Many of my ordained colleagues were online this morning expressing a variety of morally nebulous reflections on Castro. Generally, they appear to have appreciated his style. That surprised me a bit, as he was notoriously harsh towards Cuba's gay population and the notion of religious freedom.
My reflection concerns one of my neighbors and classmates when I was a growing up. His name was Gus Fernandez and he had immigrated from Cuba and enrolled in our elementary school back when we were seven or eight years old. Besides that, we really didn't know much about him. He was, however, a good shortstop.
I lived in a working class neighborhood where families were tight and supportive. We were white, black, half-breed [in my case], and, with the addition of Gus, Hispanic. At our Little League games, our fathers would always come, unless they were working second shift or a second [or third] job, to watch us play, to cheer us on, and to offer unsolicited coaching advice. Like dads everywhere, I think.
We noticed that Gus' dad never came. When we asked him about it, he said, "He's dead. Castro's firing squad killed him." To a gaggle of boys for whom a serious event was when the ice cream truck in the baseball field parking lot was out of Fudgsicles, this was a shocking introduction to global politics. I recall we were speechless, and being so was a new experience for us all.
My present colleagues are educated, genteel, and often from places of comfort and privilege. I confess that I'm sometimes jealous of the upbringing that permits them such a sanguine perspective on the world; it's an envy that Jesus and I work on often. So, this is not to criticize my fellow clergy, as I appreciate that there is a foundation for their perspective.
For me, though, and apparently for many of those celebrating in the streets of Miami today, Castro's life was not about questioning or criticizing American hegemony, capitalism, or global power; the unholy trinity for many.
Instead, it's about an empty space in those Little League bleachers in that flat field in the middle of Ohio in the middle of the Cold War. It's about a boy who, when he looked into that sea of dads, would never see his own clapping for a solid hit or dramatic catch, for a well-fought game or for a victory.