Castro’s life shouldn’t be celebrated

You can’t deny that the Castro legacy is one of oppression.

Anant Naik

Last week, Fidel Castro died. Castro — a man who will be remembered for his revolutionary movement in Cuba, hundreds of survived assassination attempts, his unwavering resentment of the United States and his relentless and fierce will.

But he’ll also be remembered for his brutal, dictatorial regime, which violated countless human rights. We seem to forget to emphasize that when talking about him in the wake of his death. As videos on social media emerged of Cuban people crying over the death of their liberator, empathy has risen in the void. Maybe this guy really was “bad-ass.” But maybe he was also brutal and oppressive.

It’s an interesting thought — as a society, I think we tend to criticize oppression only when it directly harms our own interests. Castro was only bad because he denied United States hegemony. If there’s a young revolutionary out there who believes that opposing the United States is actually a sign of courage, Fidel Castro’s legacy could also be twisted into one of courage — one of impressive testimony.

Fidel Castro was a war hero gone tyrant. He banned free speech and any sort of free assembly. He executed and jailed thousands of his political opponents. He provided just enough to his people to develop a brain-washed, sadistic attraction toward him. Many people, though, feared to even marginally criticize their leader, fearing they would be overheard by informants. They would accept it as a normal part of life — as banal as the next day’s weather forecast. If any other part of the world resulted in that brand of tyranny, people wouldn’t celebrate his life. They would lambast the aggression he displayed during his rule.

Some may think that this isn’t an important discussion to have. But remember that our construction of the present moment is what history will record for future generations. History isn’t a recount of facts. It’s a recount of perspectives and opinions about the facts —then pieced together, sometimes haphazardly, to reconstruct “reality.”

I appreciate nuanced perspectives about the historical relevance of dictatorships. Moral absolutists aren’t the crowd I hang out with. But, if the argument is to juxtapose Fidel Castro’s oppression, and the marginal heroism he may have displayed early on, that is simply wrong.

History ought to remember Fidel Castro as a dictator — the outcome of which led thousands of people to flee Cuba. He should be remembered for normalizing oppression. The fact being that a brutal dictatorship existed on the periphery of the United States for so long, despite economic embargos, should appall us. History should remember Castro as man he was — not his mythos or legend.