Cindy Sheehan: Ugly Americans – OpEd


After overnighting in Cancun, I caught the 2:47 PM flight to Havana (which left an hour late—standard operating procedure).

The flight was approximately 3/4ths filled and I would guestimate that about 1/3rd of those were from the U.S.

As fate is want to have, my row mates were both from the U.S. I was in the window seat and the man on the aisle sat down after me and promptly emitted, into the close atmosphere, an enormous sneeze. At the time, I didn’t know the nationality or language of the man, so I tried, as politely as possible, to gesture that he should cover his mouth when he sneezes to avoid a germ spree, and that’s when I found out that he was a North American.

His buddy soon sat himself down in the middle-seat and after we chatted for a few minutes, I asked him if I was going to catch some kind of plague from his comrade, and he assured me that it was “allergies or sinus” problems. Fair enough.

The man in the middle claimed to be surprised that I was from the States because he said I “looked foreign” as he gave me the once or twice over. I asked him what “looking foreign” meant and he said that he couldn’t explain it. I then opined that “looking foreign” is relative, because in Mexico, he, too, looked foreign. At that minute we all three were foreigners.

I asked him if this was his first trip to Cuba and he said, “no,” it was his 5th time. I perked up then, and said, “don’t you love Cuba?” I deduced that someone who has been somewhere (illegally, at that) five times would love the place he was sacrificing so much to visit.

“God no,” he replied, “I hate it!” He looked at me incredulously and said, “You love it?”

“Of course I do, this is my 3rd time visiting. If you ‘hate’ Cuba so much why do you keep going there and what do you hate about it?”

He gave me some extraordinarily vague answer about having a “medical non-profit” that sends medical supplies all over the world and he was trying to establish it in Cuba and he added that, “ending the blockade” would be disastrous for the U.S. At that point, I figured that ending the blockade would be disastrous for his bank account, or other shady dealings. (CIA?)

Now, I will tell you his main two reasons for hating Cuba and my response to his American ridiculousness.

His first reason for “hating Cuba” is that the government is “Corrupt” and as a corollary to that, Fidel is the “wealthiest man in the world.”

Now it was my turn to drop my jaw with horror at the hypocrisy of what he just said.

I asked him if he thought that our government was free from corruption and if he had seen the 60 Minutes that had aired just the night before which exposed the “legal” insider trading scheme of Congress that is being used to increase the wealth of already extremely wealthy people like Nancy Pelosi. Of course, if someone like Martha Stewart is accused and convicted of doing it, she goes to prison, but Congress has made its graft perfectly legal.

Also, regarding Fidel as the “wealthiest man in the world,” in its yearly tribute to capitalistic excess, Forbes magazine regularly lists Fidel at the top of the dung heap. Forbes counts the land of Cuba in its estimations, Fidel does not own the land of Cuba and it’s done as further propaganda to demonize and undermine the revolution. I have seen how government officials live in Cuba (not Fidel, I have never had the honor of meeting him), and, believe me; they live very modestly according to U.S. working class standards.

After I pointed out these inconvenient truths to the Americano Feo, he told me his second main reason for “hating Cuba:” It is a “socialist” country and people are not free to move around the country as they like and he actually knows people who have, “been arrested” for being in “places they shouldn’t be.”

At this one, I covered my face in a gesture of frustration and unbelief. I told him that I, myself have, and I know other people in the U.S. who get regularly arrested, beaten, tear-gassed, shot at, and otherwise abused for being in places where we SHOULD BE. Besides that, how many countries out there give full-access to every single square inch of the nation—such as bank vaults, libraries after hours, private dwellings, etc? Again, in Cuba, I once visited the president of the parliament, Ricardo Alarcon, and we just walked in the building—no metal detectors, no searches, no full-body scanners. Where does this happen in the U.S. in government buildings? Nowhere.

Also, I pointed out the further hypocrisies of his reasoning. He, himself, is breaking U.S. law by sneaking in and out of the country to travel to a place where we have been forbidden from traveling to. Also, he hates socialism and the country, but in his own mind, he is perfectly free from any guilt in trying to exploit Cuba for profit and that Cuba gives him free access to go in and out of the country. He then admitted to me with a chuckle that he knows that he has an advanced set of “double standards.”

This man is the first USAian that I have ever encountered that having been to Cuba, hates it.

I go to Cuba whenever I have the honor of having the opportunity, because I don’t think my government has the right to tell a fully-functioning adult where he/she is allowed or prohibited to travel to. I think the blockade, or embargo, is a ridiculous anachronism from the Cold War and I want to be able to come home and tell my fellow propagandized citizens the truth—then we have counter-truthers like my airplane comrade who goes back and spreads evil lies.

Cuba is not a problem-free society. There is still too much poverty, but everyone has the basics. The standard of living in low, compared to poor-debt laden norteamericanos, but how does one compare “standard of life” to “quality of life?” How many sleepless nights have we spent worrying about paying the interest heavy debt that we have accrued? Also, Cuba could desperately use building supplies to service a crumbling infrastructure and the best and cheapest place to get those from would be the U.S. or partners of the U.S.

I have been told, that if the U.S. lifted the blockade, and USAians could freely travel to Cuba, it would pump at least three-billion desperately needed dollars into the Cuban economy and there would be huge advantage to the U.S. People could come to a country that has proudly and bravely resisted the onslaught of U.S. imperialism for decades and see the miracles it accomplishes with the little it has.

We can live without the next “new and improved, high-speed, fully techno-color” gadget. We really can. I promise.

In Cuba, I learned to relax and how to live without 24/7 instant access to high-speed wifi. It can be done.

Also, even though USAians are notorious for being obnoxious when we travel, our tourism dollars are not turned down–the ugliest kind of American lives in the White House and orders bombings, wars, executions, torture and economic exploitation. My row-mate on that flight to Cuba was the hideous kind who likes to profit off of all that.

Cindy Sheehan

Cindy Sheehan is an American anti-war activist whose son, Specialist Casey Sheehan, was killed during his service in the Iraq War by the Mehdi Army on April 4, 2004. She attracted national and international media attention in August 2005 for her extended anti-war protest at a makeshift camp outside President George W. Bush's Texas ranch — a stand which drew both passionate support and angry criticism. More of her writings can be found at Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox: Writing from the Emprire.

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