September 30, 2002

JAMES LILEKS DISSES JESSE VENTURA AND CASTRO SUCKUPISM GENERALLY:

But the Castro-worship just fascinates me. Why? Some applaud the way he thumbs his nose at the US, which always strikes a certain crowd as the hallmark of integrity; if you wrap your derision in the big red flag you’ll always have a claque of bootlickers eager to excuse whatever you do. (The enemy of my enemy is my President for Life.) . . . .

My favorite defense, though, is “free health care” and “literacy.”

Take the second one first. There’s no excuse for not being literate in America. Oh, we could impose literacy on the illiterate here, but it wouldn’t be pretty. We could make English proficiency a requirement for jobs, institute nationwide standards for graduation that mandated a high degree of literacy – and made the students’ fulfillment of those standards a criterion for advancement in the educational establishment.

Let us pause to cogitate how well that would go over.

Health care: supposedly, it’s universal; supposedly, it’s high quality. Egalitarian. (muffled laugh.) Ask yourself this. You’re poor. You have a heart attack. Do you want to be in Havana or New York? Which phone system summons the EMTs faster? Which emergency response team is better equipped? Which hospital is better staffed with highly-paid doctors who have come from all over the world to work here?

Somehow I suspect that a heart attack in Havana at 3 AM means bundling Uncle Raul into your block captain’s ‘57 Belair and hoping it doesn’t break down before you get to the hospital.

But let’s assume that health care in Cuba is the equal of health care in America. If this is the reason to admire Cuba, then this is what some American citizens believe is more important than anything else. Free health care. They will give up elections, the free press, the freedom to travel, the freedom to dissent, the freedom to own a personal computer, for heaven’s sake – they’ve been banned for personal use. But for some, all of those freedoms are negotiable. They’ll give it all up for free health care. That’s their price. . . .

The same people who lecture me about the dark reign of oppression Bush, Cheney and Ashcroft are wreaking on the land are often the same who’d love to meet Castro. They pride themselves on being the champions of freedom, but they celebrate a man whose hands hold the reins of power so tightly they’ll have to saw them off at the wrist when he dies.

Oh, hell, read it all before I wind up excerpting the whole thing. That’s what I hate about Lileks. You excerpt a sentence or two because they’re gems, then you notice that the next sentence or two are gems, too, and then, well, the game’s over, you might as well just give up.