Sunday, April 2, 2017

It's My Way or Norway!

      I recently heard Norway is the happiest country in the world   happiest-country-world-u-s-falls-14th-article-1.3003355
For me, having a say in anything I'm part of - a union, school, church or country is one of the most important criteria for happiness. I have no real say in the UFT and I have no school, being an ATR. I do have a say in my church and country. I can get a group together and protest or write articles or make phone calls. Trump, as much as he'd like to say, "It's my way or Norway", can't. Ruth, forget about moving to New Zealand - this is our country, as well as all those who disagree with us (including Trump). Great, that's the way it should be.
      I got a wake up call that reminded me of that criteria for happiness. It was cathartic in that it made me realize how fortunate I am to be living in the United States. Most of us take many things for granted - from turning on electricity, running water, television, Internet, phones and the English language. Visit a poor country and carefully look at how the average person survives. I visited Cuba recently and it opened a wellspring of love for the United States that I have never felt before. Never have I been so happy to be back in the USA. The Cuban people are highly educated and very likable. The country itself is a nightmare. Two currencies - one for the enslaved Cubans and one for the tourists. The cab driver that picked me up at the airport was highly educated in a very specific field (I won't say what) and would be a millionaire here. He was just one of many intellectuals I met there and became very friendly with. Engineers, artists, musicians, doctors and architects all doing menial work. Most of them spoke fluent Russian and were educated there as well. I also visited some wealthy Cubans I got to know. Die hard communists who insisted on trying to prove to me the supremacy of Cuba over the evil United States. They are totally brainwashed, but are kind, respectful people. Wealthy there, is borderline poor here. Extremely hospitable and living with very limited resources. They owned old Soviet cars that looked and ran like the old bumper cars in Rye Playland - my teeth are still chattering. Mansions that are falling apart and can't be fixed because there's no cement. Cement is recycled from the crumbling buildings because cement is very difficult to get. We had simple dinners that were generously shared. I felt guilty eating their food. The debates were wonderful. I also visited a school that was doing excellent work with very limited resources. The principal was afraid of me - another clue I was in a topsy-turvy world. She didn't know what to make of me. The students have chores, have fun and learn - but what good is a great education, if you can't do anything with it?  The DOE would love it, different equation with the same results. The government there is a dictatorship, and the people have no rights. Simple things like dominoes are very difficult to get and are passed down father to son, like all those late fifties cars (running on diesel tractor motors). The people get the bare essentials and little else. There's very limited internet access and two channels on the TV. Many of the people are bored out of their minds and love conversation. A country of ATRs. I haven't spoken my Spanish in twenty seven years. It came back like riding a old rusty bike, but I found myself craving English like my cats crave catnip. It made me feel for all immigrants. If I lived in Cuba I would build a boat or swim off that island, even if it killed me. It's a diesel filled time capsule and changing rapidly. It's very safe because of that dictatorship, but it comes at too high a cost. Elderly parents crying to me that they haven't seen their children in decades because they fled to Florida. Churches that are unused antiques because the people have no religion other than the hero worship of Fidel and Che. Che everywhere, on everything. Displays of anti-American propaganda and dozens of flagpoles placed in front of the American embassy to block the beautiful views. Communism does not work and I believe it can destroy everything that makes us individuals.
   If something is wrong, protest. If someone isn't representing you correctly - tell them and vote them out. Question everything and have empathy for those less fortunate, even the illegal immigrants that may be fleeing places much, much worse than we could ever imagine.

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Stories herein containing unnamed or invented characters are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.