Though we were connected as social media friends, I don’t believe I had met Jorge Mena before he walked into our radio studio a couple of weeks ago. For about 45 minutes, the humble but well-spoken Mena spoke of his early years living in Fidel Castro’s Cuba. Over the prior weekend, Mena wrote from the heart in a social media post, shortly after the death of Castro:
“Today, at learning of Fidel Castro’s passing, a rush of emotions overwhelmed me. I struggle to not rejoice in the passing of this evil man who caused so much pain and suffering to my family. From stealing all my father had worked for and rewarding him by sending both he and my mother to forced labor camps leaving me, just a seven year old, to fend for myself and my four year old brother for nearly a year, to the jailing of three uncles, to separating our family from close relatives I’ve not seen in four decades; including a half sister.
I’ll defer judgement of Mr. Castro to a greater power. And view this day simply as the close of a chapter in the history of the Cuban people and now pray that with Fidel Castro’s passing those who still oppress the Cuban people will reflect upon their own legacy and abandon the debased views of communism and move closer to freeing a subjugated people isolated in the island nation of my birth.”
Mena’s poignant observations were augmented by our conversation which at times was punctuated with voice-cracking emotion. Mena’s family — like so many others — was torn apart by Fidel Castro, and saved only by a determined father who eventually was able to negotiate an escape from the prison island to America.
Meanwhile, during the same weekend this Cuban refugee who lived and breathed the oppression of Castro’s Cuba shared his experience, multimillionaire quarterback Colin Kaepernick stood before reporters awkwardly explaining his praise of Castro with all the political acuity you would imagine a lackluster NFL quarterback could produce. It was almost surreal, considering Kaepernick’s adoption of the Black Lives Matter platform has driven him along a track of alternate fame. Of course, Kaepernick’s knee-taking before games during our national anthem is to protest police treatment of the nation’s black population.
Fine. Let him take a knee. This is America. But if this were Castro’s America, Colin Kaepernick would either spend years in a labor camp or his last moments facing a firing squad. I must say it is infuriating beyond comprehension to have this young man use his considerable platform to wax indignant over an issue that is indeed real in America, but nothing compared to the human rights nightmare and oppressive third-world surveillance police state implemented by Fidel Castro.
You don’t get to have it both ways. You cannot possibly be convincing or hold any moral authority whatsoever criticizing law enforcement’s disparate treatment of racial minorities in America while defending and praising a murderous dictator who criminalizes political dissent and has the blood of thousands on his hands. The only people who go along with such naked hypocrisy are those who are equally irrational and intellectually dishonest. They beclown themselves.
And Kaepernick is not alone. Many a media watcher from the right has pointed out the plethora of glowing headlines and near reverent tone mainstream media progressives use in the context of Castro’s recent death. It’s almost as if the generations of suppression, the thousands dead from firing squads, the multitudes forced to work in Castro’s labor camps, and the rampant family fracturing Castro’s policies produced are just a little bit of unfortunate collateral damage — and are all forgivable because of Cuba’s impressive (but Potemkin) health care system and high literacy rates.
Anyone who would minimize Castro’s deliberate atrocities because of any institutional achievement — education, health care, or otherwise — should never hold a smidgen of government power in America, and should be challenged strongly on the stage of American discourse. They show a dangerous tolerance of human suffering in the name of collectivism, and are unworthy of leading in our nation.
I asked Jorge Mena why Colin Kaepernick and other American progressives praise Castro. His answer was instant: “Ignorance. They haven’t lived through it. They don’t understand it.” I’m not sure I could ever understand tolerating so much hostility to freedom for any reason. But one thing I do know, I’ll trust the words of those who have lived in and escaped from that hell.
We can learn a lot from them.
[Note: Jorge Mena’s story can be heard at http://tinyurl.com/NLSCastro]
Associated Press award-winning columnist Neal Larson of Idaho Falls is also the author of “Living in Spin.” He is a conservative talk show host on KID Newsradio 590am, 106.3 and 92.1fm, and also at www.kidnewsradio.com. “The Neal Larson Show” can be heard weekday mornings from 8:00 to 10:00. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.