HAVANA TIMES — I can’t help but to become alarmed when people use the argument that something is correct in Cuba because the same thing happens in the United States.
As an example of this, I can point to when people say that it’s okay for a certain student, Kabir Vega, to be excluded from his classes for refusing to cut his hair because in the United States there also exist dress codes in schools and students must abide by them.
Two years ago, when Havana Times published the article “No False Promises in Cuba’s Elections,” criticizing the fact that Cubans don’t elect the president of our country, someone posted a comment saying that in the United States people don’t directly elect their president either.
When we criticize the lack of freedom of Cubans to travel abroad (a right that has been partially restored), someone will counter with the complaint that American citizens can’t travel freely to Cuba.
What conclusion should I draw? If something occurs in the United States, without the citizens there complaining (or despite their complaints) then it is fine for the rest of the world? If rights are violated in the United States then it’s okay to violate them here? If there’s no real democracy in the United States of America then we shouldn’t aspire to achieve them in Cuba?
Perhaps, there are logical arguments for forcing Kabir Vega to get a haircut, but as the situation now stands, neither he nor his parents have heard any. It’s good to remember that Kabir Vega doesn’t study in a military school, though sometimes I feel like my country is a big army and I’m just a soldier.
Why should the aesthetic codes of a military school govern a public school? Why wear uniforms, which are supposed to prevent inequalities between students and to make it easier on parents when it comes to buying clothes for their children to attend school. Must we end up destroying every vestige of individuality among pupils?
The worst is that the uniforms don’t serve to hide the social differences that exist between Cuban students. Not everyone can carry cellphones and Ipods to school, not all students have computers in their homes. And if there were a ban on carrying cellphones and iPods to school, it would still suffice to look at students’ shoes and backpacks.
If life has shown that we’re not equal (despite the claims of the leaders at the beginning of the revolution), if not everyone can buy and maintain a cellphone; if not everyone can wear Adidas, Reebok or Fila tennis shoes to school, why should everyone wear their hair short?
When I say everyone, I mean males, since females can choose. In my last year of high school I cut off all of my hair. Though I did have the problem of being looked at like some kind of freak most of the time, no one accused me of violating the school’s rules; nobody threatened to expel me from school. So why can’t Kabir wear his hair long?
Kabir Vega and his parents still haven’t received a logical answer to this question, although we know it’s not a question of logic but one of which side power is on. Only those with power can get away with saying something as stupid as “aesthetics is more important than dignity.”
I think that getting a logical response from teachers and education officials will be almost impossible. Teachers in our country, even those with a high level of professional training, are like government reporters or “stenographers of the powerful” (that’s how one journalist I met a few years ago defined his work).
If some reader sends in a comment with the argument that in schools in the United States have regulations in schools that require males to wear their hair short and that these rules are obeyed, that doesn’t mean that our educational administrators must resort to the same reasoning. Wouldn’t that be a contradiction in our anti-imperialist country, where we criticize American society so much?