The greatest tragedy that can befall an egalitarian youth is to become the antithesis of himself as he ages. This is the story of an idealistic lawyer who overthrew a despot only to become a despot himself. If the enormity of a man’s life could be reduced into a few words, Fidel Castro would be described as a living contradiction.
As a young lawyer, he cared deeply for the poor, valued education, land reform and healthcare. With age, he came to believe that the good of the many entailed the decimation of the individual and the obliteration of democracy. He was a lawyer who had his political opponents arbitrarily imprisoned, banished or summarily executed. All without due process, all without defense. He mesmerized millions with his oratory, but had ears only for his own voice. Free speech was curtailed, dissenting views silenced.
He vociferously denounced America’s undue influence over Cuba only to passively accept economic, political and ideological prostration before the Soviet Union. He never ceased to profess his undying love for his country, but the cult of his own personality was the primary mission of the state controlled media. Equality before the law was a concept that he studied in law school, but nepotism was his preferred method of political appointment. He aptly stated that the ability to start a global thermonuclear war was the greatest undemocratic power one could possibly have. Then, during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, he repeatedly pleaded Nikita Khrushchev to order a nuclear first strike.
In the end, there is no greater contradiction than that of an undemocratic lawyer. A man, whose chosen profession relies on the art of persuasion, ultimately abandoned his faith in the transformative value of democratic discourse. This paradoxical choice bequeathed some unequivocal lessons. Social justice obtained through the obliteration of civil and political rights is the justice of the few forcefully imposed on the many. Public education devoid of freedom of expression is an abstruse lesson in political oppression. A revolution that ultimately contradicts the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 is not one that merits lasting respect. Those who object to this view are well advised to peruse its 30 articles.
Finally, in accordance with the democratic values he should have adamantly upheld, it is only proper that the final word be given to the man whose voice can no longer be heard. The same right he so frequently denied others shall be granted him in the end. While defending himself at his trial after his first failed attempt to topple Batista, he solemnly declared: “Condemn me, it does not matter. History will absolve me!”