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Jay-Z, Beyoncé and the insane American fixation with Cuba


Well Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s visit to Cuba to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary created quite a stir in the U.S. It was as though we were back in the days of the Cold War. A few Republican Congress people appeared to be going stone crazy. This, coming at the time when they are battling attempts at gun control and facing square on efforts to reform immigration, was too much for some of them. In their minds those “do-good” Americans were out to destroy good old America, the fountain of wisdom and the show piece of democracy. Of course, among them was that Kenyan Muslim president who wants to sabotage the American way of life that he doesn’t and cannot understand!{{more}}

I rather liked what I consider a delightful satirical piece by Steve Chapman in his blog on this issue: “The Communist regime in Cuba was just about to come tumbling down ending decades of dictatorship and opening the way for freedom and democracy. But before that could happen Jay-Z and Beyoncé took a trip to the Island. So Cuba’s despotism can expect to survive another 50 years.” This could not have been better put. What is really needed at this time is a good humorist to capture the political insanity that is destroying America. I remember, years ago at the time of the disturbances in Anguilla, reading a book entitled Under an English Haven that was just wonderfully hilarious. English troops were ordered to Anguilla. They had absolutely no idea where that place was or what was happening there. As they landed, they heard a loud noise, took cover with their weapons, ready for action. The sound was actually that of a young man revving up the engine of his motor bike. They relaxed and after a while stopped wondering why they were sent there. They decided to enjoy it to the fullest. The cover of the book has a photograph of the English ‘bobbies’ bathing in the sea, clothed only in their helmets. America needs this kind of treatment.

What interested me most was that a couple weeks before Jay-Z and Beyonce’s visit, the media was full of photographs of Dennis Rodman, the American Hall of Fame professional basketball player seemingly enjoying himself in the company of North Korea’s Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un. Moreover, Rodman was quoted as saying “He’s a good guy to me. As a person to person he’s my friend. I don ‘t condone what he does…” Two comical characters indeed! Unless I missed it, I heard no huge outcry about his visit to a country that had just threatened to attack the US and its allies. True enough, Rodman is no Jay-Z, or for that matter, Beyoncé. It does not appear that there are restrictions on Americans visiting any other place on the planet, including Iran and North Korea. Not so with Cuba; there are severe restrictions: licences have to be obtained for academic, religious, journalistic or cultural exchanges. Obama had reintroduced “people to people” travel to cultivate cultural exchanges and eased some restrictions on family visits, but all of these are filled with other restrictions. There is a limit on how much can be spent in Cuba, an amount that is below the cost of some hotel rooms.

Come on, this is 2013! The economic embargo which dates back to 1962 has not achieved the objectives it was supposed to. Instead, it has impeded reforms in Cuba and impacted more negatively on the Cuban people than on the political elite. Most Americans, like the rest of the world, oppose the embargo and restrictions on visits to Cuba. In fact, recent polls indicate that most Americans favour normalising relations with Cuba. Figures for 2011 indicate that some 500,000 Cuban-Americans visited Cuba while 90,000 Americans went on licensed visits.

Despite the willingness of a majority of Americans, including Cuban-Americans, to remove the outdated embargo and restrictions, some equally antiquated Cuban-American Republicans and Democrats continue to thwart any effort to change policies. America can have relations with China, another Communist country and with repressive regimes elsewhere. This doesn’t appear to bother some Americans.

Jay-Z answered his critics and was obviously having some fun doing so with his rap – “Open Letter”: “…want to give me jail time and a fine, let me commit a real crime…Obama said ‘Chill you goñ get me impeached’. But you don’t need this sh-t anyway, Chill with me on the beach… I’m in Cuba, I love Cubans. This communist talk is so confusing…’

Really, this most ‘developed’ of nations has still in some areas not entered the 21st century.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.