Fawning Over Fidel

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Aug 07, 2006 9:19 PM

I have to wonder what Val Prieto would think of the first in this series of Fidel Castro profiles from the BBC on this, the week of Castro's 80th birthday.

Here's how he's described:

the world's longest serving leader

Having a great many more dissident prisons than elections will do that for ya.

He is instantly recognisable both from his appearance

Ooh, like Jessica Simpson!

and from his first name alone

Like Cher or Madonna.

The name is expressed with affection by some

Like, those who are under pain of death if they don't express it that way. Oh, and Steven Spielberg.

with hostility by others

Like, anyone who managed to raft it to America and escape him.

but it calls up history for everyone.

Oooh, aaah, history. What a great, neutral word, which requires the writer to make no moral distinctions between Castro and anyone else.

a symbol of revolution

Bloody revolution that brings about inescapable poverty!

a communist who has survived the fall of communism.

He's so strong.

He continues to inspire his followers with slogans and five-hour speeches.

Because they will go to jail if they're not properly inspired. Does the writer not recognize the oddity of the Cuban people being "inspired" by 5-hour speeches?

Then we get to a section labeled "Intolerance." Now, they'll blast Castro, right?

He is praised for standing up for the oppressed of Latin America, for opposing the Yankee imperialist, for making Cuba into a more equal society than many, for developing Cuba's health service and sending doctors abroad to help others.

Umm, I thought this was the "Intolerance" section. Well, that was only the first paragraph.

And it wasn't only doctors he has sent abroad. He despatched troops to Angola and Ethiopia in support of fellow revolutionaries. His hand was seen in many a revolutionary movement in his own continent.

Uhh, ok, still no intolerance. And, that would be fellow Communists, not "revolutionaries." It's because we let people get away with calling them revolutionaries instead of totalitarian dictators that we get Che T-shirts.

But he is also condemned for intolerance, for keeping his people poor and for refusing to see the benefits of economic liberalisation that even the communists of China have embraced.

He has stopped his people from leaving the island, leading them to risk their lives in rickety boats to try to get out.

Oh, that's the intolerance you were referring to? You see no need to mention the jailing and killing of political dissidents?

He has cut a giant figure on the world stage

You know, because he brought the United States and Soviet Union to the brink of nuclear war. That's the way to cut a figure. Way to go, Fidel!

It was the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 that propelled him into worldwide prominence.

Worldwide prominence? I know a word for "prominence" that also means evil-ness. Try "infamy" on for size.

Before that he had been just a glamorous revolutionary leader.

What is he, a Project Runway contestant?

Then we come to a conversation between former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and Castro which shows the true nature of this revolutionary, glamorous, strong, sometimes intolerant, inspirational leader. When asked about the nuclear missiles in Cuba in 1962:

He asked Castro if he had recommend they be used. The answer was:

"Yes, I did."

"And what would have happened to Cuba?" Mr McNamara asked him.

"It would have been destroyed."

Remember that exchange the next time someone tells you how much Castro cares about the people of Cuba.

He has survived harm from his enemies.

Like some sort of mythical Centaur with a magical, impenetrable saddle of protection.

And whatever happens to Cuba after him, the name of Fidel will survive in history.

"As a murderous dicator" should be the end of that sentence. Oops, must have run out of room.

UPDATE: Betsy Newmark wonders, "Why do they love Fidel?" I'll never understand either, Betsy.

All that Fidel has going for him really is his opposition to the United States. Deep down that seems to be what the left likes about him - that they can use their praise of him as a stick to beat up on this country and on capitalism. You would have thought that the battle between communism and capitalism was over and the victor was clear, but it seems that there are still some pockets here in the US where it rages on.

Reporters love to juxtapose his 47 years of rule in Cuba with how many presidents have come and gone since he first took power. Well, that is because he is a dictator who refuses to give up power while we are a democracy that has laws for when a leader leaves office.

UPDATE 9:42 a.m.: Val tells us exactly how he feels, and quite amazingly, without using any four-letter words. 

Here he is in comments to this post:

I know first hand what it's like to live under a fidel castro, these twerps at the BBC, etal, are nothing but immoral fence straddlers, praising ruthlessness and oppression, while 11 million people suffer.