Fidel Castro, Dead at Last

Fidel Castro is dead, and USA’s official media are are beside themselves with grief over their fallen leader.  I hate to point out the obvious, but there is virtually nothing good to say about this thug, except he was lucky enough to take over Cuba during an American power vacuum, first when an exhausted and ailing Eisenhower was losing control and, then, when he easily fought off a challenge from a feeble-minded womanizing President who could not find the will to squelch this pustulent sore 90 miles off our coastline.

Pre-Castro Cuba was no paradise, but there were economic opportunities.  People could get actual jobs, producing and selling goods and services people wanted to buy:  rum and sugar, cigars, tourist vacations.  The system was as corrupt as Chicago, but corruption is a source of opportunity for those willing to take it.  The Castro system monopolized wealth and power in the hands of a tiny minority consisting of Fidel and his flunkies.   Sure, he gave them free education—or rather Marxist indoctrination—and free healthcare on par with America in the 1950’s.  Of course, in a country where many people earn only  $2 per day, the major health problems are starvation and malnutrition.

The Castro brothers never tired of proclaiming their love for the Cuban people, whom they never trusted to rear their own children, run their own businesses, or speak their own minds.  Here in USA we complain about the abuses at Guantanamo.  What is Cuba but a gigantic Guantanamo, where waterboarding is the gentlest treatment imaginable for dissidents?

Yes, USA has a lot to answer for.  The embargo on Cuba was not only stupid: It was evil.  And yes, with all the money imaginable, the quality of American life has been in decline at least since Castro took power.  Yes, we live only to eat, fornicate, and entertain ourselves—and do all of them so badly it is as if we did not know the basic facts of human life.  It’s a miserable life here, if all you do is eat fast food and watch Hollywood movies.

On the other hand, we don’t have to do any of those things.  We have plenty to eat, roofs over our heads,  and, if we choose, we can eat well, marry well, and entertain ourselves like civilized human beings.  Cubans may have had better music, but most of them cannot even afford to buy an 8-track tape recording of Perez Prado to play on the old car stereo they jacked decades ago.

As “capitalism” returns to Cuba, it will probably corrupt the Cubans as it has corrupted us, but the career of the Castros—like the careers of Lenin and Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot—make the decadence of bourgeois capitalism seem positively enticing.

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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

19 Responses

  1. Ken Rosenberger says:

    RIH. A fine tribute, Dr Fleming. I’m glad you mentioned the embargo. I’ve always thought that policies like that generally help the dictator, at the expense of the people.

  2. Alexander Coleman says:

    An excellent piece, Dr. Fleming. You leave almost no stone unturned in such a succinct manner.

    Certainly, no pretext existed to maintain the embargo once the Soviet Union finished its swan dive collapse. Yet like so many other Cold War foreign policies it kept living on like any old rotten government program.

    I was bemused by one fellow earlier on another website saying that it seemed strange to him that so many leftists were acting like Fidel Castro was some noble figure, “like Nelson Mandela.” It fell to me to inform him that Mandela was a horrible monster, yet another stooge of international communist thugs and terrorists, a vicious, murderous terrorist himself. That Mandela spoke so glowingly of Castro should tell us much of what Castro was made, and none of it good.

  3. Kurt Kronfuss says:

    Boy oh boy, the Castro brothers sure sound a lot like our benevolent brothers, the elephant and the ass, what with their love for the American people, free education, no trust in our ability to rear our own children, run our own business, ad nauseam. No problem here, this revolution is not violent, therefore it must be good, right?

  4. Gregory Fogg says:

    my immedieate reaction? Purchase of a bottle of cheap rum & a bottle of coke.

  5. James D. says:

    The reactions to Castro’s death are telling. The Pope seems to be in a deep state of mourning over the death of an evil, atheist thug. The Irish president would have you believe that Michael Collins just died.

  6. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    This from my old friend,ROGER MCGRATH:

    The old bastard has finally croaked. How do so many of these old dictators live so long? I wish only that he had been able to hit a curve ball and we might have been spared the last 57 years of the Cuban totalitarian. (Yes, I know Castro’s baseball playing prowess has been wildly exaggerated.) I recall, as I’m sure you do more than I, how all the newspapers during the late 1950s sang his praises and prayed for the overthrow of Fulgencio Batista. Of course, Batista was also a bastard but not a totalitarian and he did let the mob run Havana and I’m told it was loads of fun in the 30s, 40s, and 50s. I remember Batista was buddies with Rafael Trujillo and Batista fled to the Dominican Republic when Castro’s forces gained the upper hand. I think it was a couple of years earlier–1957–that Trujillo sailed his yacht into Santa Monica Bay and anchored off the Santa Monica pier. We all went down there from the Palisades to see the Dominican Republic’s strongman and his famous yacht. My mom told us all about Batista and Trujillo–and the yacht. I don’t know how Mom knew all this stuff. As I recall, the yacht had a long history behind it–built for an American heiress in the 30s and then donated to the government for duty during WWII, before Ralphie bought it. The Palisades had (still does) a Fourth of July parade and in 1959 some college guys dressed as Cuban revolutionaries and rode a jeep in the parade. One guy was the spitting image of Fidel–beard, cigar, uniform, everything. It was all light hearted and humorous. Such was the image of Fidel in 1959, fostered by the media.

    Many of us were disabused of the Fidel George Washington Castro image when a kid named Ignacio Fernandez showed up in school. When we heard the name, we all thought he’d be a mestizo-looking guy from Mexico. However, when we saw him it was a surprise to us. He had light brown hair, green eyes, and a fair complexion. Then we learned he was Cuban and his family had fled when Castro came to power. The stories from the Fernandez clan were very much contrary to the image of GW Castro painted by the media.

    I think of all this today, especially because many college students have an image of Fidel Castro as some kind of peasant revolutionary who took to the hills in Cuba. Actually, he was raised with wealth, the son of a Spanish immigrant sugar planter, and was sent off to the finest private boarding schools, eventually graduating from law school. Another lawyer gone bad!

  7. Ken Rosenberger says:

    Pace Dr McGrath and his baseball allusion, I must note that Ralph Branca died a few days prior to the sainted mass murderer. He was born 7 months earlier than Castro, and he had a respectable career pitching in the majors, although he is best-known for giving up the famous Bobby Thomson homer, “the Shot Heard Round the World,” a moment which the novelist Don DeLillo makes a good case for being the nexus of modern history (the game was played on the day it was revealed that the Soviets successfully tested a nuclear bomb).

    Connection? I dunno, but I thought it interesting. I’m glad to know that Branca had a happy life after his career ended (a month before I was born, & I’m 60), traveling around with Thomson, reliving the heartbreak of the Shot, a home run we now know was hit off of stolen signs. It seems right that Branca outlived Thomson, and outlived Castro in total days. RIP.

  8. Kurt Kronfuss says:

    Another lawyer gone bad, gone to the finest schools, raised in wealth; sounds like the benevolent brothers the donkey and the ass, correct me if I am wrong?

  9. Allen Wilson says:

    All this time I never knew he was raised in luxury and was an attorney. Gee, I wonder why not? Could it have been the lop-sided media portrayal of him over the years? Hmmmm…

    The media hero worship truly is nauseating. You would think a truly great man had died. They even mentioned “the praise even his detractors gave him for his social reforms and health care system”. Uh-huh. Too bad we had that election-stealing fool in the white house in the early sixties while the real president was living in internal exile. Maybe the bearded cigar puffer would have had a much shorter rule.

  10. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    How about his luxurious lifestyle festooned with highly paid mistresses? Fidel is half Pol Pot, half Hugh Heffner.

  11. Robert Reavis says:

    I wish Tom Fleming or Roger McGrath would write the book, Killing Castro, before Bill O’Rielly gets his commission. It makes me sick to my stomach to see all the “fun” money go to men like O’Rielly when so many others are more deserving . I can understand the parable about late comers making the same as new comers in light of eternity. But in real time it is unjust and should make all of us sick.

  12. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    O’Rielly donates all book proceeds to charity. The real question is how accurate are his books? I am waiting for him to write Killing Southern Culture to see if he accurately portrays his own role.

  13. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    It is a serious mistake to read, watch, or resent O’Reilly. He is a wise-guy high school teacher who is just smart enough to snooker tv-watchers. Nothing he does makes any difference, whether he does his own reading and writing–which I doubt–or not. No talking head, including people I have regarded as friends and allies, can possibly matter. They are performers, and if they entertain the public, that is fine and dandy, but no one of them thinks his own thoughts or writes his own books.

  14. Robert Reavis says:

    Is it wrong to hate those who do matter and are performers just smart enough to snooker a desperate public ?

  15. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    It is self-defeating to waste human energies on such people, unless you can, 1) make money from the exercise, or 2) use them for some creative purpose, or 3) destroy their ability to harm others.

  16. Robert Reavis says:

    Thank you, Tom. Wise counsel as always.

  17. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    What is most ridiculous is that Megyn Kelly has topped O’Reilly on the best seller list.

  18. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    They were wise to name it a “best seller list,” because it records buyers and not readers.

  19. John Seiler says:

    Hell is spending eternity listening to Megyn read her book.