A brutal communist dictator has gone on to meet his reward. And too many seem confused about the legacy of Cuba’s Fidel Castro.
On Friday, Fidel Castro died at the age of ninety, far older than many of his opponents lived to be. If you’ve been subjected to the fawning epitaphs of many in the media (or read about one NFL quarterback’s ridiculous defense of Castro) please keep this in mind: While exact numbers are difficult to come by, the number of Cubans murdered by Castro’s regime numbers in the tens of thousands, if not more.
In 1998, I found myself standing less than a hundred yards away from Castro. I’d spent a year in Jamaica right after college, and while I was there, Castro came for a visit. Looking back, knowing what I now know about Castro, the esteem in which he was held was amazing: He was met with a hero’s welcome by both public officials and the people… not to mention, streets and sidewalks that had been in disrepair for decades were fixed, and gutters were finally unclogged and cleaned up to honor him.
The obvious question was: Why? And the best answer my Jamaican friends could come up with when I asked was that Castro had “stood up” to the United States for decades.
Implicit in their answer is the idea that Castro had stood up to them because he had the best interests of the Cuban people in mind. A sentiment shared by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when he called Castro “a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century.”
But what twaddle that is! Castro certainly was larger than life, and as I learned that day, an amazing public speaker. But oratorical skills cannot mitigate the consequences of evil ideas. Only people who didn’t actually have to live under Castro’s rule would call his treatment of the Cuban people “service.” The Cuba Archive has identified at least 15,000 Cubans who were shot, hanged, bombed or otherwise died in Castro’s notorious prisons.
This is the legacy of the man that today’s version of what Lenin once dubbed “useful idiots” are praising.
In addition, Castro’s idea of “service” included making Cuba a satellite of the Soviet Union. He allowed the USSR to place nuclear missiles on the island, thus giving his people a potential front-row seat for Armageddon.
And then of course, there’s Cuba’s horrendous human rights record. According to Human Rights Watch, “During Castro’s rule, thousands of Cubans were incarcerated in abysmal prisons, thousands more were harassed and intimidated, and entire generations were denied basic political freedoms.”
If this is “service,” I’d hate to see “evil.”
But let’s be clear: what happened in Castro’s Cuba is fully consistent with the historical record of communism and all other attempts at man-made utopias, a word which, you should recall, means “no place.”
All utopian visions attempt to reinvent man and refashion him along ideologically-inspired lines by force of state-level coercion. And that never works. Human nature just isn’t that malleable.
The 2001 film “Enemy at the Gates,” about the siege of Stalingrad during World War II, offers one of the clearest and concise critiques of communism I’ve ever heard. As he lays dying, Danilov, a commissar whose job it was to try and create this “new Soviet man,” tells the hero, “I’ve been such a fool, Vassili. Man will always be man. There is no new man. We worked so hard to create a society that was equal, where there’d be nothing to envy your neighbour. But there’s always something to envy. A smile, a friendship, something you don’t have and want to appropriate.”
Danilov is only mistaken on one point: there is a “new man.” But humans are only made new by a means that Castro tried so hard to destroy during his entire reign: the Christ of Christianity. And I pray this lesson isn’t lost on the rest of us.
— by John Stonestreet
Stonestreet is the Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview and is heard on Breakpoint. Copyright© 2016 Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission. BreakPoint is a ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries.