It's hard to believe that Cuba has been a hot button for so long, more than half a century, but it has. That President Barack Obama's decision to recognize the Cuban regime and begin normalizing relations with the Caribbean island nation 90 miles from Florida is drawing some sharp opposition shows how strong the hold of essentially peripheral issues can be in hyper-partisan American politics.
To be clear, I don't like the Cuban government. I've turned down a number of opportunities to visit Cuba with admirers of the Castro regime because I disapprove of Communist governments and the visits implied approval. (The Soviet Union and People's Republic of China, on the other hand, were too important and fascinating to ignore.) They're dictatorships, built on the false promise of egalitarianism denying individual liberty. The romanticization of revolutionary Cuba has always left me more than a little cold. The Castros, Che, they're just Communists in the end. With a little cha-cha-cha.
Of course, the non-rational canonization of the Castro regime by many on the left has been far more than matched by its demonization on the right, especially in right-wing Republican circles. Castro and company overthrew a corrupt right-wing dictatorship, backed by the US government and fronting big American corporations, 50-odd years ago. In some ways, most Cubans are better off as a result.
As dictators go, neither Fidel nor Raul is Hitler. Sure, the Cuban regime supplied shock troops for the Soviet empire in some of its Third World adventures. But that didn't end up amounting to much. And in any event, the Cold War ended a long time ago.
You would think that there nearly having been a nuclear war over the discovery of Soviet missiles in Cuba back in 1962 would lend a sense of perspective. Only the presence of those missiles, secreted there by Moscow in a desperate attempt to counter-balance America's overwhelming nuclear superiority, made Cuba a strategically significant place. This is a country whose most important product is still the cigar. (Damn good, by the way, though, as with many things in life, the forbidden provides much of the frisson.)
But no, no fresh popular perspective after the reprieve from Armageddon. So John F. Kennedy, having refused to intervene after allowing the CIA's witless Bay of Pigs exile invasion to go forward in 1961, and having refused to invade during the Cuban Missile Crisis, had to indulge in the frankly comic opera Castro assassination attempts which so transfixed the Senate's sometime credulous Church Committee investigating intelligence excesses in 1975.
Now, finally, we're going to exchange ambassadors with the Castro regime. Well, why not?
We recognize all sorts of non-choir boys across this planet. It's part of recognizing reality.
Cuba is not in a position to proselytize anyone. There was never going to be a "Continental revolution," the mission on which an out of favor Che Guevara was dispatched from Havana not long before being unsurprisingly hunted down and killed by Bolivian special forces working with the CIA in 1967. Communism is not now the eave of the future, nor was it ever.
Those still in search of "the radiant future" are going to have to be a lot more imaginative and practical than to put their blind faith into heavily romanticized authoritarians.
Those in search of a restoration of Cuba's ancient regime, its fundamental corruption romantically air-brushed away, will have to keep living in the past.
It's way past time for the rest of us to let Cuba as it is, imperfect though it may be, like the rest of us, find what future it can.
Facebook comments are closed on this article.