Monday, May 12, 2003


“So,” Raven takes a bite from his ersatz croissant (from Panadería 5 Regiones) “Castro has finally responded to José Saramago´s ‘Hasta aquí llegué’ commentary.”

I think standing up those 3 kidnappers against the wall and calling in the firing squad may have been an extreme reaction on the part of Castro. But I also remember when I was a child in the 50s there was a lot of controversy about the death penalty because of the Caryl Chessman case.”

“Before my time, I’m afraid. Don’t we have some jam for this bread?”

Check the refri, Rave. I am looking for something in Internet about Chessman for you. He was given 2 death sentences for a 1948 crime that charged him with being a kidnapper and rapist, and was finally executed in the gas chamber in San Quentin in 1960. He always claimed that he was not guilty. But the climate of the 50s was not apt for rebellious guys like Chessman, who was a pretty good writer, too. They basically slapped the kidnapping charge on him because since the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, it was a capital offense. Ah, here we have a quote from him:

“I learned too late and only after coming to Death Row that each of us ever must be aware of the brotherhood of man . . . . Circumstances may compel us to become our brother’s keeper; I think we destroy something in ourselves when we become his executioner.”

“He’s right about that.” Rave spreads some peach jam on his bread. “So he wasn’t really a kidnapper?”

It was a very intolerant time, Rave. Joe McCarthy was ranting and raving every day about Reds under the bed, in Hollywood, in the military, in Congress—you name it, Reds were in it. The Rosenbergs were electrocuted in Sing Sing in 1953 for supposedly passing atomic weapons secrets to the Russians. People were building backyard bomb shelters. It was a climate of mass hysteria. Caryl Chessman was too rational, too much of an individual. Somebody—I don’t remember who—said he was executed for being a smart ass.

“Sounds very much like this moment. And we also know that Bush presided over the execution of 153 people in Texas before he actualized his plan to preside over The World. So why has he been beating the pan about Castro’s government shooting 3 guys who were trying to get to the US in a little boat?” Raven scrapes the scraps of his eggs, delicately, into the garbage.

Because they were going to the US, I’m sure. If they had been heading for Venezuela, I am sure Bush would have applauded Castro’s sentence. As he applauded his own decision to lethally inject black and hispanic prisoners in Texas.

“Good point. And the stiff prison terms they gave the dissidents?”

Obviously, the US has a lot of guilt around that, as they gave the green light to those folks.

“And money, and tvs and other stuff, too.”

Apparently. So Saramago thought or felt that Castro had over-reacted, had gone too far. That dissent should have been allowed. And he said “Hasta aquí llegué” in the sense that this was as far as he was going, that he could not go along with Castro´s recent decisions—even as a long-time communist and supporter of the Cuban Revolution. Then he said a few days later that he was not withdrawing his solidarity from the Revolution. Frankly, I am confused. I can understand his being against the death penalty and against having political prisoners, and why he emotionally singled out Cuba for his disappointment. But maybe he should have thought it over before making a public statement. What did Castro say?

“Castro says :

‘Saramago is a good writer. It really hurts us that he hasn’t understood a word about the realities that the world and Cuba are living. He should have expressed his disagreement, but he shouldn’t have said anything to feed the agression of the US government against Cuba, nor offer arguments that would be received with delight by the brutal imperialist system that’s trying to justify an agression against Cuba.’

What he goes on to say is perhaps more important:

‘Something more worrisome—Saramago, and some others who have acted in good faith seem completely unaware that the planet is marching rapidly towards a global nazifascist tyranny. I am sure that he let himself be carried away by a moment of anger and disagreement which clouded his capacity to reason. Also, maybe a passing element of self-importance and vanity—nothing extraordinary in a good communist accustomed during many years to calumny and diatribes who has suddenly been elevated to the Olympus of a Nobel Prize.’”

Other people have said that Castro made a bad decision because he is senile, Rave. It doesn’t sound to me that he is. He is younger than Saramago by a few years, if I remember correctly. Maybe the point is that all of us oldsters should be talking less than we are?

“Okay…I’ll bite. Why?” Raven looks unsure.

Maybe if we had taken the world situation more seriously, had read the handwriting on the wall—so to speak—things would not have gotten to the point where it’s the Law of the Jungle.

Raven shakes his head. “I think I have mentioned before that the jungle is a peaceful place because it doesn’t have people in it.”

Bad word choice, sorry. I am trying to say that we all share the guilt of allowing what Castro very rightly has called a global fascist tyranny to take place. That it’s not just the moron Bush and his gang of petrocriminals who are to blame—but all of us who allowed them to come to power thinking that arrogance, stupidity, greed and violence could not possibly be institutionalized.

“I have also mentioned before than your species has not adapted very well to the realities of this planet. And is therefore bound for extinction. As I am bound, at this moment, for the beach.” Raven wings it from the windowsill.

Thanks for making my day, Rave….

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