I get the politics of the 60s and the 70s. I understand that the Vietnam-era was a different dynamic. But today, in the 21st century, in the era of Barack Obama, I have no idea how any lefty can say of Castro, "It was like listening to an old friend."Or, as one Tel succinctly puts it in the comments section: "There's nothing contradictory about believing that Castro is the scum of the earth and also believing that the embargo is a stupid way of addressing the situation."
As the son of Cuban immigrants who sought political exile in the early sixties, the issue is a raw one –and generational. Many Cubans who emigrate today have no interest in politics; they want better jobs for their families so they can afford the consumer goods denied them in their homeland. My "hair stylist" (who does a superb job under the circumstances) once described the awesome experience of visiting his first American supermarket a dozen years ago. "What abundance!" he said. Perhaps his reasons are more venal than my grandparents'. But if there's anything that a democratic republic is supposed to offer its citizens, it's the space to indulge their venalities, an experience with which Cubans are unfamiliar. It's cruel to dismiss the pleas of new emigrés who want to send money and visit their mothers as often as possible. Remittances keep the Castro regime alive in part; the continued romantic attachment to a cruel and vain dictator by black men and women who should know better depresses me; but Cuba isn't Poland or East Germany. The aim of the embargo – to diplomatically and financially isolate the regime such that internal pressure causes its citizens to overthrow their masters – failed because it ignores the gnarled shared history of the United States and Cuba, dating back to the McKinley administration. You can argue that Cuba, despite its liberal Constitution of 1940, high literacy rates (even pre-Castro), and thriving middle class, was always doomed – a victim of Cold War politics and the Caribbean basin's indifference to coups and skullduggery of all sorts.