"The great trouble with religion – any religion – is that a religionist, having accepted certain propositions by faith, cannot thereafter judge those propositions by evidence. One may bask at the warm fire of faith or choose to live in the bleak uncertainty of reason – but one cannot have both." ~ Robert Heinlein
Castro Gets Stoned
The latest work of noted Hollywood producer Oliver Stone is "Looking for Fidel," a very warped and distorted look at Fidel Castro's Cuba . One can't help but notice that Mr. Stone, who conducts the interviews, is immersed in the septuagenarian's persona, mesmerized by his power, and engulfed in his myth (much like a seven year old visiting Neverland Ranch views Michael Jackson). Watching this so-called documentary (a very painful hour for some), you can almost visualize Stone being slowly swallowed whole by the aging tyrant, eventually becoming a non-entity within his own production. Stone's documentary does make one thing perfectly clear: All governments are for the most part devoid of common sense, and derive all their powers through force at the expense of individual rights. Castro is not the only one guilty of such infractions, and he is quick to point that out. The relatives of three young men executed by the regime for attempting to commandeer a ferry and make it to freedom were featured complaining about the lack of family access to the prisoners. Castro quickly replies by asking Stone how many family visits have the "enemy combatants" imprisoned by the US government at GITMO (located in Guantanamo , Cuba ) been allowed. This is clearly a diversionary tactic, but one made possible by the Bush Administration's bending and breaking of both individual rights and constitutional law. One of the most Kafkaesque scenes in this documentary is when six men accused of attempting to hijack a plane to the US are interviewed in the presence of Castro. The men are obviously scared out of their wits and extremely anxious. They are asked why they wanted to go to the US, to which they all reply with "economic" reasons. Castro, almost as if on cue, chimes in about the Cuban Adjustment Act and "Wet Foot, Dry Foot," blaming these US policies for the six young men's plight (while not once mentioning his own repressive tactics, plus draconian and disastrous economic policies). The communist strongman mentions that these men probably aspired to one day own a new car, as if that were some sort of sin or pornographic thought crime (like wanting an SUV?). But maybe Castro has been watching American politics closer than we think. Recent presidential campaigns featuring phrases like "Compassionate Conservative," "We Feel Your Pain" and "Paying Your Fair Share" have probably caught the big socialist lug's (Compassionate Commies) fancy. The defense attorneys for the six would-be hijackers (who are employed by the Cuban government) make a brief appearance at the behest of Castro. Like a marionette on very tight strings, one of these sorry excuses for an advocate tells Mr. Stone and anyone else who cares to listen that he will provide an arduous defense of his client and use all the provisions under the "law" to achieve the best results for him. In the end, the freedom-seeking individuals whose sole crime was to act on their dream of liberty and opportunity (denied them in Cuba ) were sentenced to terms of between 30 years and life (most are sure to die in captivity only dreaming of that new car or SUV and freedom). Those who make it to the US do not necessarily fare much better. Six young men who took control of a Cuban passenger plane and landed in Key West (with their wives and children) were arrested, charged and subsequently convicted on charges of air piracy. The Cuban government was extremely cooperative with US prosecutors and blocked all the defense attorneys' attempts to interview witnesses, tilting the scales of justice in favor of their willing accomplice, the US Attorney's office. The men will be spending 20 to 25 years in a US federal prison (this makes Fidel very happy). Although these men, like their Cuban-detained counterparts, may never own a new car or SUV (nor experience true freedom), they at least got to ride in a few on the way to court and later prison. Castro throughout the documentary refers to those who vocally opposed his rule as "the so-called dissidents." Throughout his tyranny, those who have made their objections to Mr. Castro's rule public have found themselves in either one of the island's notorious prisons (if they're lucky) or on the wrong end of the firing squad. In America, speaking your mind may not necessarily land you in prison (or can it), but it could lead to an IRS audit, a visit from someone from the Department of Homeland Security, or questionable fines and investigations from some other government agency, like the FCC, SEC, DEA or FBI, just to name a few. Recently two South Florida radio DJs were fined by the FCC for playing a practical joke on Castro, which caused the demented dictator to spew obscenities over the airwaves. Why didn't the FCC fine Castro instead of the DJs? Perhaps because power lust (much like politics) makes strange bedfellows. During one of the documentary's last scenes, Castro wades into a crowd of Cuban supporters, who chant his name along with the battle cry of his revolting revolution: "Patria o Muerte; Venceremos" (Fatherland or death, we shall be victorious). This scene mirrors the outside of a courthouse during a Michael Jackson arraignment. When folks in the crowd are asked if they are happy in Cuba, they eagerly answer yes because they have "free" health care and education. They don't sound much different from US voters, who want "free" universal health care and don't mind spending billions of other taxpayers' money on "free" education. Given the mentality of the average US voter, if Castro was a US citizen (shaved his beard and lost the fatigues and the accent), he would have an excellent chance of being elected President of the United States. What documentary about Cuba would be complete without the subject of health care? Castro stops into a clinic where his heart rate and blood pressure is measured. The doctor monitoring the equipment pronounces Castro in perfect health and jokingly says Castro will last another hundred years. The saddest part of all this is that judging from the behavior of both Cubans on the island and many of those in exile, Castro would rule with impunity for another hundred years if he could live that long (fortunately he won't). But what will happen to Cuba and its inhabitants when Castro finally meets his maker? More importantly, what will happen to the United States over the next hundred years? If recent history is any indication, things do not bode well for the "land of the free and the home of the brave." The level of oppression of civil and economic liberties in the US can't be compared to that of Cuba today. That doesn't mean that it doesn't exist and that we are not moving (slowly) in the wrong direction. If the current trend continues, the only difference that will exist between the Cuba of today and the America of tomorrow is that they (the Cubans) have had the same usurper of their rights and confiscator of their wealth for 45 years, and we will be able to elect ours every two, four and six years.