Cuban defectors? Who cares?

Castro with Jesse Jackson

We’ve spent plenty of time on this website discussing celebrities from the US and other free countries who have gotten a big kick out of going slumming in Cuba, chumming around with Fidel Castro, and the like. We’ve written about how current New York Mayor (and presidential hopeful) Bill de Blasio honeymooned in Havana. About how another one of the current crop of presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders, has praised Castro and visited Cuba. About how the mayor of New Orleans went to Havana for tips on economic development. About Barbara Walters’s cozy relationship with Fidel. About the quasi-romance between Fidel and another American TV “journalist,” Lisa Howard. About a UCLA art professor’s fascination with Che Guevara. About a fun trip made by Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, to the island prison. About how Karl Lagerfeld used rundown Havana as a backdrop for a fashion show. About the movie that director Bob Yari filmed in Cuba. About celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain’s admiration for the Castro regime. And about heroic whitewashes of Cuban Communism by Time Magazine and other media.

Castro with director Oliver Stone

The point has consistently been the same: that it’s easy for people living in democratic countries to romanticize tyranny. It seems especially easy, somehow, for rich and privileged folks who like to make the most of their wealth and their ability to travel at will to any spot on earth. There’s something about visiting a dictatorship and consorting with a dictator that just tickles their fancy. Somehow they’re able to take in the terrible spectacle of fellow human beings living under economic and political conditions that they themselves would chafe under and yet praise the system, and the thugs, that forces these conditions upon them. The whole business is an eternal reality and an eternal puzzle.

Members of Cuba’s youth soccer team

Yet however blinkered so many people in the West may be about the reality of a place like Cuba, the Cubans themselves have no illusions. They know what it is to live every of their lives without liberty. So it is that last month, six members of Cuba’s youth soccer team who were in New York on their way from Cuba to the U.S. Virgin Islands – where they were scheduled to play a game on July 17 against the team representing that possession – defected. Six! This was, of course, hardly a unique event: only a month earlier, four Cuban soccer players defected while in the U.S. for a tournament.

Castro with Angela Davis

This report first appeared in the official Cuban government daily Granma. It was picked up by the news service Agence France-Presse. We read about it at the reliable Babalu Blog, which had found the story at the website of a Pakistani newspaper. A roundabout way, don’t you think, for a story from Cuba to reach American readers? (Even more roundabout, in fact, than the idea of having to go through New York to get from Havana to the U.S. Virgin Islands.) But this is what happens when major Western newspapers simply aren’t interested in such stories – such, alas, is their admiration for, or at very least readiness to cover for, the Cuban system. We checked: even though the defection took place in New York, none of that city’s major dailies appears to have reported on it. Well, disgraceful enough for them. But whether covered in the media or not, there were six Cubans who freer when they went to bed that evening than when they’d woken up that morning – and that’s what matters.

Catching up with Mlle. Knowles & Mr. Kaepernick

Superstar

Beyoncé! Her life has been an American Dream. In addition to every other glorious accomplishment in her career – her 22 Grammys, her two-time listing as one of the “100 most influential people” by Time Magazine, her serenading of Barack Obama at one of his 2009 inaugural balls, her lip-synching of the national anthem at his second inauguration, her #1 ranking in Forbes’ Celebrity 100 List, and her naming by Forbes this year as the most powerful woman in entertainment – she was the star of halftime at the Super Bowl in February 2016. At that event, America’s biggest TV event of the year, she repaid America’s bounteous gift to her by paying tribute. To whom? The Black Panthers.

Enough Black Power salutes for you?

As we wrote here a few days later, the show, which featured her new song “Formation,” was “an exercise in what one critic called ‘Black Panther chic.’” With its Black Power salutes and its slap at the police, the Guardian suggested it might be “the most radical political statement from the superstar in her 20-year career.” The audience held up “rainbow-colored placards” that read Believe in Love. “Does Beyoncé sincerely believe that the Black Panther movement has, or ever had, anything whatsoever to do with love?” we asked. “If she does, then she can only be described as a thoroughgoing historical ignoramus, and thus a useful stooge of the first order. For the fact is that the Black Panthers were, quite simply, hate set in system. They were racists, terrorists, homophobes, anti-Semites, proud disciples of the cruelest and most remorseless totalitarian despots of the twentieth century. Nothing could be more Orwellian than the notion that they were ever driven, in any sense of the word, by love.”

Setting the Super Bowl on fire

Perhaps Beyoncé was simply ignorant – perhaps she just didn’t know better. Born in 1981, she’s too young to have experience the evil heyday of the Black Panthers firsthand. But someone with so much power owes it to her public to educate herself. That wouldn’t have been too hard or time-consuming. All the information is out there, at her fingertips. One of her innumerable handlers and hangers-on could’ve done the research for her and handed her a file.

That, at least, is what we told ourselves after her Super Bowl fiasco. We were prepared to give Beyoncé the benefit of the doubt. But how can there be much doubt after what she did this past December 5?

Magic Johnson

The setting: the annual Sportsperson of the Year Award Show in New York. One of the awards presented that evening was Sports Illustrated’s Muhammad Ali Legacy Award. It is supposed to go to “individuals whose dedication to the ideals of sportsmanship has spanned decades and whose career in athletics has directly or indirectly impacted the world.” The 2014 winner was longtime L.A. Laker Magic Johnson, one of the great basketball players ever – a three-time NBA MVP, a 12-time NBA All-Star, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame and of the gold-winning 1992 U.S. Olympics team. He has also proven to be a terrific businessman, with an eponymous conglomerate worth $700 million, and has been a devoted AIDS activist.

Kaepernick (center) doing what he does best – not playing football

In 2015, the winner was golfer Jack Nicklaus, of whom we could supply an equally impressive résumé. In 2016, the honor was shared by a trio of glittering names from athletic history: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Brown, and Bill Russell. This year, the prize went to Colin Kaepernick, who spent five years as a middling player for the San Francisco 49ers. Most Americans had not heard of him until August 26 of last year, when he took a knee during the pre-game playing of National Anthem. This became a habit. And it grew infectious. It spread to other football teams, and other professional sports, and even to college and youth games.

In his stupid t-shirt

Kaepernick’s explanation for the action, as we noted a year ago, was that Kaepernick, “whose biological father was black and biological mother white,” and who “was raised in Wisconsin by adoptive white parents,” was protesting the supposedly systematic mistreatment of blacks in America. We pointed out that Kaepernick, this self-styled victim of racial oppression, lives in a mansion, and that at the press conference at which he explained his knee-taking, he wore a t-shirt featuring pictures of Malcolm X with Fidel Castro.

Fidel with Muhammad Ali

Now, maybe in some sense Kaepernick is a perfect winner for an award named for Muhammad Ali, because the legendary heavyweight was also a fan – indeed, a friend – of Fidel Castro and Malcolm X. But his selection was a slap in the face to athletes who are real role models, and Beyoncé’s involvement in the awards ceremony was yet more proof of her ignorance about the world and ingratitude for American freedom. Presenting the prize to Kaepernick, she said: “Colin took action with no fear of consequence or repercussion, only hope to change the world for the better. To change the way we treat each other – especially people of color. We’re still waiting for the world to catch up. It’s been said that racism is so American that when we protest racism, some assume we’re protesting America.”

The award presentation

On the contrary, study after study has shown that America is among the least racist of all countries. Young Americans nowadays are so ill-educated that many of them think America was the only nation ever to have slavery; in fact, its distinction is that it was the one major country that fought a civil war to free slaves. In any event, a question: in exactly which way has Kaepernick changed the world for the better? What has he done except to take the U.S. flag, a symbol of unity amid diversity – e pluribus unum – and turned it into an occasion for destructive dissension and unfounded accusation.

It is good to report that this handing over of a presumably important award by one fool to another did not go uncriticized. “They just turned Muhammad Ali’s Legacy Award into toilet paper,” said Kevin Jackson on Fox News. And another Fox News contributor, Tomi Lahren, tweeted: “Police-hating Beyoncé presents police and America-hating Kappy with a ‘legacy’ award. This is how far we’ve fallen.”