By most people's account I am a logical, somewhat analytical individual who tends to focus on facts. And while I will never walk away from a good argument, I seldom get carried away by the emotions of the moment. Yet for the last several months I have been overcome by a disconcerting deja vu.
You see, I am Cuban by birth, and I painfully remember as a young boy in the late 1950s when Castro was still in the mountains, that our Chinese immigrant neighbors in Cuba would sit around the kitchen table and warn my parents that this Castro fellow was the same as Mao Tse-tung, the Communist leader who caused them to leave China. My parents, while no Castro sympathizers, would quickly respond "that can never happen here."
We are different, we have the constitution, we have Congress and so on. Well, the rest is history. It did happen in Cuba, and with a vengeance. With bittersweet feelings, I will celebrate my 50th anniversary in the U.S. on Feb. 5. Bitter, because our family left everything behind, became separated and struggled greatly to make ends meet. Sweet because today my family is proudly American and more prosperous than if we had stayed. For that and much more I am very grateful to this great nation that offered opportunity with open arms. Unfortunately, that is not true of the many that remained behind.
During the late '50s there were many Cubans that thought they needed change. They were tired of the strong arm of the government, the limited opportunities, the killing, the bombing and the corruption. So when Castro surfaced as a young charismatic law student opposing the status quo, most Cubans were at least willing to listen. When Fidel would speak eloquently and passionately on clandestine radio from the mountains, denouncing the existing government, and promising changes that would bring social equality and improve education, and health care, nobody questioned the nature of the changes.
By the time the change was over in Cuba, more than a million people (more than 10 percent of the population) had fled the island. You can call those who made it ashore in the U.S. the most fortunate Cubans. To be fair, Castro did keep one promise: All Cubans today are equally poor with little prospects for improvement.
Fast-forward to today here in the U.S.: We have a young politician who speaks eloquently and passionately denouncing the old system, and promising a change you can believe in, a change that will bring social equality, improve education and health care. A change so much desired by the press corps that they have fallen in love with him and have not questioned it, or performed the due diligence required to facilitate an educated decision.
Is it deja vu? Are we being pied-piped over the cliff and no one is challenging this "change we can believe in"? What is it? How will it be implemented? What will it cost?
Most think the man is naive or inexperienced; I think he is a brilliant, Machiavellian strategist that beat the best political machinery in the country - the Clintons. Just look at the network of candidates that his machine is sponsoring throughout the nation. If he pulls this off you can believe we will get change in ways we have not imagined.
Please, don't just call me a crazy Cuban and think it cannot happen here. It can, and it will. Ask any Venezuelan that did not believe it six years ago. Be diligent with your vote; I do not want to be like our Chinese friends and have to leave my adoptive country, too.
Jose Perez is president of Target Market Trends, a business consulting firm based in Norcross. A resident of Peachtree Corners, he is a member of the State Board of Education.