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If Zippy the Pinhead got permission to visit Cuba, so should everyone else

Feb 24, 2009 If Zippy the Pinhead got permission to visit Cuba, so should everyone else

Bill Griffith’s comic strip hero and alter-ego "Zippy the Pinhead" is so saturated with commercialism and television that he turns the commercial, the televised, and the real into the surreal, to the point where he worships at the altar of laundromat dryers.

Testing what would happen if Zippy went to a place where American commercialism and pop culture is suppressed — due to an embargo nearly fifty-years old — Bill Griffith traveled to Cuba on a cultural exchange in the mid-1990’s, and recounted some of his experiences there word-for-word in his comic strip.

Now, through happy surrealism, none other than than longtime Republican Senator Richard Lugar — from the party that most recently dominated the Cold War before it ended — has taken wind out of the sails of Democrats (whose president, Kennedy, imposed the embargo in the first place), by urging a major revisiting of the embargo. I have had little chance to read anything but the CNN article on the matter, including the following excerpt from Lugar’s February 23, 2009, cover letter accompanying a staff trip report to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, entitled "Changing Cuba Policy-In The United States National Interest" (thanks to a listserv member for posting the article):

"After 47 years, however, the unilateral embargo on Cuba has failed to achieve its stated purpose of ‘bringing democracy to the Cuban people,’ while it may have been used as a foil by the regime to demand further sacrifices from Cuba’s impoverished population. The current U.S. policy has many passionate defenders, and their criticism of the Castro regime is justified. We must recognize, nevertheless [this word was handwritten into the letter], the ineffectiveness of our current policy and deal with the Cuban regime in a way that enhances U.S."

From a civil liberties and criminal defense perspective, it will be wonderful to see the embargo of Cuba ended, no matter how brutal the Cuban regime has been. Once the embargo ends, no longer will United States citizens visit Cuba as tourists (rather than only through government-authorized educational exchanges) with the risk of prosecution, with the higher expense of flying there from such third countries as Mexico, and against the violation of freedom of association and movement imposed by the embargo. No longer will Americans have to settle for cigars that are second-rate to the Cuban champagnes of cigars.

Once the Cuba embargo is lifted, might we expect Bill Griffith and Zippy to visit North Korea, which probably is the last inhabited place on earth that American pop culture and commercialism has barely infiltrated (save for Antarctica?)? Jon Katz

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