well, for several decades that might have been true, but those times are long gone. When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 and the Soviet Union collapsed in the four years that followed, the eastern block collapsed and the global economy began. The number of potential consumers of the capitalistic way of live basically doubled. This led to economic upheavals that transformed China, Russia, South East Asia and Eastern Europe. It was generally accepted that the U.S. and the West, had won.
The world is getting ever more interrelated in all areas economic. It is getting ever more connected electronically. It is starting to realize that there are global problems that face us all. In such a new world, the idea that Cuba is a threat to the U.S, that Cuba is subversive is ridiculous. What could Cuba possibly do to the U.S? Let’s see, provide the worlds best cigars, some fantastic culture, a new market, great athletic talent and of course a wonderful place to visit. The U.S. can offer Cuba so much. Take a look at a map of the Caribbean and Cuba sits there right in the middle dominating the region. To pretend it is not there or a threat shows how entrenched thinking can obstruct seeing clearly.
Marshall McLuhan famously said that “Most people drive down the freeway of life looking in the rear view mirror”. Everyone can tell you their story. Everyone can tell you the history of their lives. What he meant was that few people really look straight ahead and face the future. This can easily describe the mindset of the federal government as it pertains to Cuba during the last 15 years. Politicians always need bogeymen to rally the citizens to be scared of, and we have let them do so with great success. But to look at Cuba as a threat, something continued and amplified by the Bush administration shows nothing more than holding on to the past at the cost of seeing the future clearly.
Cuba is a prime example of the dynamic still prevalent in both governmental policy and the perceptions of the populace at large to continue to look through the lens of 20th century constructs and filters when looking at the present. As I wrote months ago in a column about the bail-out of the Big Three auto companies, the Big Three define the 20th century auto industry, one predicated solely on the ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) and if we wanted to invest in last century’s auto industry we should do the same for what will be the 21st century’s auto industry. The 20th century is history, it is no longer the time in which we live.
We are now almost a decade into the 21st Century so it is time to shed the filters of that century that block us from seeing the present clearly and facing the future that is rushing toward us.. Complete normalization of relations with Cuba is just one of the many actions we must take to do so. Tentative first steps can feel risky, but they are the essential beginnings we must take to face the new age we are now entering.