For many months, my leftie friends on social media — and before you ask, yes, I’m a leftie too — have been mostly unified thanks to their shared hatred of Donald Trump. Then Fidel Castro passed away last week, and now the once sweet Kool-Aid we all used to communally drink has turned to bitter wine (the gross boxed kind).
I don’t really have any conservative friends (that I know of), so the core of my Facebook feed has split into two main camps: group #1) a hardcore, capitalist-hating, Chavez-respecting, Manu Chau-listening bunch, and group #2) the sober, perhaps a bit more centrist and less romantic faction (they probably listen to shitty music too, don’t put it past them).
The former group get huge hard-ons thinking about how Castro essentially got away with flipping off the US for so long, and right in its fat, McDonald’s-eating face. Why? Because most other countries — especially in Latin America — wouldn’t dare to piss off the Yankees. It’s the same band of people who immediately point out all of Castro’s great contributions — many of which, if this writer is to be believed, were already in place before he took over:
Before Mr. Castro came to power in 1959, Cubans suffered from a grasping, corrupt dictator and the U.S. mafia was involved in the island’s casinos, to name two issues. However, Cuba was not an economic straggler and it already “topped the charts” on multiple social indicators.
…ponder Cuban health care. Cuba in 1957 already had more doctors per 1,000 people than did Norway, Sweden and Great Britain. In 1958, according to even one recent regime-friendly academic paper, Cuba “ranked in the first, second or third place in Latin America with respect to its healthcare indicators.” Circa the 1950s, that success included long life-expectancy rates, and the lowest infant-mortality rates in Latin America.
The latter group, the one’s you’ll never catch wearing a Ché t-shirt because Rage Against The Machine ruined them for everybody since the ’90s, are softer lefties, but they do have the capacity to appreciate Mr. Comandante Tracksuit’s support of racial equality, medicine, and higher education (even if he pimped out Cuba’s bookworms later on).
But faction #2 can not turn a blind eye towards all the other shady shit Fidel did (mistreatment of dissenters, homosexuals, and, among many other things, the fact that he never actually implemented a real democracy where people could vote, which was kind of the whole point of his revolution in the first place). Concerning this criticism, die-hard castristas argue that Fidel was simply from another time and he did what he could with what he had, or something along those lines, but camp #2 is having none of it. For all the progress that occurred under his watch, Castro was still a huge asshole, they say.
Alas, these are the core arguments I’ve been reading from many of my buddies on social media. But if you’re truly wondering about the merits of Castro’s revolution — and its culmination — I suggest you check out Patria o Muerte, a new HBO documentary which gives many current Cuban residents a chance to tell their own tale: