Ding dong! The witch is dead!
Or at least that’s how the families of the 78,000 murdered victims of Fidel Castro, those who fled his dictatorship, and those who love freedom responded when the news of the dictator’s death was reported on Sunday.
Castro was a tyrant who imposed communism on Cuba for over 60 years while torturing and killing tens of thousands more who disagreed with him.
Under his heavy-handed rule, Cubans were living in poverty, an island nearly frozen in time since before Castro assumed power, while he and his brother lived in extreme luxury.
But as shocking as it might be to believe, there are some—including a handful of world leaders—who are in mourning. One is President Barack Obama who failed to mention any of Castro’s atrocities over the decades, but said: “History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure … ”
Former President Jimmy Carter’s statement wasn’t much better: “We fondly remember our visits with him in Cuba and his love of his country.”
But the most notably ridiculous statement came from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who called Castro “revolutionary” and a “larger-than-life leader who served his people.” Trudeau’s glowing comments were instantly mocked on social media, prompting the quick-to-trend #TrudeauEuologies.
These responses are in stark contrast to most Cubans, however. Even Castro’s own sister, who fled Cuba to escape her brothers, said, “My brothers Fidel and Raúl have made it an enormous prison surrounded by water.” That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement.
How can these two responses to Castro’s death be so opposite? Well, the one thing leaders like Carter, Obama, and Trudeau have in common with others who are mourning his death—they, unlike Castro’s sister, never had to live under his evil regime.
Though it seems unfathomable that people you know might try to defend or gloss over the past 60 years in Cuba’s history, it’s still on you to understand where others are coming from and communicate your feelings about Castro’s death in a way that wins them over … or at least makes them think twice.
A basic human right we can all agree on is dignity and respect for all. Regardless of your opinion of Castro’s reign and recent death, it’s important to talk about where Cuba and its people go from here.
A great place to start is the desire to see Cubans flourish, which, as Americans, we define as freedom. To be more specific, you can cite access to education, affordable and quality health care, the ability to worship and express political opinions without fear of death, etc. Or rather, basic privileges we take for granted that Cubans haven’t known for six decades.
Horrifying, but true.
Highlighting exactly what Castro did and how he treated people during his 60-year reign is the most effective way to make your argument.
For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses, gays, and other “undesirables” were rounded up and sent to work camps—or UMAPs. Sound familiar? Further, there was no religious liberty under Castro. Dissidents were tortured, imprisoned, or killed. So extreme was Castro’s control, he banned Christmas for 30 years. (Bah humbug!)
Instead of liberty, firing squads, disappearing friends and neighbors, and families torn apart were hallmarks of the past six decades.
Castro killed Cubans. Castro killed Americans. Castro once destroyed 41 Cubans—mostly women and children—trying to flee his regime by sinking their tugboat. The total of the Castro regime death toll may never be known, but estimates approach 100,000.
While it seems crazy that people are mourning the passing of a despot like Castro, it is important to refrain from insulting those who disagree. If you want to win the argument, keep your emotions in check. It won’t be easy, but it’s necessary.
The key is to use words and phrases that reinforce your common ground (respect and dignity for all), yet point out that Castro did everything to keep his people from realizing it.
You can say: “While we agree that access to good, quality health care and education are basic rights every Cuban should claim, Castro spent his reign denying Cubans this reality. If we truly desire people to live with the dignity and respect they deserve, we can’t gloss over the atrocities that defined the last six decades.”
With the holiday season in full swing, it seems appropriate to spread a little cheer by speaking the truth about a dictator who banned Christmas for 30 years. ‘Tis the season!