Shed­ding no tears over death of Fidel Castro

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - Kath­leen Parker is syn­di­cated by The Wash­ing­ton Post Writ­ers Group. Kath­leen Parker Columnist

Kath­leen Parker takes is­sue with those who have of­fered kinds words about the for­mer Cuban dic­ta­tor.

Some­times his­tory doesn’t have to wait to judge — and when it comes to dic­ta­tors, even dead ones, we shouldn’t ei­ther.

With news of Fidel Castro’s death Friday — fi­nal­mente — world lead­ers be­gan of­fer­ing eu­lo­gies, some of which were so va­pid or will­fully ig­no­rant that Castro might have writ­ten them him­self. It would ap­pear in any case that the 20th-cen­tury’s quin­tes­sen­tial “Big Brother” man­aged to in­fect a few world lead­ers with an Or­wellian strain of mushy-mouthed apha­sia.

Ap­par­ently bereft of the right words, they treated Castro’s bru­tal­ity as po­lite un­men­tion­ables, serv­ing up plat­i­tudes as though just an­other im­por­tant fig­ure had passed on to his maker. Did they miss the screams? Grow­ing up in Florida dur­ing the Cuban mis­sile cri­sis, run­ning bomb shel­ter drills and hear­ing the sto­ries of refugees who be­came life­long friends, I some­how man­aged to evade the charms of the rev­o­lu­tion­ary rogue, who merely re­placed one dic­ta­tor­ship with an­other far worse. There’s noth­ing sen­ti­men­tal about a ruth­less dic­ta­tor who once held the world hostage to a pos­si­ble nu­clear Ar­maged­don.

It’s one thing to be re­spect­ful of the Cuban peo­ple — and I’m not sug­gest­ing we cel­e­brate any­one’s death. But it is an­other to side­step the his­tor­i­cal hor­rors of a mur­der­ous, 60-year mil­i­tary regime and strike a pose of diplo­matic equa­nim­ity that as­suages only glut­tons of in­sin­cer­ity.

No won­der so many of them chose to ex­press them­selves through Twit­ter — a com­mu­ni­ca­tion for­mat well-suited to the small and shal­low. Nancy Pelosi tweeted that Castro’s death “marks the end of an era.” Stalin’s death did, too, but who’s judg­ing? Justin Trudeau, Canada’s happy-boy prime min­is­ter, called Castro a “re­mark­able leader,” who “made sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments” to Cuba, pre­sum­ably by tak­ing over all pri­vate pos­ses­sions and culling the is­land of the mid­dle class. Atta boy.

It’s true that Cuba boasts a high-level of lit­er­acy and a health care sys­tem free to all. Then again, you don’t see many peo­ple from in­dus­tri­al­ized na­tions lin­ing up for heart surgery in Havana.

And then there’s Jimmy Carter, un­der whose watch Castro emp­tied his pris­ons and men­tal in­sti­tu­tions, send­ing 125,000 in­mates as well as other lesser de­sir­ables to our shores. As a younger reporter, I spent a week in Mi­ami’s “Tent City,” where lo­cal and state of­fi­cials tried to fig­ure out where to put hun­dreds of crim­i­nals and the men­tally chal­lenged. This was thanks to Carter’s telling Castro that count­less Cubans wished to leave Cuba.

Although many have lauded Castro’s po­lit­i­cal acu­men, I’ve yet to read about his flair for irony. Carter, for whom irony ap­par­ently is what the maid does to his dress shirts, re­mem­bered Castro “fondly.” Per­haps as one reaches the age of wis­dom, one leans to­ward greater char­ity.

Pres­i­dent Obama’s re­marks, though elo­quent, were care­fully mean­ing­less. Steer­ing clear of specifics, he noted that Cubans are filled with emo­tions, “re­call­ing the count­less ways in which Fidel Castro al­tered the course of in­di­vid­ual lives, fam­i­lies, and of the Cuban na­tion.”

Yes, death, tor­ture, op­pres­sion, im­pris­on­ment, a state-con­trolled me­dia and a mis­er­able, staterun econ­omy will flat-out al­ter a per­son’s course. Obama then grabbed his­tory’s tail and gave it a yank, say­ing, “His­tory will record and judge the enor­mous im­pact of this sin­gu­lar fig­ure on the peo­ple and world around him.”

Aw, come on, let’s beat his­tory to it. One of the worst dic­ta­tors in mod­ern his­tory has mer­ci­fully died. It doesn’t mat­ter that in 2008 he ceded con­trol of the govern­ment to his brother, Raul. Sym­bol­i­cally, his death lib­er­ates the psy­ches of at least three gen­er­a­tions of Cubans and CubanAmer­i­cans.

His­tory will strain lit­tle in judg­ing Castro or in sort­ing out his ef­fect on the world. Now that Obama has eased the decades­long U.S. em­bargo, wisely in my view, as well as re­stric­tions on travel, the tiny na­tion has a shot at rein­ven­tion. Al­ready, Raul has made changes al­low­ing for lim­ited mar­ket so­cial­ism, mean­ing that small busi­nesses and in­di­vid­u­als may con­duct com­merce for profit. The once sub­ter­ranean “dol­lar econ­omy” that has kept many Cubans fi­nan­cially afloat thanks to Cuban-Amer­i­can rel­a­tives send­ing money, is now be­ing openly en­cour­aged by Raul.

Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump would do well to stay in this lane rather than threaten to re­in­state the em­bargo. He should un­der­stand that Castro loved the em­bargo more than any­one be­cause, as ever, he could blame the U.S. for his fail­ures. For Trump to fall into this same trap would be a post-mortem gift to Castro and breathe new life into cruel legacy.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.