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[Aug. 1st, 2006|04:57 pm]
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anljeducation

[slammerkinbabe]
So, in these turbulent times when the sum total of information that the mass media is distributing regarding Fidel Castro seems to be that he is Not Dead Yet, it occurs to me to wonder: why, exactly, do we Americans hate Castro so much?

In all seriousness. I get that in the fifties, the terms "communist" and "Nazi" were roughly synonymous, and that we still live with the traces of that belief. But here's the thing. When I was a kid, I didn't know much of anything about Fidel Castro, except that he was Evil. I just absorbed this information, in the same wat that I absorbed the information that, like, Stalin was evil, or Saddam Hussein. I didn't know what Stalin and Saddam Hussein had done, but I knew it was bad. In the same way, I knew that whatever Fidel Castro had done, it must have been bad, because his name was the political equivalent of a curse word. As I got older I just naturally assumed that he had all sorts of torture chambers and concentration camps and such going on over there, because Stalin and Saddam Hussein and all those other guys whose names were swear words did.

The problem is that I have tried to do some research in the last few years on *why* Fidel Castro is so evil, and I just do not get it. At all. The most I can get is that he stifles free speech and civil liberties. Which, okay, that's a problem, but I just do not think it is on a level with genocide and torture and the other shit that the rest of the Rly Rly Ev0l Dictators of the world get up to. Far's I can tell, he rose to power bloodlessly and with a good level of popular support, and when the U.S. government tried to take him down because they didn't like communists, he did them the discourtesy of kicking the shit out of them. So I guess that would explain why we hate him - no one likes a communist, especially one who's kicked your ass. But I just have a hard time believing that this is honestly all there is to it. All this roiling hatred of Castro - is that really all it is? Or has he done evil things that I somehow missed finding out about? Your insight is requested.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: lietya
2006-08-01 10:04 pm (UTC)
Well, Modern Castro hasn't done so much, really, in the past few decades.

In his heyday, though, he criminalized free speech, imprisoned dissidents like there was no tomorrow and executed a fair number of them. No specific numbers have ever been established, but most reports list it somewhere in the thousands. I don't think he was the biggest with the torture chambers and the disappearings, but there were some. Overall, he was the average iron-fisted dictator - disagree with him and you could lose your home, be deported, wind up in jail, etc. There were labor camps for homosexuals, people with AIDS, and dissidents, as well. He also hoarded much of the country's wealth for himself, and as there wasn't much to *start* with, that meant his citizens starved and suffered grinding poverty. (Which has, admittedly, been greatly worsened by the US embargos. Nice going.)

One reason Americans in particular hate him was the Mariel (?) boat launch - he basically packed up tons of real criminals (to make room for the "dissidents," I think) and sent them over here in rickety boats, whereupon they began raising hell as criminals in this country.

In short, I think a major reason why the US hates him actually IS the whole "communist with the butt-kicking" angle, but there are quite a few skeletons in his past all the same .
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[User Picture]From: lietya
2006-08-01 10:06 pm (UTC)
(OK, for "past few decades" read "since about 1985 or so" - he's really really old these days. And to be fair, I picked up a lot of this knowledge from Latin American history classes [taught in Spanish]; it's not widely disseminated in this country, but it's hard to read Cuban literature and not find out about a lot of it.)
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[User Picture]From: slammerkinbabe
2006-08-01 10:14 pm (UTC)
This makes *much* more sense, thank you. I had always had the impression it was something like that, but I just couldn't find the info, except from obviously biased websites and things.

Wikipedia sez the standard of living in Cuba, as measured in average material wealth of the average citizen or whatever, is pretty decently high in Cuba, currently. (I am running out the door and can't be bothered to re-look up the stats, but they were coming from a reputable source, one that did an index of economic rankings of hundreds and hundreds of countries.) What happened to change the hoarding from his early days to today?
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[User Picture]From: lietya
2006-08-01 10:32 pm (UTC)
Again with the old, mostly. They've also had time to rebuild the country somewhat since those early days of the embargos, and I think they have some more and better trade partners than back when it was basically Soviet countries. (Oh, and he was in bed with the Soviets primarily because they offered him trade when we mostly curled our lip at his civil rights abuses - not that we weren't justified in that, but in a sense, we "drove" him to them. He was never a committed Communist, just an opportunist.)

It may also be that some of the other countries on the listings have slipped, such things being relative. I dunno.
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[User Picture]From: winterbadger
2006-08-01 10:44 pm (UTC)
Yeah, very few countries, AFAIK, regard Cuba as being the Pit of Hell and Evil that we do. Most of Latin America, a lot of European countries, and, IIRC, Canada have diplomatic relations with Cuba and pretty regular trade with Cuba. The US embargo on Cuba is (it's my impression) regarded as another of those American abberations like our love of guns, simultaneous libertinism and prudishness, and extreme religiousity that other people just sigh and roll their eyes at.
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[User Picture]From: lietya
2006-08-02 12:12 am (UTC)
Thank you for elaborating - I'm kind of shakier on current events than on history where Castro is concerned!
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[User Picture]From: agatha_mandrake
2006-08-02 12:29 am (UTC)
Canada have diplomatic relations with Cuba

Canada luuuurves Cuba (and by all accounts, Cuba luuuurves Canada back). It is quite the winter destination up here.
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[User Picture]From: winterbadger
2006-08-01 10:36 pm (UTC)
One of the main reasons IMO that Fidel Castro has *always* been regarded by the US with the sort of horror usually reserved for much, much worse leaders is that the revolution he lead dispossessed a lot of very, very wealthy people (and many not so wealthy ones) who then fled to the US. The very, very wealthy people had always had friends in the US government (wealthy people always seem to) and in places not so savoury. And they (and a lot of the not-so-wealthy Cuban emigres) settled in large part in one part of the US--south Florida--and have been a crucial constituency in Florida politics since then. Which wouldn't be so big a deal if Florida had continued to be a sleepy little resort state without much national pull. Instead, it has gradually become one of the most important states in national politics, because its wealth and population have boomed. It's hard to get elected president without winning in Florida, and it's well-nigh impossible to win Florida unless you placate the Cuban exile community by denouncing Castro as if he were the AntiChrist.

Castro is a bad man who betrayed the revolution that he lead. He told people he was going to get rid of the corrupt plutocrats, which he did, but only so as to install himself and a socialist dictatorship. He has constantly worked to frustrate US policy in Latin America, notionally in support of populist causes, but his own policies in Cuba are antidemocratic and oppressive. He allowed (encouraged?) the Soviet Union to station ballistic missiles in Cuba, threatening the US and bringing the world close to nuclear war.

On the other hand, there are much worse dictators (in terms of what they've done to their people) that the US has ignored or actually supported during the same time that it's been ranting and raving in a demented way about the evils of Castro. And IMO the difference is down to the Cuban exiles.
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From: thehandmaid
2006-08-02 01:34 am (UTC)
there isn't a reason, except that the cuban lobby is so huge and powerful. they get what they want - the us hating castro - because they have enough money to make it so.

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[User Picture]From: winterbadger
2006-08-02 04:50 pm (UTC)
I was listening to more coverage of Cuba this morning and was reminded of the discontinuity between the way the US has treated Cuba (isolation, embargo, threats, hostility) and the way the US treated the Soviet Union, the Warsaw Treaty Organization, and the People's Republic of China. Itwas policy for at least the last 5-10 years of the Soviet Union, and for decades with Communicst China, that the US would achieve more through constructive engagement, assualting the communist state from within by spreading our message of democracy + free markets, than it would be trying to isolate them. So why do people think that isolating Cuba is the right way to go, especially when constructive engagement clearly worked so well with the USSR and has made limited by clear inroads with China?

One might expand the question and ask why we think isolating and starving North Korea and Iran (and, in the past, Iraq) is going to achieve anything. Especially when other countries, our allies, don't agree with and don't respect/maintain the embargoes we propose. I suppose it "keeps our hands clean", but in that case why do the same people who favour isolating Cuba (et al.) favour dealing with China, which has plenty of dissident blood on its hands?
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[User Picture]From: rogue_scholar
2006-10-10 02:48 pm (UTC)
It seems that the US generally uses diplomacy with big countries it feels threatened by (eg the Soviet Union abd China) and tries to compel smaller countries with its economic and military power (eg Cuba and Iraq). North Korea is somewhere in between, with a hopeless economy and scrappy military to which the US government feels it should be able to dictate the terms of the relationship, but with the potential nuclear technology and suicide-bomber unpredictability to frighten the White House into using more diplomatic means, such as asking China to negotiate.


To add a little to the point established above: Australians don't think particularly badly of Fidel. I only learnt about his free speech repressions recently, and I was surprised. Until then, in my mind, he had been this vaguely comical and somewhat narcissistic but otherwise fairly benevolent tin-pot dictator. My high school history class went through the US-Cuba saga and I never got the impression it was a good guys/bad guys story; just realpolitik with a generous dose of vanity on both sides.
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[User Picture]From: winterbadger
2006-10-10 03:08 pm (UTC)
My impression of Castro (though it's a fairly uninformed one) is that he may have started out with the best will in the world, a real idealistic revolutionary, but that Voltaire's adage about power and corruption has proved true in his case. OTOH, he may have been a dyed in the wool opportunist and meglomaniac from the start, as I'm convinced Mugabe was.

The US might not have been able to achieve much to soften him through cooperation rather than isolation. But our insistence on the (IMO largely illusory) "danger" posed by Cuba has provided Castro with all the ammunition he could ever want for justifying keeping Cuba in a permanent state of emergency. And our blind attachement to the emigres of the Cuban exile movement (who have the same grasp of reality as the exiled Scottish Jacobites and the same high priciples and keen political insight as the emigre Bourbons) will, IMO, have the same successful end as the sponsors of those movements enjoyed. Having starte with Voltaire, I'll close with Talleyrand and his observation about how much exile changed the Bourbons.
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