Monday, November 28, 2016

The Revolution IS What It Managed To Be And Not What It Wished To Become

I was originally going to write a really long-winded obituary on Fidel, but it's that point in the semester when I'm typically just too tired to think straight (coming off of stuffing myself full of food for a week probably doesn't help).

There's very little I can add to the conversation that hasn't already been said. Castro was a hero to many, a villain to many others, with many more holding complicated feelings toward him. Regular readers of this blog will have little difficulty guessing where I fall on that spectrum (though for those having trouble, I tend to agree with Nelson Mandela, a man Castro defended while my own president called him a terrorist).

Really the only surprise to me in the aftermath of his death was finding out how many liberals and other shades of the left despised him. While I typically hate the hand-waving condescension of saying people have fallen for propaganda, I guess if you call someone a brutal dictator enough, most people will believe you. I personally was accused of falling for propaganda when I happened to mention the oft-cited statistic that even though Cuba is a tiny island nation under embargo from most of the world, they manage to have significantly lower infant mortality rate than the United States. And maybe my accuser was right; if anyone is going to be peddling pro-Cuba false stats, it's gotta be the CIA. I guess maybe the 639th assassination attempt is killing him with kindness?

But yeah, Castro had his worts, as does any world leader. But because he was considered an enemy of the US, his sins are foundational and unchanging, unlike the many sins of the US, which are accidental and non-consequential. This leads to the bizarre spectacle of President Obama condemning the human rights violations of the Cuban government while he runs a literally lawless torture prison on Cuban soil.

While I searched around for the words to capture the heights and lows of Fidel's life, as is usually the case, it turns out someone else already said it better. So rather than ramble on any further, I'll instead offer my official endorsement of the poetic words of Eduardo Galeano on Fidel's life and legacy:

His enemies say he was an uncrowned king who confused unity with unanimity.
And in that his enemies are right.

His enemies say that if Napoleon had a newspaper like Granma, no Frenchman would have learned of the disaster at Waterloo.
And in that his enemies are right.

His enemies say that he exercised power by talking a lot and listening little, because he was more used to hearing echoes than voices.
And in that his enemies are right.

But some things his enemies do not say: it was not to pose for the history books that he bared his breast to the invaders' bullets, he faced hurricanes as an equal, hurricane to hurricane, he survived 638 attempts on his life, his contagious energy was decisive in making a country out of a colony, and it was not by Lucifer's curse or God's miracle that the new country managed to outlive 10 US presidents, their napkins spread in their laps, ready to eat it with knife and fork.

And his enemies never mention that Cuba is one rare country that does not compete for the World Doormat Cup. And they do not say that the revolution, punished for the crime of dignity, is what it managed to be and not what it wished to become. Nor do they say that the wall separating desire from reality grew ever higher and wider thanks to the imperial blockade, which suffocated a Cuban-style democracy, militarized society, and gave the bureaucracy, always ready with a problem for every solution, the alibis it needed to justify and perpetuate itself.

And they do not say that in spite of all the sorrow, in spite of the external aggression and the internal high-handedness, this distressed and obstinate island has spawned the least unjust society in Latin America.

And his enemies do not say that this feat was the outcome of the sacrifice of its people, and also of the stubborn will and old-fashioned sense of honor of the knight who always fought on the side of the losers, like his famous colleague in the fields of Castile.

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