Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Are you old enough--were you young enough--to have been thrilled by the fiery young Fidel and his spunky sidekick, Che,
and their revolution against the corrupt and oppressive Battista regime in Cuba? I am. I was. A dedicated young European socialist (small "s": remember, it had not yet been granted dirty-word status over there as it had here in America,) I saw in Fidel from that perspective a sign of hope for people across the ocean--the oppressed black people of America (this was the Fifties...) as well as the oppressed brown people to the south.
And then I watched in dismay as bully America--bear with me here, I am still in my early twenties, I am idealistic, I am socialist and European!--tightened its communist-fearing iron fist around the little island and drove Fidel unnecessarily into the welcoming arms of post-Stalinist Soviet communism.
I watched in dismay as the people's hero, the great liberator, turned into his own nemesis, the great dictator, the hectoring autocrat, dispatching those who dared to dissent from him to jail and continuing to cling blindly to his ideology and his power as the nation's economy crumbled about him.
I watched in dismay as the exiles from this Castro regime began to exercise an increasing and unhealthy influence in American politics, with their strident and overbearing demands on American leaders to support their anti-Castro agenda at the expense of American and hemispheric interests.
And I watched in dismay as the once jaunty hero showed up, at last, shriveled with age, a sick old man, gaunt, scraggly-bearded, hollow-cheeked and sallow, still clinging stubbornly to what was left of his power, a "shadow of his former self," the wreck of what had once been a powerful man.
The more I watch of the world and its affairs, the more I'm grateful to the wisdom of the Buddhist teachings. We all grow old and die. Political power is nothing but vanity. It is we ourselves who can be our own worst enemy. Attachment to outcomes brings nothing but further suffering, while equanimity and non--attachment lead to serenity of mind. And yet, and yet... I still continually find myself caught between the two!