Lame Duck Flies

     Nothing like being a lame-duck president if you want to get things done.
     Many years ago, when I lived on the rez, an old Indian told this story about a wounded duck.
     The old man said that one day when the wind was blowing strong, he shot a duck with his shotgun. But he only winged it.
     He said the duck kept flapping its wounded wings, facing into the wind, and just hovered there in the wind forever.
     “I think that duck is still up there after all these years,” the old man said, “flapping its wings. Getting nowhere.”
     For more than 50 years, the United States’ punishment of Cuba has been like that wounded duck. Flapping its wounded wings, getting nowhere.
     President Obama’s opening to Cuba is a wonderful thing.
     Not that Cuba has a wonderful government. Of course it does not. But Cuba’s government is far less brutal and corrupt than many countries with whom we have normal diplomatic relations, among them Mexico, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.
     Two million people of Cuban ancestry live in the United States. More than 11 million people live in Cuba. There is no reason whatsoever for the United States to punish and separate 13 million cousins forever.
     Well, there is one reason: so unscrupulous politicians in both our political parties can keep whipping up hate in search of votes.
     President Obama has drawn their sting, and it’s about time.
     Congress will have to act before our relations with Cuba are truly normal, and it’s foolish to expect that Congress will do this.
     No, the congressional minority will keep whipping up hate until they see it’s no longer in their interest to do this. Then they will shut up.
     At last.
     Anyone who lived through the Cuban missile crisis, as I did, knows why Washington has pursued this policy. Because Fidel Castro let Nikita Khrushchev put atomic weapons in Cuba.
     Big mistake, Fidel: you selfish, self-seeking brat. Communist, my ass. A true communist is not a dictator.
     We all know what happened next. The United States, paternalistic dictator of the Western Hemisphere, sent Cuba to sit in its room and think about what it had done. For 50 years.
     Our embargo of Cuba has done no one any good. Not the United States, nor the Cuban people. Our stupid policy, supported by no one but our client states, has made the United States a hemispheric laughingstock.
     President Obama has restored our country’s reputation around the world.
     God blesses him for it, if you can accept the word of Pope Francis.
     Pope Francis, in helping to broker the deal, helped restore the reputation of the Catholic Church.
     It’s a good deal all around, except for short-term haters. But Washington should not have to seek help from the Vatican to speak with a government within rowing distance of our shores.
     To say all this is not to bless the government of Cuba. Fidel and his brother Raul are cruel dictators. But look what they have done.
     Cuba’s per capita gross domestic product is $6,051 – about one-ninth the U.S. per capita GDP of $53,142.
     Yet life expectancy in Cuba is 79.1 years – 8 months longer than U.S. life expectancy of 78.4 years.
     Cuba’s doctor-to-patient ratio is 170 to 1 – tops in the world.
     (The U.S. ratio is 390 to 1 – 31st in the world, just behind Mongolia.)
     Many people, I know, will find this column offensive.
     Many people in our country find the word “Cuba” offensive.
     That’s ridiculous. It’s long past time for us to grow up.

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