Trumps prohibition on “people to people” travel by U.S. citizens to Cuba, and cuts in funding for the arts, deprive the people of enriching cross-cultural experiences
Nov 18 (Granma) If at first I felt a mixture of indignation and stupor when reading the memorandum signed this week by U.S. President Donald Trump, drastically restricting the participation of federal entities in educational and cultural exchange programs with Cuba and three other countries, a second reading led me to think about how much the U.S. people will lose when deprived of these contacts and their contribution to spiritual life.
Of course, seeing a statesman manipulate culture to benefit hegemonic interests is infuriating. Trump, we know, is not known for his understanding of culture as an essential factor in social development, not even his own. When asked about his reading, he never mentions a novel or a poem in passing, and more than once has referred to as a favorite bedside book, Talent is overrated, by Geoff Colvin, with the subtitle: What really separates first-class leaders from the rest of the world. He quotes from Machiavelli’s The Prince, and The Art of War, by Sun Tzu, but has not read the books. He only repeats fragments selected by his advisors.
The idea of associating the prohibition of educational and cultural exchanges with trafficking in persons cannot be more delusional. What relation does human trafficking have to cutting federal funds to promote academic forums, art exhibitions, concert organization with countries the U.S. government has tagged as not meeting “minimum standards of the law for the elimination of human trafficking” or not making “significant efforts to meet the minimum standards.” It is a policy that makes absolutely no sense.
In the case of Cuba, on June 5, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), of the United States Department of Commerce, announced that general licenses would be eliminated for group educational trips known as “people-to-people.”
This reflects something the bravado cannot reverse. Anti-Cuban elements close to the White are notorious for their tantrums, enraged that a small neighboring archipelago asserts its self-determination and decides the course of its foreign policy, internationalism and solidarity, choosing its own friends and not giving in to pressure or coercion of any kind.
But it is sad to note that neither Trump nor his fellow-travelers, who prompt him to make erratic statements, care about the culture of their people. This is made evident by budget allocations for the coming fiscal year for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEA and NEH).
Since he took command of the Oval Office, Trump has demonstrated his contempt for these institutions, cutting funds for their operations. Moreover, as noted in the introduction to the 2020 budget proposal, “The administration does not consider the activities of the NEA or NEH to be central federal responsibilities.” At the same time, proposed is the elimination of funds for the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Richard Ford, a successful best-selling U.S. writer, not affiliated with leftist thinking, defined the President with these words: “Having Donald Trump as my president is a lot like letting my kids hang out with the wrong people. Under corrupting influence, children will almost certainly do something bad, possibly irreparable, maybe ruin their lives.”