Kabir Vega Castellanos
HAVANA TIMES — It’s very common for parents in Cuba to order the following when a child fights with another for the first time and loses:
“You have to learn to defend yourself! If he hit you, you go and hit him; if he’s bigger than you, hit him with something else.”
Or this example which a mother tells with pride:
“When my son came home from school crying, I told him: Grab that stick and hit him over the head, but don’t come here crying. And if you don’t hit him, I’m going to hit you with that same stick.”
Quite savage values, but every family is free to raise their children with the education they choose. However, what do we do when these practices continue on into the public space?
Not too long ago, I saw a teenager argue with another and slash his hand with a machete, all of this in the middle of the street. Of course, the consequences at this age aren’t the same anymore. The law apparently acts to punish violence, but education encourages it.
At school, we are told, from a very young age, how to fight the “enemy” with vigor, to never seek out an agreement. We are encouraged to value our martyrs for their courage or their strategies as a soldier and not as a human being. Instead of showing us the immense value of saving someone, whether that’s a friend or a stranger, we are told the importance of standing up to and killing the “enemy”, over and over again.
With all of this baggage, it’s normal that a movie like “Hacksaw Ridge” (2016) is extremely surprising. Directed by the popular Mel Gibson, it recreates the real story of unknown Desmond Doss. A man whose patriotic conviction was such that he voluntarily went to the battlefield without carrying arms. He decided that he would only save lives and not take lives away. Amidst the horrors of a battle which aren’t narrated like they are in history books, this young man who wasn’t even physically well-built, rescued 75 injured soldiers all alone, in the Japanese Okinawa attack.
He was the first conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor for his unprecedented achievements.
I have asked my friends and acquaintances with some insistence, but not a single one of them has ever heard of him, while Ernesto Che Guevara continues to be sold as the representative image of Cuba while Cuba’s new pioneers learn to say “We will be like Che”. That is to say, they will be war murderers?
With all of the controversy that surrounds the personal story of the “heroic guerrilla fighter”, believing or not believing what his admirers and detractors say, his own words are what’s unquestionable:
“We must say here something that is a well-known truth and that we have always asserted before the whole world: executions? Yes, we have executed people; we are executing people and shall continue to execute people as long as it is necessary. Our fight is a fight to the death. We know what the result of a lost battle would be and the worms also need to know what the result of a battle lost is today, in Cuba.” (Publicly stated in front of the United Nations on December 11, 1964.
I was never told about Mahatma Gandhi at any of the schools I studied at, not even when I was taught Universal History. I learned about this exceptional man by watching a movie too.
Is this just to justify our country’s own history? And what is Cuba’s contribution to civilization?
The same generations that have taught us so much to admire the alleged military feats and courage in terms of violence, talk to us about the value of peace and complain about how crime is on the increase in Cuba, today.