"I am sure that Cubans are not content just to be free men in their own country. I am sure that Cubans also want to enjoy their country. I am sure that they also want to share the bread and the wealth which their country produces. How can we say that this is our country when our country gives us nothing? 'My country?' But if we receive nothing from our country, if our country does not support us, if we are starving in our country — then that is not our country! It might be a country for a few, but it is not a country for the people. Country doesn't just mean a place where we can shout, speak and walk without the fear of being killed. Country is a place where one can live, country is a place where one can work and earn an honest living, and be paid fairly for the work that one does. Country is a place where citizens are not exploited, because a country that exploits its citizens, which takes from them what belongs to them, robs them of all they have — that is not a country." — Fidel Castro, speech delivered in Camagüey, January 4, 1959
This, Castro's "Ask Not What You Can Do for Your Country, But What Your Country Can Do for You" speech, with its mock-biblical cadences and hypnotic use of repetition, should literally have sent all Cubans to the hills, to reclaim the country which the bearded poseur had just "liberated" into perpetual slavery. We cringe at the thought that here, encapsulated in less than 200 words, is the history of Cuba for the last 56 years. A country is what Fidel Castro intended to take from each and every Cuban. The means whereby he would accomplish the theft are outlined here as are the results. He was not speaking about the past or about the present, but was prophesying the future: a place in time where Cubans cannot enjoy their country because they are not free men there; where they share neither the bread nor the wealth which their country produces or should produce; where they are not supported in any sense by the feudal state which is reared on their backs; where living on the cusp of starvation is the common lot; where the privileged few alone benefit from the labor of the disinherited many; where citizens can shout and march in defense of tyranny but are killed or brutalized for opposing it; where no one can make an honest living or expect to be compensated fairly for his work; where all are exploited and robbed without appeal or hope of relief; a place where it is impossible to live, and impossible to keep body and soul together, for one or the other must be sacrificed: dignity at the cost of survival, or survival at the price of dignity.
We can always speak to futurity, but that serves no practical purpose in our time. If it were only possible to telegraph the past and raise the cry of alarm! Well, if they wouldn't listen to their own ears, what hope would there be that they would heed the warning? Their complete disassociation from reality, which is always costly and sometimes fatal, proved no defense against the imposition of that reality. We do not hold that generation to blame for its lack of prescience, but for its detachment from and indifference to reality. It is not that they were fooled which made them victims, because they were not fooled: they were captivated by the siren's song not because it was beautiful, but because it was not. Reason would have steered them right, but reason they dismissed because they preferred to ignore rather than face the facts. That was the easier but not the safer course. And though I hold that a majority of Cubans could see through Fidel Castro from day one, and that every successive day that majority grew till by 1962 it comprised almost the entire nation, the fear and opportunism also grew apace with the knowledge that Cuba was the hostage of a madman and that to oppose him meant immediate rather than gradual extinction. Most Cubans chose to die over the course of decades; the rest set an example of resistance, short-lived and glorious, which there was no one after them to follow, not because the overthrow of the Castro regime was not desired, but because it was not possible.
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