Despite what Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio has reportedly believed throughout much of his political career, it seems that his parents didn't flee Fidel Castro's communist Cuba for political freedom in the US. What some media appear to have "revealed" is that they came to the US in 1956, prior to Castro's rise to power, so as to improve their lives. And, as these reports tellingly make clear, this is a mere economic reason for emigrating, not the noble one of escaping oppression.
Let me tell you right away that when you live in a hopelessly defunct country, it makes little difference whether you are oppressed or impoverished. Both can kill you good, and both are mostly the result of how the country is being run by the politicians who have taken it over. Batista versus Castro – who cares? Hitler versus Stalin – who cares? Bad news either way and responsible folks, especially parents with young kids, will do the right thing and get out before it's too late.
When I was smuggled out of Hungary at age 14, I left mainly because of my very bad prospects there, economic or otherwise. I had already begun to open my mouth in unwise ways, such as questioning Karl Marx's dictum in school, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs." I used to run past the Soviet Embassy and shout obscenities at the frozen guards and tell jokes like, "Why is that woman in that famous statue on top of Gellert Hill holding her palm leaf up high? Because beneath her stands a Soviet soldier and she is afraid he will steal it from her." Or, "How come just seconds after Molotov told Stalin that they're driving out to the countryside did Stalin's chauffeur enter the room reporting that his car was waiting for him? Because Radio Free Europe announced the trip a couple of seconds ago."
I don't know whether my mother in Budapest and father in Munich, when considering helping me escape, felt the threat to me was economic or something else. They fortunately decided that it would be safer for me to live in the West. Let's just say when one is threatened by a dictatorship, often this occurs via economic oppression and deprivation – loss of one's job, confiscation of one's property, eviction from one's abode, etc., etc. – not just out and out jail and torture. Of course, there are also those possibilities and deportation – mainly to somewhere like Siberia back in those days in communist countries – or outright murder. All in all the idea is that one's life is going to suck big time or get snuffed out!
I don't know about the parents of little Marco Rubio but in any case I would applaud their actions and as an adult, the Senator is rightly thankful for what they did for him and themselves. Ah, but when it comes to political haggling, any possible weakness in one's opponent is fair game. Never mind his policies, never mind yours, just besmirch the opponent good and hard and gain power any which way, right?
I suppose leaving a country for reasons of wanting to escape poverty and improve one's economic circumstances is not noble enough for the members of the US media who delight in this kind of "revelation." Gotcha is what matters. But why is pointing out that Rubio's parents left for America for the allegedly "conventional reason of economic improvement" something newsworthy?
Well, because of an ancient prejudice among millions of people against those who want to live well, who want economic success instead of failure. To endure poverty is heroic but to escape it petty, by this line of thinking. Never mind that when one's child lacks food and clothing and the rest of those lowly economic advantages in life, the kid's likely to grow up in hardship and will have some serious catching up to do.
My parents wanted me to do well enough in life to get a good start and the uniform gross mismanagement of Hungary at the hands of the communists – and earlier the fascists – was a good enough reason to get me out of there.
Of course, I took a big risk, too, since fleeing was hazardous – the border was booby trapped and guards were targeting all those who fled on foot like I and my companions did. (Not that I fully grasped this – for me it was more like an adventure.) But needless to say, it was all worth it, even if we had failed – trying is better with those damned dictators than putting up.
I personally am glad that Sen. Rubio's parents had the foresight to get him out of Cuba before Castro took over the place and started to make a royal mess of it.