Opinion: To far left: don’t you pity Fidel

Tyler McGinty

Tyler McGinty

Tyler McGinty, Special to The Rip

Okay, so apparently there are a lot of people on the left that need to sit down and really think about their feelings on Fidel Castro, particularly Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In an odd tribute to Castro, Trudeau mentioned that Castro “made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation.” Now this is certainly true, but it’s definitely not a totally accurate picture of El Presidente. I get that there are few things more enticing to those on the left (myself included) than free healthcare and education, but we can’t let these distract us from the true legacy of Fidel Castro.

Castro was the leader of a brutally oppressive regime. Protestors, activists and members of the LGBTQ community where decidedly unwelcome under Castro’s rule. Even the nationalized healthcare and education was criticized heavily by Cubans who fled their home to come to the United States. On the surface, Castro was running a socialist utopia, but you didn’t have to look too deep to see the very real darkness just below.

Younger people on the left have a very different idea of Castro and even Cuba in general. People of my generation didn’t live through the Cuban Missile Crisis and some of us barely were alive for the Cold War. I personally hadn’t even lived a whole year when the Berlin Wall, perhaps the greatest symbol of the Cold War, started to come down. To us, communism isn’t a real threat, just a different style of government. If Bernie Sanders’ campaign showed us anything, it’s that there are many people on the left that are willing to embrace socialism.

However, those of us that are so in favor of socialism absolutely cannot idolize Cuba and Castro. Cuba is not a place that lives up to the ideal that those of us who felt the “Bern” truly want. I would gladly trade free school and healthcare for the ability to speak out against Trump, for example. Cuba isn’t a socialist utopia because of anything the US has done. It isn’t the fault of the embargo, or the Cold War or even the remnants of McCarthyism wrapped around the hearts of so many in America. Cuba isn’t a socialist utopia because of Fidel Castro. That’s it. That’s the whole reason.

Castro was a remarkably charismatic person and he’s been (ironically, I might add) fully entrenched in American pop culture for decades. However, Castro almost comes across as a laughingstock to us. He’s been the object of parody in “Bananas,” his likeness made an appearance in “The Simpsons”, where he steals a trillion-dollar bill to save his bankrupt country, and is the subject of many jokes about botched goofball plans by the CIA to assassinate him. One of those attempts, I’d like to mention, was literally an exploding cigar, which is something that belongs in a slapstick vaudeville act, not a legitimate plan to kill a world leader.

Perhaps this is why Castro seems to be such a strange figure in American society. He’s been such a laughingstock to us for so long that he’s a figure to revile, one to take pity on. He shouldn’t be though. Castro should be detested and American socialists need to look to countries like Denmark or people like Bernie for their inspiration, not Cuba and Castro.