Not a Requiem, but a Reckoning
The tyrant has died, at last. Not like those he talked into certain death in the 1953 Moncada attack so he could become a national figure, though he kept well out of harm’s way and didn’t even fire a shot. Not like Havana University student leader José Antonio Echevarría, killed as part of a failed attack on Batista’s presidential palace–a risk Fidel would never have taken himself. Not like anti-Batista urban underground leader Frank País, fatally betrayed to Batista’s police for being a potential threat to Fidel’s supremacy. Not like the many he or his underlings, notably the Argentine interloper “Che” Guevara, had killed by firing squad in the prime of life after sham trials. Not like heroic political prisoner Pedro Luis Boitel, who died after a 53-day hunger strike without receiving medical assistance. Not like the men, women and children on the tugboat 13 de Marzo, who were deliberately drowned for trying to leave Cuba. Not like the four unarmed Brothers to the Rescue pilots, shot down over international waters. Not like the three young black men who tried to flee Massah Castro’s slave plantation and were summarily executed for it in 2003. Not like the various opposition figures on the island, male and female, black and white, conveniently “removed” from the scene in recent years under exceedingly suspect circumstances. Not like the untold number of Cubans drowned or eaten by sharks in the Florida Straits while trying to reach freedom. Not even like so many exiles who never stopped wanting to return to Cuba but died waiting on alien soil.
He died at a ripe old age of natural causes, with every aid and comfort medical science could provide, surrounded by servile minions, always his favorite people. He was a catastrophic failure as far as Cuba and Cubans are concerned, but he got what he wanted–which was always about him, never about anyone or anything else. Absolute power, first and foremost, to satisfy his megalomania. International notoriety and guaranteed domestic stardom, to satisfy the histrionic craving for attention. Adulation and “validation” from all manner of useful fools or willing tools, both at home and abroad, including many whose pretensions were quite at odds with such perversity.
It would appear that only his victims decried or even noted Fidel Castro’s overriding vulgarity; the manic vehemence; the bullying truculence; the self-indulgent verborrhea; the ridiculous posturing in military costume and the beard, another theatrical prop; the brazen dissembling proper of a snake-oil salesman or cheap demagogue; the delusional conviction of his own greatness; the utter absence of genuine charm (which is not that of a con artist); the pathological obsession with complete control; the lack of concern for or interest in anyone except as a tool to be used or a threat to be removed; the complete willingness to sacrifice or destroy anything to suit his purposes, and the total disconnect from the true Cuban ethos and essence as embodied by Cuba’s best men and women throughout its history.
Alas, there is often little or no justice in this world. Stalin and Mao never came anywhere near paying for crimes of such magnitude that they cannot really be fathomed except as statistics. But then, even if those monsters had been called to account, how could they possibly have paid? What punishment, what suffering, no matter how horrible, could they have been put through that would have made up for the suffering and destruction of millions? Castro’s victims are numerically less, since he had far fewer subjects in his domain, but proportionately their amount is as great or greater. And yet, to the appalled and bitter astonishment of the Cuban people, most of the world blithely condoned and effectively enabled Castro’s deeds, not just at the romantic and delirious beginning but all along, down to the present day.
Sadly, nay, tragically, far too many Cubans have been fools twice over. First, by falling for Fidel Castro’s lies and, to their disgrace, playing into his tyranny–his grandiloquent, hollow promises should have been seen for what they were in the face of galloping totalitarianism. Secondly, by counting too much and too long on the kindness of strangers. The indifference, hypocrisy and opportunism of the world (the ostensibly freedom-loving world, at that) should never be underestimated, especially by those who are politically unfashionable. Now, if Castro had been a Pinochet, a Somoza or a Botha, not to mention a Batista…well, the math could hardly be easier.
So Fidel is dead, but only because of a biological imperative–there is no victory in it. He lasted plenty and caused incalculable harm, much more than will ever be fully known or documented, let alone duly acknowledged (especially by those directly or indirectly complicit in it). He got his way, after all. Many of his victims or their descendants may feast and toast over his demise, which no one is entitled to begrudge them, but I do not feel like celebrating. It is much too little, far too late. The awful damage is done, and much of it cannot be undone. However, while the tyrant cheated human justice, he cannot escape God’s. May Cuba manage, in time, to exorcise the evil personified, fostered and propagated by this abominable man, surely the worst and most destructive one in Cuba’s history.