Socialism is alive and well and far from dead, but for now, at least Fidel Castro is dead. I waited a long time for that.
That may sound melodramatic, considering Castro never directly affected me personally. But I remember school alarms going off when it wasn’t time for recess or lunch; they weren’t even the typical fire sirens. Nevertheless, the teachers and students at Warner Road Elementary, in Cleveland, Ohio, knew the drill, as did millions of teachers and students across the country. We got up and, in an orderly fashion, went out into the hallway, faced the cinder block wall, crouched down and covered our heads with our arms. It was circa 1960. It was a nuclear bomb drill.
Today, the bits and pieces of those mostly black and white memories seem almost surreal to me, as if they never happened, as if they were a dream. But they did happen, and they were part of my life that would forever shape my, and a generation’s, view of the world. Nuclear war was real, even to a little kid from Cleveland.
During those years, the Cold War manifested itself through so many venues. The great U.S./U.S.S.R. space race was under way, Francis Gary Powers, in his U2 spy plane, was shot down over the Soviet Union, the Berlin Wall went up, and Vietnam was simmering. And then there was the failed U.S. Bay of Pigs Invasion that made Fidel Castro a player on the world stage and a U.S. household name.
I came of age during the Vietnam War and the domestic unrest of the ’60s and ’70s and Castro managed to interweave himself in so many of those stories. For a number of those years, I was a paperboy for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Paraphrasing Don Mclean in American Pie, “Those years made me shiver; / With every paper I’d deliver; / Bad news on the doorstep; / I couldn’t take one more step.” My young, inexperienced mind tried to process what was happening during those times, but nothing made sense, including the bearded man from Cuba.
For nearly 60 years, Castro influenced world superpowers and helped foment revolutions and rebel movements in Africa, the Caribbean, Central and South America, Asia, and the Middle East. As the decades played out, Castro played his role on the world stage with a Tony Award performance. He defied ten U.S. presidents and once said, paraphrasing, “I know what every U.S. president wants to do to me, but I also know the American Congress won’t let them.”
The extent to which American progressives have run interference for Castro is astounding, but completely in line with their fascination with Stalin. In the 1930s, American progressives even claimed that Stalin had solved the economic problem of supply and demand. There is so much literature on this, you can begin by just searching for “progressives for Stalin” and “liberals for Castro.” The list includes people in and out of government.
Castro was an icon for a worldwide movement that included a strong Latin anti-Yankee component. As an anti-Yankee icon, he transcended the military arm of the world’s Marxist revolution and also served as inspiration for the rise of liberation theology, a movement that started in Latin America that integrates Christian theology with Marxist philosophy.
In an eerie analogy, like the killer bees that slowly migrated from South America to the U.S., liberation theology migrated here, too, and now has substantial influence in many American Catholic and Protestant churches. Pope Francis, a native of Argentina, often makes statements that many argue have their roots in liberation theology.
Yes, Castro’s country is in shambles, but according to American liberal intelligentsia, Cuba has free universal healthcare and everything else is America’s fault. And according to Castro himself, “One of the greatest benefits of the revolution is that even our prostitutes are college graduates.” What more is there to say?
Taking his rhetoric at face value, in any real measure, Castro may look like he failed at creating a Cuban socialist utopia and helping initiate a worldwide socialist takeover. But to call Castro a failure is extremely naïve. Castro’s greatest achievement, and probably his real goal, was that he realized he couldn’t be a godfather so he settled on being a Mafioso thug.
They’re dancing in Miami but what will happen to Cuba remains to be seen. For me, if the conditions are right, I may even visit the island someday. Thus far, my closest approach to Cuba was at the tip of Key West, where tourists can have their picture taken next to a marker reading, “90 Miles to Cuba.”
At Castro’s trial for leading the rebel attack that launched the Cuban Revolution, Castro said, “Condemn me. It does not matter. History will absolve me.” I hope not, because history is written by the victors. Rather, sometime in the future, I hope when one looks up “thug” in the dictionary, Castro’s picture would be next to it.