A meltdown is how we may best characterize what happened yesterday at Babalú. It was conceived as a controlled exercise in "Val bashing," planned and encouraged by Val himself as a way to revive interest in a moribund blog and focus attention on himself. Babalú's Founding Editor surely did not expect, however, a spontaneous uprising against the intolerance and heartlessness with which he treats his countrymen on the island but that's exactly what he got. The uprising was led by LittleGator and seconded by pototo and Babalú contributor Marc R. Másferrer: the last independent voices that have not yet been silenced by the Cuban-American blogosphere's most active censors.
As pro forma, the dissenters were subjected to autos-da-fe by Babalu's three Grand Inquisitors. Henry accused LittleGator, who is both anti-Castro and anti-embargo, of being in the regime's service. Val threatened to ban him as a commenter and make it impossible for him to access the blog. LittleGator, for his part, with much equanimity but lethal accuracy, shot down every balloon that Val sent up, telling him things that nobody had ever dared to say to him at Babalú. Marc, whose patience with Val has been sorely tested of late, was not far behind in his criticisms, referring to Val's position as "immoral," which Val, naturally, took to mean that Marc was calling him immoral. Nevertheless, Val did not threaten the editor of Uncommon Sense with expulsion, perhaps because he is the only one of Babalú's "magnificent cadre of contributors" who gives more to his blog than he receives in return. Even pototo, Babalu's longest surviving commenter, who almost never disagrees with Val (hence the fact that he is its oldest commenter), sided this time with LittleGator and Marc.
The cause of this rigmarole was a post titled "Me, Me, Me, Me, Me" where Val defended the restrictions on remittances and travel to the island imposed by Bush in 2004 and reiterated his long-held position that starving the Cuban people is the best way to starve the regime. LittleGator refuted Val in exactly the same number of words as he had used in the title of his post: "Them, Them, Them, Them, Them." I do not intend, though, to chronicle this debate blow for blow when it can still be read at Babalú (but read it soon, as its shelf-life is certain to be short).
It is well to remember that travel and remittances to Cuba were wedge issues for Val long before Obama adopted them. Just as exploiting these issues will not help Obama to divide and conquer the Cuban-American vote neither will it contribute to perpetuating the Castro regime or securing Cuba's freedom. Their purpose is to alleviate the present suffering of the Cuban people. Surely, no one could object to that?
Val does: "How can our altruism and generosity not have a negative effect? Remittances, travel tourism, medicine, food, all of them, have been used effectively by the regime to drive a wedge in the exile community." This, of course, would have been impossible for the regime to do without the active cooperation of those here who gladly understudy for Castro in the role of ogre. If "altruism and generosity" have a "negative impact," then are indifference and selfishness what Cubans on the island deserve of us? Or is savaging them just another ploy to stir up the natives like announcing Castro's death during the summer doldrums last year?
After hundreds of successive posts had elicited no feedback, Val finally realized that there was a crisis of confidence at Babalú, a general ennui that threatened its existence and had already affected its relevance. Instead of honestly inquiring into the causes of Babalú's decline and attempting to address whatever lapses in his judgment had brought it about (which are obvious to everybody except him), Val decided to explode the rhetorical equivalent of a stink bomb to see if there was anybody out there anymore who gave a damn about what he had to say. He called this exercise a "rant" and warned the faint of heart that they might be offended by his liberal use of the F-word. In fact, that was the least offensive and far from the most contrived element of his harangue. He said nothing in it that he had not already said before, but distilled and concentrated his venom till all semblance of objectivity and common sense, let alone humanity, had been burned away and all that remained was the pure essence of evil.
Once again he blamed the people of Cuba for failing to topple Castro, as if toppling Castro were a duty owed personally to him and their failure to do so a slight of him. The only Cubans that Val likes are those like Oscar Biscet who are languishing in Castro's jails. Unless you are willing to be a martyr for freedom, it doesn't matter to Val if you rot forever in slavery in that greater prison that all Cubans inhabit. That slavery and human dignity are never compatible is not enough for Val; the slave must prove to him, by shedding his blood, that he is worthy of the freedom that Val enjoys without ever expending one drop of his blood. Even those who escaped their master are unworthy of Val's respect if they didn't also lose their lives in the process. As for all other Cubans, Fidel must not have cracked the whip enough if they are not on streets right now agitating for Val's freedom. But that poses no problem for Val. Fidel is not the only one who can make the lives of his subjects more miserable. Val himself can also apply the whip, not in the spirit of vengeance, of course, but of fraternity. Val believes that by (further) starving Cubans, as Weyler starved the pacificos, he will shake them from their apathy and set them on the road to their liberation or extinction, either of which is acceptable to Val as both outcomes would open the royal road for his return to his native Bayamo on that red carpet of congealed blood. Val's argument has never really been with Fidel Castro, but with his countrymen on the island whom he thinks wear their chains as talismen and with their relatives stateside who commit the unpardonable crime of trying to salve the wounds made by those chains.
The metaphor is not mine. It belongs to LittleGator and so fascinated Val that he started a second post around it. There Val rages against those who would apply balm to wounds when the proper thing to do is teach the sufferers to -- fish! "Wounds," Val adds, in capital letters,"THAT FOR MANY ARE SELF-INFLICTED." Yes, for some, on both sides of the Florida Straits, with full bellies here and empty bellies there. And the ones who deserve to be punished, of course, are there and not here. Setting foot on American soil washes all fidelistas of their original sin and allows them to join the ranks of anti-communists unmolested. I should add that this special dispensation is only for exiles who came here in the early days of the Revolution. The others, whom Val writes "take a cold and calculating position when applying for asylum and are granted same," should have no special claim for asylum but be treated like "EVERY OTHER IMMIGRANT WHO TRIES TO COME TO THESE STATES." So Val now admits (again in capital letters) that he is opposed to the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 (which brought all his family here) and the "Wet Foot/Dry Foot" policy not because it is inhuman but because it is unfair to other "immigrants!"
Henry doesn't have a good word to say about salve either. Or what is it that another commenter calls it? "Enabling salve" as if an unenabling salve would be better. Henry objects to the salve because "the wounds are being inflicted on far more people than receive the salve." So no salve for anybody if there is not enough salve for everybody. More fundamentally, Henry objects to salve because of its "anesthetic quality," that is, because it takes the pain away. He would prefer that the Cuban people receive the full measure of that pain like the ministers who opposed the use of all painkillers in childbirth because of the Biblical injunction that all women shall bring forth children in pain. Obviously, Cubans must suffer to be free as the U.S.-born Henry never did or ever shall.
Val, for his part, believes that all Cubans are afflicted with a national Stockholm Syndrome which causes them to see their kidnappers as redeemers, making them Castro's allies in their own oppression, and that, therefore, the easiest way to topple him is to reduce them to an even more abject state till they have no choice but to rise without arms or die without alms.
For nearly half a century the Cuban people have lived on the verge of starvation, and on hundreds of occasions, for protracted intervals, experienced actual famine, including the decade-long "Special Period" when caloric consumption was at the lowest point in Cuban history as even the Castroites themselves have lately acknowledged while trumpetting the benefits of starvation in promoting good health.
Well, clearly Castro is still doing his part. Who, then, is failing to do theirs by endeavoring to mitigate the effects of this healthful starvation? Cuban exiles who don't have Val's detached understanding of the human condition or his willingness to sacrifice others on behalf of his greater good. The real "villians," according to Val, are those who feed (or, in his opinion, overfeed) the Cuban people and make it easier for Castro not to feed them, thereby enriching the regime and delaying the day of Cuba's liberation beyond Val's lifetime.
Val is in his early 40s and may well live 40 years more or even 50. If he is indeed convinced, as he has said, that he will lived out his days without freedom ever returning to our homeland, then what is it that he intends to accomplishing by inflicting further misery on the Cuban people? Sick and perverse it would be if he thought that his freedom depended upon their degradation. But he does not believe that. Nothing will come of multiplying their misery, but still, because he hates them, Val wants them to be as miserable as they can be even if no advantage accrues to him from it.
Does he resent Castro's monopoly on inflicting suffering on the Cuban people or is he seeking to become his partner in that enterprise? Castro, like all Communists, uses starvation as an instrument of societal control. Val wishes that he, too, could subject them to his whims by strangling them by their belts. In fact, Val is not content, as is Fidel, to have a society where some starve less than others. Val believes that if all cannot eat equally well, then all should eat equally badly, or not at all. He prefers the latter for those who live in Bayamo, not Kendall.