Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Maybe he should move there

Aaron McGruder, the Boondocks cartoonist, was recently interviewed by the Onion. Among the other relevations from this interview was that he recently visited the workers' paradise of Cuba, about which he had this to say:

"I went to Havana, and I was like, 'Wow, there's culture everywhere!' I don't think the American government has a lot of respect for culture. That was one thing that I did notice when I went to Cuba was that artists are paid to be artists, and poets are paid to be poets, and musicians are paid to be musicians by the government. The government—and I'm not saying that the Cuban government's perfect—but the government does place a value on culture. Much more so than here, where culture is just a matter of commerce."

Now, it should be clear to anybody who reads Boondocks that part of McGruder's worldview is that American society is pretty much hopeless, so I guess it's understandable that he'd be looking for anything he can positively contrast with the hell that is modern America. And he went out and saw what he wanted to see - "look, some culture!! And there's some more culture!! Man, that stuff is just everywhere!" - and artists no longer having to convince people to spend money to be entertained by their art, since the government strong-arms the money from the people to do this on their behalf.

But is it even possible that he doesn't see the obvious problem with this, which is that it is quite unlikely that a government which funds artists and creative types will ignore the content of what's produced? This would be true in any society, let alone one run by a tyrant like Castro. We're talking about a place that noted right-wing organizations like Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders routinely criticize for its oppressive policies; according to the latter group, only people with government permission can access the Internet, and owning computer equipment is prohibited. One has a hard time believing that any artist in Cuba - whether government-funded or not - is free to excoriate the Castro regime with the same fervor that McGruder applies to his anti-American diatribes.

But Cuba's not America, and America's official policy is that Cuba's bad, so automatically McGruder goes looking for what's good about Cuba. It's awfully simplistic, but on some level meaningful, to ask whether McGruder wouldn't like living in Cuba more. Of course, he has that option; Americans can leave their country, but Cubans can't. This is also probably America's fault, in his eyes.


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