Ay caramba! Fidel Castro, el Comandante, es muerte. Or, as our Dear Orange Leader-Elect said in all-American English on Twitter, “Fidel Castro is dead!” 2016 really has been a rough year for celebrity deaths. We lost Muhammad Ali, Leonard Cohen, Elie Wiesel and now Castro. Soon liberals like me will be out of popular-culture heroes. Noam Chomsky ain’t gonna be around forever.
But, to take a page out of Trump’s energy policy, let’s forget about the future and focus on the past. What was Fidel Castro’s legacy? He was, in many ways, a visionary. For example, he knew that the beard and military garb combo looked good decades before GQ caught on.
Despite his strict dedication to socialism, he demonstrated a remarkable ability to work across the aisle on issues important to him. He had a reputation for smoking cigars and was a rebel icon. That must’ve matched nicely with the American tobacco industry’s attempts to resist the authoritarian boot of government regulation and health awareness.
The main point of El Jefe Maximo’s legacy, however, seems to be one of sticking it to the elites. Interestingly enough, our Short-Fingered Vulgarian-Elect ran a campaign on much the same principle. Castro led a populist revolution against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, a man who had left Cuba for Florida before returning to stage a coup. Similarly, Trump, courageous against claims of racism, spoke out against our faux-American president, who was really from Kenya.
Batista had ignored the working class and instead aligned with the wealthy landowning elite of Cuban society. Trump vanquished the wealthy, globalist Jewish elites of American society who had concentrated themselves in coffee shops and universities and forgotten about the real America that had been decimated by global trade.
Castro, too, was no fan of trade. Otherwise, why would he have provoked the U.S. embargo? (One might say that the U.S. imposed the embargo, but if the president-elect can say nonsense without fact-checking, so can I).
Castro was not without genuine accomplishments. Cuba has exceptionally high literacy rates and a truly excellent healthcare system. Of course, it also has chronic food shortages, grinding poverty, last century’s technology and a chronic lack of free speech. But hey, that’s the price of autocracy. Given Trump’s tendencies and policies, I’m sure he’d agree.
Perhaps it was Castro’s tendency to murder and imprison thousands of political opponents while suppressing the free press that led hundreds of thousands of wealthy, educated Cubans to brave the perilous journey to Florida. Who needed those elites anyways? Ironically, many of them voted for Trump, who has promised and encouraged similar crackdowns. But hey, something’s got to be done about political correctness and identity politics. Good riddance to the Hollywood elites planning to move to Canada. I hear the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, is a big fan of Castro.
Castro left a mixed legacy. In some cases, he fought against dictatorship and promoted social justice, even fighting apartheid. It was ironic, then, that he became a dictator himself. His rule was violent, undemocratic and left Cuba stuck in the last century. Even more ironically, many Cubans still revere Castro and were distraught at his death. One is reminded of the propaganda promoting Kim Jong-un in North Korea.
Trump seems to be in a similar vein. The man thrives on public adoration like a narcissistic leech and rode to power on a cult of personality built on a foundation of lies. Many of his campaign promises and statements directly contradict constitutional law and democratic norms. That he is already using his position to promote his business with foreign governments while his policies will gut the livelihoods of the poor suggest a kleptocracy similar to that of Batista and Castro himself, who was frequently well off while his country was in poverty. A ladrà³n for every generation and every country, truly.
With the death of Castro comes an opportunity to learn from the past and look for parallels. It is perhaps not surprising that many Americans did not take that opportunity considering that Mike Pence, the vice president-elect, has social views straight from the 1950s. That guy would be considered old-fashioned on the set of “Mad Men.”
In all seriousness, though, now is the time to be vigilant. An olive-clad dictator in Cuba may have died, but it is now up to all us to ensure that an orange-haired one does not rise in America.
Gabriel Levine is a junior chemistry major.
Opinion Columnist | Class of 2018 | Major: Chemistry