Fidel Castro, as you certainly know by now, is dead. And although we’re not ones to engage in schadenfreude or death celebration, we certainly won’t act like he was some kind of hero.
But that’s just us.
Jill Stein, who just won the lottery (what is it? $7 million now?) by tricking people into funding her “recount” (and, surprise, missing the Pennsylvania filing date), tweeted this about Castro: “Fidel Castro was a symbol of the struggle for justice in the shadow of empire. Presente!”
Actor Jack Nicholson said Castro was a “humanist like President Clinton.” And Chevy Chase said Cuba is “proof socialism sometimes works.”
Erik Loomis, a history professor at the University of Rhode Island, called Castro, Che Guevara and Ho Chi Minh, “an inspiration for billions of people around the world seeking freedom from colonial overlords.”
And there’s the rub. In a perfect world, or in a void, Castro certainly wouldn’t have been great in any non-sociopath’s eyes. Certainly not if any of these people lived under his regime. Why, being the intellectuals and personalities that they are, most of these limelights praising Castro probably would’ve been killed, or at least persecuted, by him.
But relative to the mightiest colonial overlords, they say, Castro wasn’t so bad. Principles be damned. Carlos Eire, a Professor of History and Religious Studies at Yale explains this unrequited love for Castro in, of all places, a Washington Post Op-Ed:
Because deceit was one of Fidel Castro’s greatest talents, and gullibility is one of the world’s greatest frailties. A genius at myth-making, Castro relied on the human thirst for myths and heroes. His lies were beautiful, and so appealing.
According to Castro and to his propagandists, the so-called revolution was not about creating a repressive totalitarian state and securing his rule as an absolute monarch, but rather about eliminating illiteracy, poverty, racism, class differences and every other ill known to humankind. This bold lie became believable, thanks largely to Castro’s incessant boasting about free schools and medical care, which made his myth of the benevolent utopian revolution irresistible to many of the world’s poor.
Fortunately, there’s been plenty of opposition to this “Castro is a hero” narrative. Take, for example, the backlash Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has found himself on the receiving end of.
Castro was “a controversial figure,” Trudeau said during his eulogy. But he was also “A legendary revolutionary and orator” who “made significant improvements to the education and health care of his island nation.”
The Twitter trolls instantly jumped into action. The backlash was no less than epic. Under the hashtag #TrudeauEulogies, (albeit dark) hilarity ensued:
“Today we mourn painter and animal rights activist, Adolf Hitler. His death also highlights the need for suicide awareness.”
“Mr. Stalin’s greatest achievement was his eradication of obesity in the Ukraine through innovative agricultural reforms.”
“Jim Jones provided shelter and hydration to hundreds of Americans and, for that, we will remember him fondly.”
“While a controversial figure, Mr. Gacy entertained many children at birthday parties.”
Today we mourn the death of Jeffrey Dahmer, who opened his home to the LGBTQ community and pushed culinary boundaries.”
In a just world, rather than those in power praising a tyrant, the truth about Castro would be left to no ambiguity.
In a just world, says Eire, “these 13 facts below would be etched on Castro’s tombstone and highlighted in every obituary, as bullet points — a fitting metaphor for someone who used firing squads to murder thousands of his own people.
- He turned Cuba into a colony of the Soviet Union and nearly caused a nuclear holocaust.
- He sponsored terrorism wherever he could and allied himself with many of the worst dictators on earth.
- He was responsible for so many thousands of executions and disappearances in Cuba that a precise number is hard to reckon.
- He brooked no dissent and built concentration camps and prisons at an unprecedented rate, filling them to capacity, incarcerating a higher percentage of his own people than most other modern dictators, including Stalin.
- He condoned and encouraged torture and extrajudicial killings.
- He forced nearly 20 percent of his people into exile, and prompted thousands to meet their deaths at sea, unseen and uncounted, while fleeing from him in crude vessels.
- He claimed all property for himself and his henchmen, strangled food production and impoverished the vast majority of his people.
- He outlawed private enterprise and labor unions, wiped out Cuba’s large middle class and turned Cubans into slaves of the state.
- He persecuted gay people and tried to eradicate religion.
- He censored all means of expression and communication.
- He established a fraudulent school system that provided indoctrination rather than education, and created a two-tier health-care system, with inferior medical care for the majority of Cubans and superior care for himself and his oligarchy, and then claimed that all his repressive measures were absolutely necessary to ensure the survival of these two ostensibly “free” social welfare projects.
- He turned Cuba into a labyrinth of ruins and established an apartheid society in which millions of foreign visitors enjoyed rights and privileges forbidden to his people.
- He never apologized for any of his crimes and never stood trial for them.
Yes, Castro did great evil.
And, as Bryan Caplan writes on FEE.org, he continues to do evil by “charismatically inspiring sympathy for this psychopathic path to a glorious future.
“We need to get rid of all sympathy for Castro,” says Caplan.
But, he says, that’s just the first step: “Our ultimate goal should be to get rid of the errors that Castro has come to represent. Castro was a villain straight out of 1984. And in a just world, Orwell’s words would adorn his tombstone:
“One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.”
Managing editor, Laissez Faire Today
Have something to say? Say it! Chris@lfb.org.
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