Editor’s note: This commentary is by Deb Billado, chairwoman of the Vermont GOP.
Imagine waking up and going to work at a job that pays the same amount per month as most Americans earn in a day or two. Imagine having virtually no civil liberties, with freedom of expression replaced by state-approved expression. Imagine having no right to health care privacy while receiving services in a black market to avoid the crushing high prices and wait times imposed by the bureaucracy. And imagine being arbitrarily detained or imprisoned for “delinquent” behavior.
Well, you don’t have to imagine. That is the reality that millions of Cubans live through each and every day.
After decades of economic and personal oppression by a dictatorial state, the Cuban people are at their breaking point. They aren’t asking for liberty anymore — they’re demanding it. It’s no surprise that, when they take to the street — much like the protests for freedom in Hong Kong — they proudly wave the American flag as a beacon for freedom. It speaks volumes next to the socialist protests in our own nation, where banners of Fidel Castro are waved by individuals without the slightest inkling of what those who actually have lived under Castro’s policies have had to endure.
But still, these Cuban protestors look to America as the shining city on the hill that President Reagan so famously described. With all the political infighting and anti-American sentiment within our own country, it is all-too-easy to lose sight of how we are viewed by those around the world without the luxury of their own freedom.
These Cuban protests are a reminder that, whatever our faults and whatever challenges we have yet to overcome, we are still that shining city. We are still the example that so many around the world seek to emulate. We are still the land of opportunity. Our freedoms are written as God-given rights enshrined in our Constitution, while millions around the world only dream of such freedom.
I proudly stand with the Cuban patriots shouting “we are not afraid” and “freedom” — just as all Americans should. When there is injustice in other parts of the world that results in the denial of liberty — or worse, the state-sanctioned ideology of oppression — it is our obligation as that shining city to support them in their struggle.
In these divisive times, let us remember that each and every one of us is so fortunate to live in that shining city — and that we should continue the struggle in our own country to ensure our liberties are never taken for granted.