HAVANA TIMES — He doesn’t deserve such uncivil treatment …not him or anyone else. In the twilight of his life, Fidel Castro, the octogenarian former commander, was featured in the Cuban media in an awkward interview when he went to vote in the recent elections this past Sunday, February 3.
The visible deterioration of the leader, along with the adulation by those present, gave the event an irrational, surreal and an even pathetic character.
Fidel, with both his high and low points, represents a slice of contemporary Cuban, continental and planetary history. The cult around his image — whether organized or spontaneous — combines the sincere devotion of many ordinary people along with the opportunistic exploitation of his legacy by the bureaucratic elite, who metastasized under his long reign.
In recent years, the “new” leadership of the country has been dismantling, in a gradual and inconspicuous manner, much of Fidel’s legacy.
For the better, these changes have been introduced in a concrete and pragmatic dimension of conceiving the life of the nation and its people, distant from the transcendent — and egotistical — epic of the Comandante.
For the worse, because many of the salvageable follies of fidelismo — having a poor country with an educated and healthy population that feels solidarity with other peoples — fade away under the combined weight of a model that’s taking hold and the mercantilist standards that prevail among the government reformers.
Because of this, Fidel has become a sort of soul that now hangs in limbo, a (still) precarious inhabitant of this world, converted into a mere shadow of the former figure and power that he was …years ago.
In the face of this situation, it greatly irritates me how a government that’s accustomed to fabricating and preserving his image so meticulously has now put him on display — well into his decline — while calling itself the defender of his principles.
It could be because I have a grandfather that same age, someone who I couldn’t bear seeing made an object of derision by some cruel neighbor.
Or, it could be because I can’t stand the hypocritical smiles and fawning by the officials and journalists that surround him during his sporadic appearances, the same ones who must surely scoff in private about “how deteriorated this old man is.”
Then too, it could be because I believe in the integrity of any human being should be preserved from public ridicule as much as possible, especially if that person is a frail senior citizen, helpless and obviously disoriented.
It doesn’t matter that he himself — with his intolerance of criticism from others — sowed the seeds of feigning and brown-nosing in Cuba, or that his opponents and enemies can rightfully feel they can question his work or his person.
What I find ethically reprehensible is that the greatest beneficiaries of the system he created aren’t more careful with him. What they’re doing is turning him into a museum piece, an object for display, a treasure for worship or the morbid curiosity of some Latin American heads of state.
Instead, Cuba’s authorities must honestly assume the direction of their own decisions, advance in the wake of their mistakes, and preserve — without canonization — what’s salvageable of Fidel’s legacy.
But above all, they need to care for their fellow human being…protect Fidel from politically motivated acts, from themselves.