As the son of Cuban immigrants it is nearly impossible to avoid having a visceral reaction to all of the reports and articles being released in the wake of Fidel Castro’s death. Admittedly I have tried to avoid reading anything that would appear even remotely objective on the subject. Although I take pride in working hard to understand perspectives that differ from mine, it is simply impossible for me to accept that there can be anything but repulsion for a man that by all accounts ended the lives of thousands of his own citizens. Not because he sent them off to fight in a war, but rather, because they opposed his views. There is always an inherent danger when expressing an opinion like the one I will be laying out herein. The danger lies in alienating readers before they fully grasp the content of ones message. But when the opinion relates to the dictatorial reign of an unelected communist leader who stifled any form of free expression, then I happily accept the consequences of the indictment I am laying out against anyone that believes that Fidel Castro deserves anything other than a complete repudiation.
As a product of a long line of Republican family members, I have also found it appropriate to openly celebrate the countless virtues found in the progressive movement. From women’s suffrage to the fight for civil rights to the battle for marriage equality, progressives throughout our history have helped make America a better place to enjoy our individual freedoms. That is why the romantic view of Fidel Castro held by many on the left is so infuriating. Many that hold a certain level of respect or admiration for Castro are the same people that have fought so hard for civil liberties in the United States, a series of rights denied to all Cubans for nearly six decades. Are my people not worthy of those same rights and privileges? Or does your admiration for Castro’s ability to thumb his nose at the U.S. outweigh the value of the freedoms you claim to hold so dear?
“People that are musing about how Castro’s legacy is yet to be determined should be ashamed of themselves.”
People that are musing about how Castro’s legacy is yet to be determined should be ashamed of themselves. When an individual unapologetically murders innocent people in the name of power his/her legacy has already been determined. Interestingly, those of you that are not prepared to pass judgment on Fidel Castro’s legacy of murder and oppression are the same people that are expressing dismay and protesting the free and fair election of Donald Trump. Yet Trump could spend the rest of his life saying and doing obscene things and he would still not scratch the surface of the depravity that Castro has inflicted on his own people. And while I am not an apologist for Donald Trump, I would respect progressives more if they demonstrated the same outrage against the now deceased dictator that they do against the President Elect.
For most of my adult life I have wondered how some people on the left could ever celebrate Fidel Castro in any way. And while I admit that I am sometimes tempted to lash out in anger at those that view the Cuban dictator through a different lens, I will refrain from that because I think it is important to attempt to understand “why” certain progressives ignore Castro’s atrocities. To try to understand the “why” it is good to start with what progressives cite as the reasons Castro is a somewhat admirable figure. Jesse Jackson recently captured the sentiment quite succinctly:
While Castro unfortunately denied many political freedoms, he at the same time did establish many economic freedoms, e.g. education and healthcare.
Now anyone with a modicum of common sense can easily identify the absurdity of that statement. He calls the deprivation of political freedoms unfortunate and lauds the economic freedoms of a society where the average salary is $20 per month. One of the saddest realizations is that Jackson’s views are neither unique nor isolated. When socialist sympathizers argue that Castro fought for the poor I think they mean he fought to make everyone poor. After all, the purpose of socialism is less about raising people out of poverty and more about stripping people of wealth and economic incentives as a way of reaching equality, something Castro did quite well. Of course that life of economic deprivation did not apply to him or his associates.
Among his supposed accomplishments, sympathetic progressives point to Cuba’s high literacy rates and universal healthcare as positive features of Castro’s legacy. Of course they fail to acknowledge that the Cuban government has dictated what citizens are allowed to read. Moreover, it is unacceptably easier to educate or indoctrinate children when the slightest misbehavior results in severe punishments at the hand of the state. I am certain that progressives in the U.S. would vehemently object to any effort by our school districts to instill fear and retributive punishment on our students. You see, children in Cuba belong to the state and parents have had very little say whenever Castro decided what was in the child’s best interest. I am pretty certain our literacy rate would be extremely high under those abhorrently strict conditions. Not to mention that Castro apologists that are enamored with Cuba’s literacy rate ignore the fact that once you get done with your education you are either looking at unemployment or a potential income of $20 per month. The result of the Nation’s centralized socialist economic model being that Castro’s policies have created an underground network of illegal bartering, whereby people have become adept at breaking laws in order to feed their families.
As for Cuba’s so-called excellent universal healthcare system that many in America tout as a model to be replicated - give us a break. Here is the reality: Cuba is suffering from a critical shortage of doctors. The average salary for a physician on the island is $67 per month, so doctors have been escaping the dictatorship in droves. Plus the Castro brothers have sent physicians all over the world to countries that have financially propped up the regime in exchange for medical services. So whatever benefits are being reaped by high literacy rates and qualified physicians are certainly not being reaped by the Cuban people that suffer from conditions that have been eradicated in most places on the globe. Not to mention a reality that Cuban families in the U.S. know all too well: when a family member on the island faces any kind of medical procedure it falls to the families in exile to send bed sheets, medicines, gauges and any other item that is needed to ensure a safe and sanitary procedure. Whether apologists choose to accept it or not, those are the realities faced by regular Cubans all over the island.
With clear and empirical evidence that it is not Castro’s policies that have earned him a certain cult following among some progressives in the U.S., what can we conclude is the reason for the support he continues to receive in the states? I argue that it is easy to debunk the theory that the support is principled. Instead, an analysis leads me to one conclusion: it is spite that has driven the veneration of the murderous dictator. Many Americans wholeheartedly believe that we have been, and continue to be an evil nation. So the fact the Fidel Castro resisted our way of life and thumbed his nose at us for so long actually endears him to many. Because they see us as bullies they take great joy in the fact that someone withstood the pressures of our society and endured for so long. The problem with that position is that it ignores the suffering Cubans have endured as a result of Castro’s tyranny. It is a sad statement when a person’s dislike for their own country allows them to look the other way when others are suffering. And yes, I freely acknowledge that America is far from perfect, but since our founding we have been on a quest to become a more perfect union. We have addressed and continue to address many of the more objectionable parts of our history. But even with all of our imperfections, I still haven’t seen hundreds of thousands of Americans risking their lives by hopping on rafts in an attempt to reach the panacea that is Cuba. That said, anytime any of you would like to debate the merits of Fidel Castro’s reign I’d be happy to argue against the already settled legacy of that despicable human being. As for the side you will be taking in the debate, good luck defending the indefensible.