Somehow I had gone through life without much pondering the subject of Fidel Castro. Then, eight or 10 years ago, camping at a little place we liked to go near Ojai, I found the time to read a long piece on the Cuban dictator in the New York Review of Books.
In it, I learned that el presidente was still in the habit of giving regular speeches that were between three and four hours long. In the summer. To large crowds in sweltering Havana, an audience whose members were pretty much compelled to stay until the bitter end.
Even Barack Obama, a much more interesting speaker if it comes to that, winds up after 44 minutes at the mike.
But Fidel until his recent illness loved to ramble on, spouting the worst kind of drivel, repeating himself endlessly, for hour after hour after hour. To read a long passage from one of these speeches is to understand that the man is literally insane.
And you can tell me all you want about how high the literacy rate is (though there is nothing to read) and how cheap the healthcare is (though there is, quite unhealthily, nothing to eat) and what percentage of Cubans graduates from high school (there is no work once you do beyond prostituting for German tourists). The country is a nightmare from stem to stern run by a madman, and come Sunday run by whomever the madman will accept in his 49-year-wake.
It’s as absurd as being ruled by the dictator Vargas from Woody Allen’s “Bananas,” who has the string quartet playing without instruments during dinner, or being ruled by one of his successors, before Allen’s Fielding Mellish gets the gig: “Hear me. I am your new president. From this day on, the official language of San Marcos will be Swedish. In addition to that, all citizens will be required to change their underwear every half hour. Underwear will be worn on the outside so we can check.”
Here’s The Message from the Commander in Chief, straight from the horse’s mouth, translation only slightly bad, in a link from the blog-ish posting known as “Reflections by comrade Fidel,” ravings that will apparently continue, like a scream from the grave, on the Granma site from the Commie Party Havana newspaper.
My God, it’s a wonder the Cuban people continue to do one thing so brilliantly — make a Romeo y Julieta as graceful and full of high notes as a bottle of the best Vieux Telegraphe — when they have been ruled by a megalomaniac such as this for 49 years.
I suppose it would be a good thing if the rumors are correct and that someone other than Fidel’s slightly younger brother Raul will lead the nation after Sunday.
It’s all our fault, of course. Before Castro’s revolution, there was an even worse government in place, propped up by our own: Cuba was an island run by Bautista and the Mob.