I never before heard a man having a nervous breakdown on radio, even faux radio; but the dozen or so listeners to yesterday's Babalú Radio Hour witnessed such a spectable. It was frightful, horrible and unexpected: the emotions poured from him in torrents, at times he seemed on the verge of tears, and at others he raged like a caged madman, becoming inarticulate and then erupting in a barrage of obscenity. There was obviously something troubling this man, some well of despair that had been tapped in him, which flooded every fiber of his being and transformed him into a living caricature of a Botero. It was a pitiful sight to behold: a conscience at war with itself and wrestling for possession of his soul! The only cure for what troubled him was to renounce all ideas that placed him at odds with himself and humanity, with himself and his countrymen. What could bring a man to such a point? Hate. Only hate. Hate of himself and hate of those like him. And what could restore him to sanity? I wouldn't know. Listeners to the show (all 12 of us), you will understand. The rest of you must read this.
The night's proceedings began with George Moneo playing Otis Rush's "I Can't Quit You Baby." Henry, whose masculinity-meter must have been off that night, observed in a blasé manner quite in keeping with the tenor of his remarks, that Rush's song reminded him of the theme from Brokeback Mountain, "I Can't Quit You," and then proceeded to serenade George with a few bars from the song, which certainly caught George off-guard, as when a drunken friend collapses into your arms telling you that he loves you. An awkward moment, to be sure. But more awkward ones were to follow, courtesy of the invited-host.
Yes, Val is a regular caller to his own show. He was introduced by Henry as "our distinguished editor," which I suppose he did not mean as a joke though it cracked me up. After reminding Henry and George that they had kept him on hold for 20 minutes last week (a merciful release), Val asked George if "that song you played, that Otis Redding thing" — cultural neophyte Val is corrected by George, it's Otis Rush not Otis Redding, all blacks sounding alike to Val — "Did you play that for someone in particular that we all know of?" This is an ongoing joke with them; they dedicate the first segment of their show to me, and then claim that I am "obsessed" with them. George sarcastically denied Val's implication: "No, not at all, why would you say something like that? I just love the blues. I know a lot of people love the blues." Val agreed: "We are all bluesy." No, not "bluesy," but they are certainly pinko in that non-Communist way. The punch line in their little Three Stooges skit is reserved for little Henry: "Since I can't have you baby, then I have to put you down." George recoiled at the idea (but not more than me), saying that "There's a fat chance of that." In view of the tenor and tendency of this discussion, a fat something may be just what these guys want. With three of them, they should be able to sort this matter out.
The banter continued along the same lines. Val mentioned that a recent post at Babalú was accompanied by a photoshop picture of Raúl Castro looking like Popeye in drag. A gay commenter had objected to it as homophobic and Val assured him and his audience that he was not opposed to the gay lifestyle. To prove his contention, Val alluded to the persecution of gays in Cuba and George brought up Reinaldo Arenas, the noted Cuban homosexual author who died of AIDS (which Arenas blamed on Castro). George said that he had seen the movie Before Night Falls, which is based on Arenas' memoirs. The book, however, he had not read. Val opined that the book is so much better than the film (the world's most hackneyed observation) and stated his preference for the original Spanish edition. This is doubly ironic, since Val does not read books and George doesn't speak Spanish. The conversation then swerved to Johnny Depp, who played the "Che" character in the film. Many ruminations about how Depp can be pro-Che and at the same time deliver a critical portrait of him in the film. Quick answer: He's an actor. Did they think that Christopher Reeve was "Superman?"
Having devoted half the show already to "the love that dare not speak its name" — although on The Babalú Radio Hour it does not seem to be able to shut up — I next expected "the guys" from "Queer Eye on Cuba" to embark on a discussion of how meaningful the tv series "Flipper" had been in their lives. But they moved from the fictional "Che" to the real "Che," the homoerotic idol of the left.
The Babalunians' obsession with "Che" Guevara is well-known. I do not understand why a man who's been dead 40 years consumes so much of their time and passion. They have on many, many ocassions ignored the active struggle against Castro to pursue "Che" Guevara's ghost. "Che's" ghost is his so-called "legend." Personally, I could care less if they plaster his image on everything from oven mits to toilets. In fact, I consider it poetic justice that his posthumous fame is as a tee-shirt icon, that is, as a poster boy of materialism, homoeroticism and radical chic: it is exactly what this posseur and failure deserves.
Sadly, no one lives more in the shadow of "Che" Guevara than do the Babalunians, who are determined to remove his effigy from the face of the earth, much as the ancients effaced the images of the old gods not because they didn't believe in their power anymore but because they did.
In their radio show they discussed at length their efforts, sometimes successful, sometimes not, to convince, pressure or boycott stores that carry merchandise with his image, as if that would bring us even one minute closer to Cuba's freedom. And how they preen themselves on these pyrrhic victocies: The Battle of Target; the Battle of Burlington Coat Factory; the Battle of the New York Public Library, etc. Recently, however, they have sustained two defeats that have halted their glorious march across the malls of America: they have lost the Battle of Ebay and the Battle of the Smithsonian.
Val and George also revealed on the show that they had lost numerous "skirmishes" closer to home. It appears that all of Miami is plastered with wall-size stencils of "Che" Guevara. An incredulous Henry was unaware of this fact, and George and Val had quite a time trying to convince him that it was true. If Henry had known this earlier, he might have made the elimination of these murals his first BUCL campaign. He is now threatening to vandalize them, which, in any case, would be more constructive than their campaign against Spain or their campaign to turn a Marxist Sting into a human being. No one can ever accuse them of choosing their battles carefully or imaginatively. Still, while their hometown of Miami has been converted into a virtual shrine to "Che" Guevara, they glance about the country choosing whatever targets of opportunity present themselves, completely blind to what happens at a 90-yard distance from their homes much less at a remove of 90 miles.
The ajusticiamiento of "Che" Guevara was a victory for the forces of freedom. Cuban exiles hunted him down, corralled him and brought him to justice. This was perhaps our greatest victory in the struggle against Castroism. But the Babalunians can't or won't accept that victory and must cite "Che" Guevara's ghost to other battlefields.
Val was very reticent to discuss the "Wet Foot/Dry Foot" over blog radio. He said so several times and very forcibly too. In case you haven't heard, thirteen years after the fact, unasked and without a clue, Val is preparing a White Paper on the subject and doesn't want anyone to "steal" his ideas [oh brother!] His ideas are indeed very "novel" as are Henry's, who is also in the vanguard of the struggle to tighten the "Wet Foot/Dry Foot" policy or abolish the Cuban Adjustment Act (1966) (both would be acceptable outcomes for them but they would rather eliminate the latter since that would take care of the former as well). To state their position as as simply as possible: Val and Henry don't want another Cuban ever to come to this country of his own volition again. More prosaically: "Cubans stay home"
According to Val, Cubans are lucky to have the "Wet Foot/Dry Foot" policy in place because they don't have to worry about the passage of immigration reform in Congress; their status is secure. Yes, if they can penetrate the cordon sanitaire set up by the U.S. and Cuban Coast Guards and are not drowned or eaten by sharks in the world's most dangerous water, and can actually set foot on land without being beaten back into the ocean with clubs, then they are in like Flynn. Rather than count the number of dead that have been occasioned by this inhumane policy, Val asks us instead to consider how many lives have been saved. By making it almost impossible for Cubans to seek asylum in this country, as is their legal right under the Cuban Adjustment Act (1966), Val believes that the "Wet Foot/Dry Foot" policy has actually saved lives. But has it really? We know it has deprived Cubans of what little autonomy remained in their lives (that is, the freedom to flee), but has it "saved" them? Are not the rafters or would-be rafters the most desperate of Cuba's desperate, ready to sacrifice their lives or even the lives of their children for freedom? Would remaining trapped in Cuba increase or decrease their desperation? These are the people that account for the fact that Cuba has the world's highest suicide rate precisely among the age group that is most likely to attempt to flee the country by sea (those between the age of 18-35).
Henry is even more cynical and heartless than Val on this issue (he usually is on every issue, though Val is playing catch-up now). He compares the liberation of Cuban refugees by so-called "smugglers" to the trans-shipment of drugs through Cuba. The refugees, Henry believes, are as dangerous and toxic to this country as the drugs and must be dealt with in the same manner (hopefully not by incineration). He is in favor of employing satellite technology to track the refugees so that not even one can evade detection by the Coast Guard. Although conceding that it may be wrong to repatriate them to Castro's Cuba, Henry believes that "the U.S. government has no other choice." Of course, it has an infinite number of choices short of repatriation, but for Henry this is the right choice. It's just a question of "geopolitics" to him, or as he puts it, "this one issue is not the world, it's not even the biggest item on our plate." Well, we can be sure it's not the biggest item on his plate, anyway.
Henry believes, wrongly, that Cubans are issued 20,000 visas per year under the Clinton-Castro Migratory Accord, which he actually praised on the program because it supposedly allows Cubans to "come in through the front door rather than the risky back door." Well, at least he has something good to say about Clinton: he admires the most despicable act of his presidency and the one that has most adversely impacted the Cuban people. Over the life of that accord the U.S. has failed to meet the agreed quota of 20,000 more times than it has been reached. For many years it allowed just 10 percent of that number to enter the U.S. Last year, it allowed 50 percent. Never has it completely filled the quota with immigrants from the island. But Henry claims nonetheless that for every Cuban that is sent back to the island under the "Wet Foot/Dry Foot" policy, 200 are giving asylum here under the Clinton-Castro Migratory Accord. Just this week 97 Cubans were returned to Cuba. By Henry's calculation (200:1), another 19,400 were admitted this week. But how could that be if the total allowed to Cuba for any given year is 20,000 and the U.S. has actually admitted only 10,000 over the last year?
A constant refrain throughout the show was "We don't get what we want, we get what we need." Of course, they were not referring to themselves or their families: they got what they wanted when the red carpet was laid out for them 40 years ago. It's the hapless Cuban people who must settle for whatever Henry and Val determine are their needs. And they, of course, don't see that they have any needs that can be addressed by immigration. They are quite content to have them live and die as slaves on the island, fodder for their "pressure cooker."
I could not address, even at this length, all the bufoonery that they managed to squeeze into that hour. That is the kindest word that I can find to characterize these proceedings. It is a consolation, though, that they are so abysmally stupid about every subject. Let us hope that being stupid they will also be ineffectual.
Babalú Radio Hour #22