Sunday, November 27, 2016

My Thoughts On The Passing Of Fidel Castro

(Photo of Fidel Castro in from the Los Angeles Times.)

At the age of 90, Fidel Castro has died. His brother (and current Cuban leader) Raul announced his death on Friday.

Castro was someone who invoked strong feelings around the world. The leaders of many countries praised him -- because he always stood up to the United States, opposed racial inequality (including apartheid in South Africa long before the U.S. did), and sent doctors and teachers to many countries around the world to help lift them up. The view from most politicians in the U.S. is different. They are calling him a tyrant, a despot, and many other negative things.

So, who was Fidel Castro? Was he the savior of Cuba and a shining hope for the Third World, or was he the incarnation of evil? Probably both -- and neither.

Those who hated him point to his history of repressing opponents in Cuba, even to the point of putting them in prison or putting them to death. It is undeniable that happened. It is also undeniable that many U.S. politicians who eagerly demonize Castro are themselves engaged in trying to deny equal rights and opportunities to their own citizens (including the most precious right -- the right to vote).

But that's not the whole story. He also overthrew a corrupt government that denied basic rights to the Cuban people, and provided all Cubans with food, housing, free quality medical care, and a free public education (resulting in the highest literacy rate in the Americas) -- things that many U.S. politicians are still denying (or trying to take back) from their own citizens.

The truth is that, like politicians in the U.S. and around the world, Castro was a mixture of good and bad. He did some very good things for the Cuban people (and people in other countries), and he did some very bad things.

I think President Obama gave the most reasoned reaction to Castro's death, saying:

"We know that this moment fills Cubans — in Cuba and in the United States — with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him."

Fidel Castro said of himself:

“Judgment is spoken by the eternal court of history. Condemn me, it does not matter. History will absolve me.”

Both are right. History will be the judge of Fidel Castro -- as it is for all revolutionaries, leaders, and politicians.


Unfortunately, Donald Trump's reaction to Castro's death shows he is much more bully than diplomat. He has threatened to undo all the progress that President Obama has made to normalize relations with Cuba unless the Cuban government gives in to his demands. This is foolish. He will learn, like all other presidents since 1959 did, that the Cuban people will not be bullied.

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