Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Did José Martí Live and Die in Vain?

Was José Martí's life lived in vain and was its sacrifice to no purpose? There are questions which one would prefer not to answer because it is better not to answer them: better in the sense that more harm would be done by answering them than by leaving them unanswered. This is not such a question.

Martí's life and death matters to our country as no other event in our history does. Without Martí, Cubans might be anything, but they wouldn't be Cubans. Our national character is an extension of his idealized conception of us. We see ourselves through his eyes and he only saw the best in us. The confidence that he instilled in us has remained unshaken even as everything that once supported it has collapsed in a heap around us. But for Martí we could not bear to look one another in the face. Thanks to him, we have reason enough  to believe that we are not defined by our current circumstances, that our destiny will transcend the void of our existence and deliver us safe to a new life. That we have persisted in that belief in the face of unrelieved disappointment  proves that Martí did not live in vain.

But even if Martí had lived and died in vain, it would not mean, however, that he was a failure; for he is no way responsible for the acts of those who betrayed our country and his legacy. Our enemies credit him with their crimes and failures, calling him the "intellectual author" of their anti-Cuban Revolution. They claim his inspiration in order to disparage him by laying the blame for their misdeeds at his feet, as if by this putrid offering they could acquit themselves of the blame and transfer it to him. Castro has reinvented Martí as our national scapegoat in opposition to his rightful place as our national savior.

We who are true to his legacy want for our country exactly what he wanted. We know that the only way to honor Martí is to believe, as he always did, that our people aspire to liberty and require only the means and the opportunity to assert their rights. The indifference, or, rather, the complicity of the world in their enslavement — which is even more the case today than in Martí's day —  is the greatest obstacle facing our people and the only bulwark left to our enemies.

Only the greatest disdain for the Cuban people would maintain that an inhuman existence is what they desire or deserve, or that their unrelenting degradation is preferable to questioning the actions and motives of those who have enslaved them.

Martí's life and death is a negation of that position, and as long as the Cuban people remain stateless within their own country, Martí shall be as relevant and indispensable in forging our future as any living man.

Martí did not die in vain, nor does he live in vain. "A man must be useful even after he is dead; therefore, I write." And his writings, which do not require any historical context because his words are as timely now as when he wrote them, speak to us across the decades of the same hunger for liberty and thirst for justice which is not lessened because it remains unsatisfied, nor can ever disappear till it is assuaged.