SLAVERY IS A STATE OF MIND
By Servando González
In an interesting article that appeared some time ago in FrontPageMagazine, Myles Kantor, a strong supporter of freedom in Cuba, strongly criticized Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura. When asked about the possibility of political changes in Cuba, Ventura answered, "Ultimately it's up to Cuba. It's not up to us. It's their country, and if there are going to be changes in Cuba it will be the Cubans who make those changes."
Understandably upset by Ventura's words, Kantor brought an imaginary parallel with the first governor of Minnesota, Henry Sibley, who held office from 1858 to 1860. "Imagine," wrote Kantor, that, when asked about abolishing slavery in South Carolina, Sibley had answered "Ultimately it is the decision of the slaves, not ours. It is the slave's state, and if there are going to be changes in South Carolina it will be the slaves who make those changes."
Kantor continued by asking Ventura a rhetorical question: "How are Cubans supposed to make those changes, Governor Ventura?" I am convinced that Ventura is capable enough to provide an answer to Kantor, but I am going to take the freedom of providing one of my own: With their own blood.
Though apparently callous and insensitive -- Ventura is a no-nonsense straight-talker -- the bottom line is that Governor Ventura's answer is absolutely right: ultimately, the Cubans' future belongs to them. The unavoidable truth is that in 42 years of Castro's tyrannical rule no major anti-government rebellion has occurred. Save for an initial strong opposition which ended after President Kennedy betrayed the invaders at the Bay of Pigs and the anti-Castro guerrillas in the Escambray mountains, only a relatively minor incident in the summer of 1994, the so-called Habanazo riots, has been reported.
In his article, Kantor mentions some obvious conditions that preclude opposition to the Castro government: Cubans have no freedom to organize or to create political parties, there is an enormous repressive force and a widespread system of neighborhood informers. Even more important, guns in the hands of the citizens were banned a few years after Castro grabbed power in 1959.
But Kantor's argument is fallacious. In the late 19th century the Cuban patriots waged a successful war against Spain's tyranny. The Cuban soldiers, poorly dressed, most of them barefooted and lacking in armament and food, faced a powerful army. The Cubans' weapon of choice was the machete. A few months after the war began, however, it was a common occurrence to see the heavily armed Spanish soldiers fleeing a machete charge conducted by General Antonio Maceo and his courageous men. Maceo's idea of freedom is revealed in his words, "You don't beg for freedom. You win it with the cutting edge of your machete. Begging for rights is only appropriate of cowards, incapable of exerting them." Maceo knew it very well: he was a descendant of slaves.
I would venture to say that some, if not most, of the problems faced today by American blacks, whose major cause seems to be resentment, are caused by the fact that, contrary to Cuban slaves, the American slaves did not win their freedom, but it was bestowed to them by the government. As a direct result of this, this freedom did not bring true closure.
In his most quoted dictum, "Give me liberty, or give me death," Patrick Henry brilliantly expressed the idea that people who value freedom above life will never be slaves. But people who value life above freedom sooner or later will become slaves. Actually, by choosing life over freedom, they have already become mental slaves; the first step into slavery.
Let me bring up another example from Cuban history. When the Spaniards discovered the island of Cuba in 1492, they found a small population of natives, the Ciboney Indians. The Ciboney were a pacific, industrious people. Soon after the discovery, other Spaniards arrived, enslaved the Ciboney and put them to work in the gold mines. But, to the Spaniards utter surprise, the Ciboney loved their freedom. They escaped to the woods and rebelled against the Spaniards.
But the Spaniards, with their superior armament and military technique, easily overpowered the Ciboney's resistance. The rebellious Indians and their leaders were killed and the survivors were put again into slavery. But here comes the most surprising thing. Faced with a future of enslavement, and lacking the means to fight their masters, the Ciboney committed mass suicide. Lacking any means to deprive themselves of their lives, they developed a way to swallow their own tongues and die by asphyxiation. In a few months most of them had died. Like Patrick Henry, the Ciboney Indians valued freedom above life. Therefore, they were never enslaved.
Contrary to common belief, liberation from Castro's tyranny is not as difficult as it seems, but is has a stiff price. To liberate themselves from Castro's tyranny, Cubans don't need freedom of association or civil liberties. They don't even need guns. They only need to supply their blood. A spontaneous rebellion which would force the Castro regime to bring tanks to Havana's streets, and would end in a few thousand Cubans massacred by Castro's army, would destroy the myth of Castro's popularity and inflict a mortal blow to the tyranny. Unfortunately, Cubans obviously value life more than freedom, and they are not willing to pay the ultimate price for it -- Cubans have never been cowards, therefore the reasons for their apathy are perhaps much more complex than the ones expressed by Kantor.
Ultimately, the Cubans' future belongs to them. If some day the Cuban people decide to pay the price of freedom, and massively rebel against Castro's tyrannical rule, I would not be surprised if I hear that Jesse Ventura, with his Gatling gun on the ready, is fighting on their side. But asking Ventura, or any other non-Cuban for that matter, to fight for people who lack the will to fight for themselves, is not only insensitive and callous, it is also unethical and ultimately foolish.
My only hope is that the case of the Cuban people serve as an example to the American people of what happens to people who value life more than freedom. This is particularly important in this crucial moment in which many Americans are willing to give up freedom in exchange for promised security.
Many times I have heard honest, sensitive Americans asking what they can do to liberate Cuba from Castro. I think that the best thing Americans can do to help Cubans liberate themselves from tyranny is to avoid at all costs the implementation of tyranny in America.
Servando González is, a Cuban-born American writer. He is the author of The Secret Fidel Castro: Deconstructing the Symbol. His forthcoming book, The Nuclear Deception: Nikita Khrushchev and the Cuban Missile Crisis, will appear the 22nd of October, coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the crisis.