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A blazing red Bel Air convertible barreled down the street, roof pulled all the way back and engine roaring. Little flags on each side of the hood danced wildly in the rushing air. On the car’s bumper, a sticker that read CAPITALISM KILLS.
A toned arm hung out of the driver’s side window. In one hand, a cigar that billowed smoke into the humid summer air. The other hand gripped the wheel.
“Hot day,” Cuba said when they, not all too gently, halted at a red light. She brought the cigar back to her mouth where it settled comfortably into the familiar home between her teeth. “Good day for a drive. Garbage day for ‘diplomacy’.”
Next to her, Venezuela pretended to have dozed off. Closing his eyes was also useful for not having to watch her drive over the speed limit with one hand or, God forbid, her knees when her hands were occupied by the shift and whatever she was smoking.
“Yet,” Cuba went on, “we’re doomed to waste this day, trading empty words with liars and killers.” The light went green and she took off, the engine letting out a guttural groan.
After driving another block toward the UN, Cuba spotted North Korea parked along the sidewalk, looking distressed–though, that was his usual state of looking–as he examined the machinery under the hood of his pretty, black Mercedes.
She straightened her back, puffed out her chest a little, and pulled up. “Car troubles, comrade?”
North Korea turned to her and stared, the shame of being caught vulnerable and in need showing on his face for just a second before he expertly neutralized his features.
“No,” he said coolly. Smoke began pouring from his car.
“No, of course not.” Cuba took a few puffs. “When’s the last time you rode in a classic like mine? It’s a pleasure every person should treat themselves to once in a while.”
She watched North Korea’s eyebrows pinch together and the corners of his mouth dip–the physical manifestatio of his pride being swallowed. “Well, since you’re offering, it would he rude to say no, wouldn’t it?”
“One second.” Cuba then turned to Venezuela and lowered her voice. “Hey, get in the back.”
“What?” Now he was wide awake and there were equal amounts hurt and disbelief in his voice.
She put more force into it. “Hop in the back for me, yeah? It’ll only be for a few minutes.”
After groaning, Venezuela scrambled into the backseat. He wasn’t even sitting upright when his face smacked into the leather as the car took off, new co-pilot crying about not having a seatbealt to wear.
On the ride home, Venezuela wasted no time.
“What the hell was that earlier? I couldn’t enjoy myself because ashes kept flying back into my eyes.” He shot Cuba an incriminating glance, but she wasn’t even looking. “We’re family, aren’t we? He’s not your brother, I am.”
“But he is my friend,” she said.
“So it has nothing to do with his girly lips?” The engine sputtered.
“He hates the United States.” Cuba’s voice came alive, like a dance. Which dance, however, Venezuela wasn’t sure. “That’s the most attractive feature anyone could have.”
“I hate the US too. Dammit, you know I do.”
“You’ve never been at war.”
“Are you kidding me?” Now both their voices were dancing, but against and not with each other. “So it’s a bad thing I haven’t been attacked by that pig?”
The car ground to a halt at a stop sign. “It’s a great thing! I’m just saying that he has more anti-America cred than you do.”
Venezuela folded his arms and slumped back in his seat. “Alright. You’ll see. I’ll be so anti-America that the bastard will lie awake at night wondering what he did to me.”
Cuba turned away and grinned.
“Every month you’ll be able to accumulate Resistance Points,” Cuba explained in front of a chalkboard, “that will reset the next month. I’ll be awarding you points based on how passionate, revolutionary, and anti-American your feats are. The points will tpically range from one hundred to five hundred, unless you really impress me.” She gestured to the two columns on the board. “Here’s you, and here’s North Korea.”
“Does he know about this?” asked Venezuela.
“Of course he does,” Cuba lied. “And before you ask, we won’t start until next month.”
Venezuela deflated. “But I’ve already done two anti-American things this month! I wrote a manifesto denouncing US economic domination of Latin America on his Facebook page. I slashed his free trade policy to pieces–and also his tires.”
“I like that, but rules are rules.”
“Think, comrade, think.” Her tone and expression got serious. “You don’t want to start this month. North Korea launched a missile test just days ago. It was a bold rebuke of American militarism and warmongering. It was . . . valiant, defiant, beautiful.” Was she going to shed a tear? “And, it would have net him five thousand points. Five thousand. Do you really want to contest with five thousand points?”
On July 4th, Venezuela celebrated with a special kind of fire show, in the way of flag burning. Cuba video taped it, as per his request, to send to America later. Happy birthday, fascist!
“You traitor,” Venezuela growled at the fire. “You think you can do whatever you want to whoever you want! You take us to be ants crawling around the ‘might’ of your imperialist boot, but you’re wrong. We are warriors!” And then he added heartlessly, “And furthermore, McDonald’s is shit.”
“Very good,” Cuba said. “I could feel the passion sweltering inside of you.”
“Six hundred. I doubled your score, holiday bonus. You’re still behind by two hundred, though. Keep at it.”
Cuba arrived at Venezuela’s door with only the knowledge that he’d been confronted by the American bastard in person. He figured she’d know something was amiss, what with all the signs up in the front yard that screamed phrases like “THE OIL IS MINE” and “GTFO YANKEE.”
“He came here announcing sanctions,” Venezuela explained, “as if he would stop there! Sanctions are just the beginning. He wants to break in and beat me into submission. His violent hungry can only be sated by blood, total surrender, and oil. Lots of oil. I said ‘Gringo, go home!’ and slammed the door in his ugly face.”
“You called him a gringo?”
Venezuela grinned. “Come on, I’ll show you my artwork.” He led her around his house, showing off all the fun graffiti he’d painted the day before. One was a dog with America’s head and the words “barking assholes seldom bite.” Another one looked like the American flag, but the stars were replaced by a picture of a bomb dropping. Another implied that Venezuela respected the sanctions as much as he respected toilet paper.
Cuba stepped back and nodded with satisfaction. Propaganda done well was, after all, one of her weaknesses. “Pretty good. Pretty good.”
“How many points does this get me?”
He cheered. That put him ahead of North Korea by fifty points. It was nearly a year that they’d been going at this, but he’d only won twice.
“Cuba, when I beat him this time, no one is allowed to compare us anymore.”
She nodded. “That’s right, comrade. No one will be able to say that you are ‘the North Korea of Latin America’ because their jaws will be slack with awe.”
A beautiful March morning was perfect for doing absolutely nothing except watching baseball and pretending that your life wasn’t falling to pieces.
“Get off the couch and help me clean,” Cuba said as she draghed the vacuum along.
“Since when did you clean?”
“Since I decided to host the great and powerful United States,” she said wryly.
Venezuela shot up. “The devil is coming here? You’re letting him into your home?” He made for the kitchen. “You still keep a cross, don’t you?”
Cuba stared at the floor as she pushed the vacuum over an ash stain again and again and again. It wouldn’t go away. “The last time he was here was 1928. Shit changes.” Her words devolved into a near mutter. “Shit changes.”
Venezuela watched her for a while. He thought back to the winter of 2014 and how not everything had frosted over in the cold.
Then he said, “It’s weird that I never asked, but how many anti-America points do you have?”
“Don’t worry about it.”
While it may seem like I’m poking fun at Venezuela and Cuba here, it’s important to remember that these countries and others who harbor strong anti-Americanism have their reasons for doing so, and that anti-American is often caused in part by the United States’ military, economic, and political oppression. That is to say, anti-Americanism is usually not unfounded. But is it justified? Is being anti-Amerian or anti- any country right, wrong, or even necessary?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.
1) Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Cuba’s Fidel Castro are sometimes described as having a father-son, mentor-student, or brotherly relationship, which is why in this story I have them act like family.
2) The chronology isn’t obvious because I didn’t list dates, but the story begins in June 2014. North Korea tested a missile on June 30. The July video recording took place just a week later. Then time skips a little.
“Gringo, go home” was a real slogan used during a political backlash when the US sanctioned Venezuelan officials in March 2015. Read more about it here.
Obama visited Cuba in March 2016, making him the first to do so since Calvin Coolidge. Obama’s more relaxed Cuba policies were part of the “Cuban Thaw,” a period of warming relations between the two countries starting in December 2014.
3) Someone–I think it was Bruce Cumings–said, in a respectful and non-insulting manner, that Kim Il-sung had a feminine mouth, and the more I thought about it and looked at him, the more I realized how true that was. Kim Jong un has it too. Now, I’m not saying that you need to drop what you’re doing and look at Kim’s juicy lips, but… try it. Just try it.