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From Mao to Castro: Tyrants Die, But Bad Ideas Live On

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

My dad told me that after Mao passed away on September 9th, 1976, the entirety of China fell into a forced month-long mourning period. Thousands of make-shift memorial services were set up throughout the country. Government agencies, factories and stores all closed their doors so people could pay their respects to their "great leader." Everyone understood that the unofficial command was that you must cry, and the louder the better. It was dangerous to fake it, because someone standing next to you was just as eager to do the government's evil bidding by policing your display of emotions.  


In addition to being responsible for more than 60 million deaths, Mao's three decade rule in China also broke down the normal relationship within families and community. Chinese people would not only self-censor their own thoughts and behaviors, but also monitor each other's, too. Thus, at Mao's memorial service, anyone who failed to publicly demonstrate adequate sorrow was reported by the people standing next to him. He then would be publicly beaten, paraded, humiliated and later sent to labor camps. His family would live in shame and humiliation. No one was spared, including young children who didn't even know what was going on. Many parents had no choice but to pinch their kids or beat them up at home prior to attending the public memorial service, so their kids would let out a piercing cry with real tears.

China was not the only totalitarian state who forced tears out of its people for a dead tyrant.

North Korea followed suit. After Kim Il-sung and later his son, Kim Jung-il, passed away, the North Korean state media broadcast similar images of many teary-eyed North Koreans who seemed to suffer enormous grief. Like Chinese people back in 1976, North Koreans knew they were watched by both the state and their fellow citizens. Their public display of sorrow was their only way of survival.

Now it's Castro's turn. It's reported that after Fidel Castro's death, Havana, Cuba's capital city, remained eerily quiet and subdued. Cuba's government just announced a nine-day national mourning period. History tends to repeat itself one way or another, so I wouldn't be surprised that the forced mourning that Chinese people had to put on in 1976 could happen to Cubans in 2016.


Tyrants like Mao, the Kims, and Castro never gave a damn about ordinary citizens' well-being. When they were alive, they treated their people like dirt. They took their people's lives and property at will. They paid lip service to freedom and equality. They lived a sheltered and luxurious lifestyle while their people suffered. Gulags and death squads were their answer to any dissent.  Ironically, they desperately wanted to be loved, be fondly remembered, and be deeply missed after death. So, their political heirs put on a show by demanding only government-sanctioned emotion from its people--public displays of tears and sorrow. Even in death, these tyrants still tried to exert total control of their people. 

Of course, we will see images of Cubans standing in long lines with tears in their eyes, waiting to pay their final "respect" to Castro. Don't let those images fool you. The spontaneously-erupted midnight celebration on Black Friday in Miami's little Havana was the true display of the Cuban people's real emotion when they had nothing to fear.

I'm happy for them. But I am afraid that while tyrants eventually die, their bad ideas live on. Just listen to some notable voices in the West who have offered their truly sympathetic comments or even downright praise towards Castro in the last couple of days. They expressed their feelings under pressure from no one, so I expect what they said publicly was how they felt privately.


President Obama chose not to call Castro a "tyrant" or "dictator." In his statement, he didn't even mention the oppression and poverty that Cuban people have suffered for decades. Instead, he offered a softball by stating that "History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him." But Mr. President, history has recorded the sufferings that Castro brought on to the Cuban people. Just ask any Cuban refugee in Miami. Yet, what difference does it make if people in power like you chose to ignore it and are determined not to heed any lessons from it?

Former President Carter wrote "Rosalynn and I share our sympathies with the Castro family and the Cuban people on the death of Fidel Castro. We remember fondly our visits with him in Cuba and his love of his country. We wish the Cuban citizens peace and prosperity in the years ahead.” I imagine President Carter, in his highly controlled visit, never met any member from the "Ladies in White" group. Nor did he notice young Cuban women offering themselves for prostitution to foreigners outside downtown hotels in downtown Havana because they are hungry and they have no other prospect in life.

Canadian Prime Minster Justin Trudeau praised Castro for his "a tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people." He was mocked endlessly on social media and #TrudeauEulogies trended on twitter for several days. Seriously, Justin, it's time you get a crash course on communism. Since you probably need some quick reads, how about starting with Ayn Rand's "We the Living," and my own "Confucius Never Said?"


What about Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, who tweeted "Fidel Castro was a symbol of the struggle for justice in the shadow of empire. Presente!" or Jesse Jackson Jr., who tweeted "In many ways, after 1959, the oppressed the world over joined Castro's cause of fighting for freedom & liberation-he changed the world. RIP"?

These influencers from the left proclaim they stand for liberty and justice for all, but choose to be willfully ignorant by refusing to face the bloody history and mountains of evidence right in front of them. They are hypocrites and cowards because they chose to offer their praise of tyrants from a comfortable distance. So far, none of them has either given up the material comforts generated by a free society, nor foregone their Constitutionally-protected right to free expression to migrate to countries such as Cuba, Venezuela, or North Korea. Instead, they make a nice living by making complaints against the very free and prosperous society they live in.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn warned us several decade ago, "For us in Russia communism is a dead dog. For many people in the West, it is still a living lion." Unfortunately, it was true then as it is still true now, that the liberal left keep bad ideas going on and on.

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