Cuba in the house

My favorite television show at the moment is Fox’s “House.” I love the fast-paced and sarcastic wordplay, and usually, I like its political sensibility. The importance of science and the pursuit of truth are recurring themes. Despite Dr. House’s “un-pc” cracks, the doctors are liberal, the cast is multi-racial and there are gay and lesbian characters and storylines.

Meanwhile, the right-wing culture warriors are aided and abetted by the media, Fox in the first place. A recent poll by the Daily Kos found that 77 percent of “self-identified” Republicans believe public school students should be taught that the Book of Genesis explains how God created the world. Also 52 percent believe sex education should not be allowed at those same public schools, at which, according to 73 percent of those polled, gay people should not be allowed to teach.

Dr. House regularly skewers such anti-scientific and other reactionary notions, and it’s important and encouraging to see this on such a popular show.

The hospital depicted in the series is of course more than a little idealized – it’s always clean and well staffed, and no one is turned away for lack of health insurance. They even run a free clinic, and the head of the hospital herself sees patients. Right. But OK, it’s TV.

However, a few weeks ago I watched an episode that made me scratch my head, when it took a swipe at Cuba, of all places.

The story was about a young man and his desperately ill wife, who risk their lives crossing the ocean to get to Dr. House, Cuban doctors having been unable to cure her.

I say, Cuba of all places, because of all the countries in the Caribbean, Cuba is the one with the stellar record on medical care, with the lowest infant and maternal mortality rates and the highest life expectancy. Cuba is the one that has clinics and hospitals in every neighborhood, and that has trained thousands of doctors from all over the Caribbean and Latin America.

Now, I suppose a case could be made that the high-tech tests utilized by House’s team can’t be found in Cuba – and I’m realistic enough not to expect a reference to the negative impact of the U.S. economic blockade, including on medical equipment.

But still, why Cuba? Why not Haiti, where 60 percent of people lack access to any basic health-care services, and the life expectancy is 61 years (as compared with 78 years in Cuba).

Why Cuba, which has developed many innovative and advanced medical techniques, and has even become a “medical tourism” destination?

Well, it’s Fox, after all. But how is it that the show has progressive politics in the ways I mentioned, and yet on this issue it finds common ground with the right wing? I guess gratuitous anti-communism is still OK, even hip. The clever and otherwise progressive-minded writers of “House” should consider these words of Martin Luther King, Jr: “Our irrational obsessive anti-communism has led us into too many quagmires to be retained as if it was a mode of scientific thinking.”