Going to Bat for Cuba
What drives someone to champion the rights of people in a land he doesn't know?
March 30, 2009 - 12:53 am
I waited outside the stadium where the players’ buses were parked. When the Cuban team finally started to come out, an officer came up to me and said, “Listen can you do me a favor and not yell anything?” I was taken aback and protested that it was a public street. He said, “I know but you’ll make my life a lot easier if you don’t yell anything.” I explained that the reason I was in the U.S. was because my parents wanted me to live in a country where I could speak my mind. He said, “Why do you have to do it here? Why can’t you do it in Florida?” He feigned sympathy but had none.
As the Cuban players came out, I tried to make the cop understand that the players are being used and abused by the worst kind of dictatorship. I suspected he would arrest me if I persisted and I couldn’t afford that. I began to walk away and he called out, “Thanks, Henry.” He knew my name. I had been fingered as a troublemaker for making political remarks in a public venue. The world is upside down, I thought.
Walking back to my car I began to question whether my heart was still really in this. The Cuba my parents knew is gone. The Cubans that remain there have been domesticated by the regime. The ones that leave just want to come and enjoy the fruits of capitalism while waving a flag that glorifies one of the two men most responsible for destroying their country and rooting for the other one’s pet propaganda project while his son sits in the dugout. Add to this the fact that President Obama and Congress will most likely dismantle the trade embargo on Cuba without gaining a single concession from the regime. The U.S. will have lost the last battle of the Cold War and soon our tax dollars will be subsidizing one the bloodiest dictatorships in history. A while back, when Fidel Castro suddenly took ill, I thought we were in the home stretch. Suddenly, I could see some form of this regime ruling for 15-20 more years.
What makes me want to champion the rights of people I don’t know in a land I’ve never known? Maybe it’s selfishness. I want to visit Cuba but I want to do so on terms that are morally acceptable to me: when it’s free from the dictatorship my parents had to flee.
I arrived at my hotel room drained. Then I saw an item Val had posted about the World Baseball Classic. Back home in Miami, Team USA had played in a game the day before and the American team embraced a Cuban-American serviceman who had served in both Iraq and Afghanistan and had been wounded and confined to a wheelchair as a result. They signed his flag and made him feel welcome in the clubhouse. Tears streamed down my face as I thought of the contrast between this young man who gave his ability to walk for his adopted country and the deplorable women who flaunted Che Guevara’s face for the TV cameras.
The following day I received an email from a reader, thanking me for writing about the true Che Guevara. The reader, a Gulf War veteran, said there was an upcoming screening of the Che Guevara biopic The Motorcycle Diaries at the college and asked me for advice. I told him to counter the film with the truth. Perhaps they could screen Che Guevara: Anatomy of a Myth or invite Humberto Fontova, the author of Exposing the real Che Guevara, to speak.
That single email lifted my spirits in a way I could never have expected. It made me realize that it doesn’t matter if many people don’t want to listen to the truth about the evil that still lurks out there; some still do. And it’s for those few that I will continue to write about Cuba and about this great country.