Hollywood, Havana, and me

Cuba is a poor country, but it lives without road rage, and with healthcare. It lives without raging lawlessness and with literacy, a country that exports more doctors worldwide than any other.

We should look very hard at the pride of Cubans who live in Cuba, so much of it built on their own commitment to an ideological revolution and its leader, to its sovereign resilience, as well as those sober critics in search of their greater dreams. And we should compare that to the pride now absent in so many Americans today toward our own incoming leader and what has become such an abhorrent abuse of our system and our language.

As for Castro, he himself has said that history will absolve him. “I do not overlook the difficulty of my circumstances. Or the complex of cowardice, confusion and the mediocrity that infects the environment,” he once said. We will see.

As we left the house that night, my son and daughter took a picture with the Commandante. It’s a treasured memory of the opportunity we’d had, if only briefly, to meet Cuba, its people and its leader. In the picture, Castro stands between them, arms over shoulders, green cap on.

“Commandante, people will see this picture and accuse me of raising my children into revolutionaries,” I said in good humor. He smiled, looked me in the eye and said, “Better to raise them into the white coats of doctors.” Fidel Castro and I had a couple of exchanges of letters in the years that followed. I’d returned several times after, but never saw him again.