Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage’s whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.
What is freedom? Why did the United States for over 23o years declare the elevation of one’s individual capacity to determine his destiny without oppressive interference of others the primary definition? What is lost when the essential force for individual freedom sees itself as flawed for not recognizing another country’s capacity to set its on destiny regardless of personal freedom? What does it mean to the inhabitants of this country and those that exist under different definitions?
We are about to find out.
President Obama this past week overturned the settled philosophy of the 8 prior American Presidents regarding relations with the nation of Cuba by releasing three Cuban spies imprisoned for felonies such as murder and acknowledging the process for achieving formal relations with the government of Cuba. Having recognized in 1961 of the true political leanings of the young ‘revolutionary’ Fidel Castro, the United States attempted to overthrow Castro in the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Castro retaliated by his willingness to bring the world to the brink of nuclear destruction in the October 1962 Missile Crisis instigated by young Castro accepting nuclear weapons from Russia aimed at the United States. The successive American governments have applied the concept of containment with variable success to the aggressive tactics of the Castro government, blockading it from formal trade, and encouraging the cuban exile population to work progressively toward the liberation of the island from the Castro regime. The fifty subsequent years have been essentially a cold war between Cuba and the United States, with Cuba progressively trading economic support from the Soviet Union to maintain its marxist totalitarian grip on the Cuba economy and people, and its willingness to act as a military proxy for Soviet communist regime in the 1970s and 1980s in places as diverse as Nicaragua, Granada, and Angola.
From 1959 onward, tens of thousands of Cuban refugees have attempted to escape the totalitarian government, risking life and limb on rickety boats to try and secure a meaningful existence in the United States, the passage to freedom a tempting mere 90 nautical miles away from the American coast. Many have made it. Many more have been drowned, eaten by sharks, sunk by Cuban gunboats, and turned around by American Coast Guard vessels.
What were they escaping? To the liberal Washington elites and Hollywood celebrities they were leaving a utopian paradise of free health care and societal equality, ruled by a leader in Castro charismatic in his affect, perpetually revolutionary in his appearance in military fatigues, and ultimately concerned only for his Cuban people being able to steer their own course without the oppressive domination of a whorish American capitalist caste. The level of cultural coolness and forever youngness was even secured on t-shirts and posters immortalizing the great leader Castro, and his right hand revolutionary, Che Guevara, the enthusiastic judge and executioner for revolutionary firing squads that purified Cuba from dissidents who didn’t recognizing the righteousness of the revolution. It is the personification of this idolatry that propelled the current President to the office of Presidency and the subsequent comfort with the ideals of the winds of change fomented by the Cuban revolutionaries.
If the process of attempting to secure individual freedom for the Cuban people over 53 years of consistent foreign policy through containment proved to achieving no identifiable changes in the Cuban government’s relationship with its people what possible risk is involved in accepting the Cuban revolution at face value, and recognizing it as the legitimate aspiration of an entire people? What could be possibly at stake in similar efforts to restore relationships with similar minded governments currently hostile in position against the United States such as North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela?
Maybe one could ask men such as Rafael Ibarra Roque, imprisoned since 1994 by the Cuban government without trial for ‘sabotage against the regime” for speaking out against things he had seen as a Cuban soldier and citizen through a nonviolent group he formed called Frank Pais effecting to restore democracy to Cuba. One could ask Human Rights Watch, which has documented a systemic oppression resulting in thousands of executions, arrests without trial, formation of forced labor camps (UMAP’s), suppression of independent media and opposition political movements, government drug cartels, and prostitution. One could ask the Cuban exiles in Miami who labored for decades to restore the most basic of personal freedoms in Cuba for the family members they left behind.
And now it is gone, as the citadel of personal freedom and institutional democracy determines that respectful relationships with such tyrants will serve both countries better over the long run. We are left with the question with each of these over-turnings of our own principles what is lost in ourselves as we deny the fundamental importance of such principles? Will a President who cares more how we look to others than how we act among ourselves lead us to our own loss of freedoms? That depends obviously as to what it means to be free and our willingness to prevent those who would sell such hard earned freedoms for the veneer of acceptance recognizes once gone, they wont be easily if ever brought back.
Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.
Perhaps the freedom we lose, will be forever Cuba’s gain. Raul Castro, Cuba’s current leader and brother of Fidel thinks not. He is looking to the economic support of the Cuban Revolution, to cement its gains and prevent any change in the relationships with its people. Perhaps it will change Cuba’s belligerency. Then again, it was just last year that Cuba attempted to gain tactical missiles from North Korea to position against the United States, learning nothing in the intervening 50 years since the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Cuba is not looking for change, but it will be hoping for change in the United States. As probably will Iran and Venezuela. It turns out when it comes to slowly dissolving the light of freedom, the Man of Hope and Change was ultimately the Man of totalitarians’ Hope , and our Change.