Young: Oldies from Status Quo Singers on Cuba and more
January 1, 2015
The Cuba embargo sounded like a good thing in 1960. So did the hula hoop, and Bobby Darin.
You can still find a hula hoop, but it has long since stopped being state-of-the-art childhood fare anymore — except maybe in Cuba, where the 1959 Chevy remains king of the road.
Sadly, life for our nearest island neighbors has been in a frozen state since then, since the aluminum can was a revolutionary development.
It took 54 years for an American president to state the obvious: The ongoing state of relations with Cuba was serving no one, except maybe its oppressors. And so 14 years into a new century, at Pope Francis' urging, Barack Obama agreed. It is time for a change.
No, it isn't, says Sen. Marco Rubio. Agreed, says House Speaker John Boehner. Give it another half century.
The Status Quo Singers cannot step back from their resistance to change and see how doing things differently — with travel, commerce, technology and Western cultural influences — is the most effective means of tearing down the oppressive system they denounce.
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It worked with the Iron Curtain.
Oh, sure; we've been led to believe that the Soviet Union collapsed under its own weight, and under Ronald Reagan's heft. That's too convenient.
Indeed, author Leslie Woodhead asserts that rock 'n' roll may have been key to it all. In her 2013 book "How the Beatles Rocked the Kremlin," she writes, "During the 70 years of totalitarian rule in a society where culture always had the power to drive social change," Western influences like jazz, dance and rock "had a seditious force." (And don't we in America know it.)
Lest we oversimplify, don't forget the role of American TV as well. Upon the 30-year anniversary of the arrival of J.R. Ewing and "Dallas," editors of Reason, the libertarian journal, credited the availability of the nighttime soap in Warsaw Pact countries with seeding people's carnal desires in a manner sufficient to bring down the Soviet empire.
"If the United States is interested in spreading American values and institutions, TV reruns may go a lot further than armored personnel carriers," wrote Reason's editors. By the way, they have also urged an end to the Cuban embargo.
What we've been doing there doesn't work. Won't work. Indeed, it's every bit as inhumane as the regime it's intended to combat — so say Amnesty International and most international human rights groups.
Americans should want Cuban young people to have everything we have, foremost being Internet access — clearly craved even more than 21st century automobiles.
Actual human harm aside, what we've been doing with Cuba represents as much a quest to stop the march of time as to facilitate it.
Look around and see much the same on many fronts courtesy of the Status Quo Singers. They would like nothing more than to return us to 1959.
Ah, those were the days — when same-sex relations were a crime in many states; abortion, too. And the birth control pill had yet to seed a national moral crisis. (That would come in 1960.)
Those were the days when communities and states in the South didn't have to explain segregation to anyone, much less the Justice Department.
Those were the days before the Environmental Protection Agency prevented our captains of industry from using waterways and lakes as their personal sewers. Heck, the term "smog" hadn't even been coined yet. And didn't we breathe easier?
A new year arrives. As it does, we ponder the political prospects of the Status Quo Singers as they seek to hold off change for another election cycle.
Keeping things the same as they've been with Cuba for 54 years is very much in tune with those who, if they knew what destruction would ensue, would have denied the Beatles' entry at the airport in 1964.
Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Contact Young at email@example.com.
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