We Love You, Fidel, Oh Yes We Do!
By Humberto Fontova
Haitians pile aboard floating junk heaps and set off across hundreds of miles of storm-tossed, shark-infested Atlantic waters for Florida. If their luck holds, they'll make landfall. If it keeps holding, within a year they'll be scrubbing congealed grease and burnt macaroni off pots in some greasy spoon for minimum wage.
Are they crazy? Heck, they won't even qualify for reparations! Don't they realize that a scant 60 miles to their east lies Shangri-La? Haven't they heard about the bearded champion and benefactor of the downtrodden, the oppressed – and especially the black? He's right there, just across the Windward Passage, a hop, skip and jump away. Didn't they hear Eleanor Clift during the Elian tragedy? "To be a poor child in Cuba may be better than being a poor child in Miami."
Are they oblivious to how Cuba's "president," possessing the combined virtues of Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King, Robin Hood, Mother Teresa, Moses and El Cid, converted a hopelessly corrupt, racist and squalor-ridden Caribbean island into the Emerald City?
Don't they hear the Beltway's intellectual munchkins constantly singing his praises: "Because, because, because, because, BECAAAUUSE! Because of the wonderful things he does!"
"The most honest, courageous politician I have ever met!" That's Jesse Jackson right before detonating his famous: "Viva Fidel! Viva Che Guevara!" while arm in arm with his mass-murdering hero in Havana.
"Cuba has universal health care and education and an infant-mortality rate half that of Washington, D.C.!" That's TransAfrica's Randall Robinson, who was just getting started.
"Whatever kind of race problem still exists in Cuba is dwarfed by the race problem that we have to contend with in the United States!"
Too bad these Haitians didn't attend Fidel's last visit to New York, to Harlem's Abyssinian Baptist Church in particular, where pastor Calvin Butts gushed: "It is in our tradition to welcome all who are visionaries, revolutionaries and who seek the liberation of all people. God Bless you, Fidel!"
Eusebio Penalver might quibble with Jesse and the good pastor. He was the longest-serving black political prisoner of the last century. He was a black Cuban, holed up and tortured in Castro's jails longer than Nelson Mandela languished in South Africa's. He was bloodied in his fight with Communism but unbowed for 30 years in its dungeons.
Eusebio scorned any "re-education" by his jailers. He knew it was THEY who desperately needed it. He refused to wear the uniform of a common criminal. He knew it was THEY who should don it. He stood tall, proud and defiant through almost 30 years of hell in Castro's dungeons.
Ever heard of him? Heck, he lives right there in Miami, one of America's largest cities. He'd be a cinch to track down. Ever see a CNN interview with him? Ever see him on "60 Minutes"? Ever read about him in the New York Times? The Boston Globe? Ever hear about him on NPR?
Of course not. And it figures. He was Castro's political prisoner, you see. And as we all know, that doesn't count. The Teflon Dictator, let's call his torturer.
Black groups say Cubans, because of their enormous "political influence," get preferential treatment over Haitians in the U.S.
I answer with three words: Operation Restore Democracy. Remember that joke. Didn't Haitians get $3 billion from the U.S taxpayer and 20,000 U.S troops to oust their dictator? Political influence, INDEED! By the Congressional Black Caucus with the Clinton administration.
Heck, we couldn't get TWO MEASLY planes to fly over the Bay of Pigs! Much less a full-scale invasion. Some influence! Some preferential treatment!
Lest you think I'm joshing about the Harlem lovefest, I'll quote directly from the People's Weekly World:
"The mainly African-American audience, which included New York Democratic representatives Charles Rangel and Nydia Velasquez, enthusiastically greeted the Communist leader with a TEN-MINUTE STANDING OVATION. Chants of "CUBA, SI! Embargo no!" resounded from the rafters and sent a strong message of protest to New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani."
(Jog my memory. Weren't these same groups all hot for embargos as political weapons about 15 years ago? Maybe I'll ask Ian Smith and F.W. De Klerk.)
Shortly the delirious ovation rose to the level of an earthquake – to a hurricane. The very walls and rafters shook with shrieks of "FIDEL! VIVA FIDEL!!" You see, Elombe Brathe, head of the "Patrice Lumumba Coalition" and chair for the meeting, asked the audience, "Who would you rather come to Harlem? Fidel or Giuliani?"
"FIDEL!" They erupted. "FIDEL! VIVA FIDEL!" Call me crazy, but judging from their route while "voting with their feet," poor black Haitians seem to prefer Giuliani.
Then with Congressperson Maxine Waters looking on in rapture, Charlie Rangel waddled up to the podium beside the Great One. Remember Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr on that Hawaiian beach in "From Here To Eternity"? Charlie and Fidel shamed them, made them look like prim Victorians.
Fidel – oomph! – finally caught his breath, beamed and returned the rotund senator's mighty bear hug. But he probably preferred Diane Sawyer's affection. The day before at a Fidelista lovefest at the headquarters for the Council on Foreign Relations attended by Mort Zuckerman, old flame Barbara Walters, and eternal flames, Peter Jennings, Mike Wallace and dozens of other media folk, a smitten Ms. Sawyer ventured too close to "President" Castro and simply lost it.
And you thought Ann Margaret and her friends were hot for Conrad Birdie? Hah! Compared to Diane in front of Fidel, Ann in front of Birdie looked like Nurse Ratched.
Diane simply went to pieces. Arms outstretched, she lunged for her idol, got hold, then coupled her warm embrace around his neck and shoulders with a wet smooch on the "president's" very beard as the other guests erupted in a spontaneous " We love you, Fidel! Oh yes we do! We love you, Fidel, and we'll be true! When we're not near you, we're blue! Oh, Fidel, we love you!"
Okay, I made up the chanting part. But the smooch was real. And heck, Mort, Peter, Mike and the rest were all probably thinking that anyway.
Decorum mandated that Steven Spielberg conduct himself differently last week in Havana. But from the looks of it, butterflies also fluttered frantically in his stomach at his meeting with "President" Castro. After eight hours Spielberg finally emerged. "The most important eight hours of my life!" he gasped.
I had to laugh at the AP story. It said Spielberg met with Cuban Jews, "who had dwindled from 15,000 before the Revolution to 1,300 afterward."
"Dwindled," folks. Don't you love that term? So innocuous. This "dwindling," by the way, took place mainly over a three-year period, from about 1959 to 1962. Think it might have had something to do with the imposition of Communism?
In other words, what Czar Nicholas failed to accomplish with 20 years of pogroms, "President" Castro pulled off in two years of his rule! He drove out the same percentage of Jews from Cuba as Assad drove out of Syria! Then he gets prominent American Jews drooling all over him!
He holds the record for length of time torturing black political prisoners – and gets the Congressional Black Caucus and NAACP singing his praises!
He spent 40 years executing and jailing any journalist who looked at him cockeyed – and gets fawning interviews, smooches and lovefests by the Beltway Media!
His firing squads pile up thousands as they yell "Long Live Christ the King!" – and the National Council of Churches does his bidding in the U.S.!
He takes power in an armed coup, jails and executes every political opponent, bans elections – and gets crowned "president" in every media mention!
Compared to this stuff, what Alice found through the looking glass makes sense, folks. Kafka at his most demented couldn't dream this stuff up.
I give up! I'm outta here. I need a brewskie! ... And oh, after emerging from "the most important eight hours" of his life," Spielberg – whaddaya know! – called for an end to the U.S. "embargo." He called it simply a "grudge."
Sad choice of words, I'm afraid. "Grudge" is the identical term David Duke supporters used for the movie "Schindler's List." "Heck, that stuff was fifty years ago!" they snarl. "Yet those people keep harping on it! Let it rest, why don't ya!"
The villains in "Schindler's List" are universally recognized as villains. No halfway sane person questions it. National Socialism was smashed by the civilized world. Their leaders dangled from nooses. Their ideology has become the standard term for political evil. Great.
Yet vestiges of it linger, Mr. Spielberg – IN CUBA! I daresay Hitler has one disciple left.
"An officer sat on my chest, wrapped my head in my sweater and started hitting me on the forehead with a blunt instrument, giving me a five-stitch wound."
That was taking place in a Cuban political prison almost literally during "the most important eight hours" of your life, Stevie. It befell a peaceful Cuban dissident named Juan Carlos González Leiva. He's blind, by the way, Stevie.
It's no accident that the young Fidel Castro's favorite literature included "Mein Kampf." It's no accident he quoted it directly in his infamous "History will absolve me" speech in 1953 – indeed, he lifted the very line from it.
Obviously, Castro's and Hitler's crimes were on a different scale. But not as different as you might think. Cuba was a nation of six and a half million in 1959. Of these, from 300,00 to 500,000 passed through Castro's political prisons and forced labor camps. From 15,000 to 22,000 crumpled in front of his firing squads.
Almost 2 million fled (from a nation that had net immigration previously, let me stress), abandoning every earthly possession. Of those who fled, from 20,000 to 40,000 died in the attempt. They died either like a captive of the Apaches, slowly, of thirst and exposure while staked in the sun, or like the girl in the opening scene of "Jaws."
Both William Shirer and John Toland put the number of political prisoners in Germany circa 1937 under Dicta – oops! I mean "Chancellor" Hitler at "no more than 30,000." That was out of a population of 70 million.
In other words, at a time he was already called "a gangster" by FDR, a "bloodthirsty guttersnipe" by Winston Churchill, and "Worse than Attila!" by Mussolini (honest, he called him that right after the Night of the Long Knives), at this time Dicta – oops! I mean "Chancellor" Hitler had imprisoned ... let's see here ... about ... hmmm ... Aww, forget it! Look, I'm a Liberal Arts grad.
But you get my drift. Hitler as dictator, before he became conqueror, imprisoned a much tinier percentage of his population than Ted Turner's "Helluva Guy,' than Jesse Jackson's hero, than Diane Sawyer's cuddle bunny.
Point is, we're not talking a bush league tyrant here, my friends. We're talking a man who played in the majors. So, how else to thank him but with all these lovefests?
All these "passionate crusaders for the truth," all these "tireless opponents of oppression," these people who bare their fangs at the slightest mention of a Botha, a Somoza, a Pinochet – and heck, let's face it, a Ronald Reagan – why, just get them in front of the hemisphere's premier murderer and jailer, a man who compares to Botha or Pinochet like the bubonic plague compares to postnasal drip – just get them near him, they'll show Conrad Birdie fans a thing or two about adulation.
That's why these Haitians are so amazing. See what happens when you don't get CNN, ABC, NBC and CBS? See what happens when you don't read the New York Times or get a scholarship to Harvard or Berkeley? You're so stupid you prefer life in the U.S. to life in Castroland.
Keep the Haitians, I say. I bet they'll somehow find jobs (private sector ones, too) in this "troubled" and "tanked" economy. Then pack off the pinkos – both black and white – to life under their bearded darling.
Humberto Fontova holds an M.A. in history from Tulane University. He's the author of "Helldiver's Rodeo," described as "Highly entertaining!" by Publisher's Weekly, "A must-read!" by Booklist, and "Just what the doctor ordered!" by Ted Nugent. You may reach Mr. Fontova by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.