We can tell when election year is at hand. The air has a certain stench about it. This is how the stench pot is fueled. Find an underpowered non-threatening enemy. Find some cluster of people powerless and under-represented in the political system. Then rail away about the threat that they are to our American Democratic values and way of life.
Progressive redemptive polices don’t get votes. Polls show President Bush garnered very few votes by contributing $15 billion to fighting HIV/AIDS over five years. The political pundits that drive newspaper headlines and fuel Fox News know all the rules. Fear, hate, defeat of enemies of popular consensus all serve electoral objectives.
There are many tyrants in the world to hate. Dangerous tyrants are clearly shaped in American opinion. Important tyrants live near oil fields and not near barren African deserts or isolated Himalaya Mountains. Important tyrants have some American voting block that can be mobilized during November of the even years. These tyrants must be muscled and challenged. These are the tyrants that affect the outcome of elections.
We selectively pass by tyranny in Burma, Sudan, Nigeria, much of Africa, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Vietnam, China, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Most of these places have been sited by the Religious Freedom Commission as places of religious oppression. Reports with Richard Land’s signature upon them identify these places of tyranny. However, focusing on tyranny in these places serves no important purpose. But Fidel Castro is a tyrant who can be attacked and serve important objectives.
Since 1961, Republicans and Democrats, interchangeably as a matter of political convenience, have talked the hard-line on Castro. Our talk has been the only thing giving Castro importance on the world stage since the Russian ships departed with their missile cargo half a century ago.
While we decided economic market forces, business, academic and even interfaith exchanges will change China, Vietnam, even the Middle East, we’ve abandoned this approach with our neighboring island.
We simply cannot abandon the policy that has achieved desired objectives for so long in Cuba. This policy that labels a weak enemy a threat, centers on a trade embargo, mobilizes generational hatred among Cubans on opposite shores, and secures regional block votes must be continued. It has won elections! It has been highly successful!
One can simply look at what the policy has accomplished over 45 years and see its success. Don’t look too closely at how the policy has transformed Cuban communism. Don’t examine too closely looking for Cubans with a growing love of American democracy. Don’t anticipate a revolution to overthrow communism soon. The policy’s success requires different criteria.
Our policy is based on peculiar premises:
(1) If people are prosperous or well fed in Cuba, this would strengthen Castro’s government.
(2) If American/Cuban immigrants return often to visit, some of their dollars end up in the Cuban economy. This cannot be tolerated, as it makes Castro stronger.
(3) If American Christians from Baptists, Presbyterian, Disciples and UCC churches visit faith counterparts in Cuba assisting in the starting of new churches, this would give appearance that the gospel is thriving and strengthen Castro’s hand.
Finally, (4) If interaction between universities occurs, communism would seem enlightened.
Hence, American foreign policy must restrict trade and limit visits where cash might be exchanged or any form of social progress perceived.
Our policy must prevent Christians from going and working with Cuban Christians with the mistaken notion that freedom of religion happens in Cuba.
All of these things lend credibility to the success of Castro’s communism, which is a perception American morality cannot tolerate. If the objective was to open Cuba and influence it in positive ways to become an open society, it appears the change has been slight. If the objective has been to lift up a weak tyrant for the purpose of achieving American political gain, the policy has thrived for decades.
Castro is in the news again. It is an election year. Rest assured that the status-quo Cuban foreign policy is working for somebody. This must be a proven productive policy. It must achieve someone’s purpose for us to have lasted 45 years.
Don’t be concerned that this policy alienates and reinforces a multi-generational hatred among persons of Cuban origin. Don’t be concerned that this policy increases Cuban poverty, which after all is totally Castro’s fault. Don’t be concerned that our policy prevents Christian communities in our own nation from working together furthering the kingdom of God in addressing human need and working for peace.
These surely are not “National Security Concerns.” Simply trust: the policy of Cuban isolationism is serving objectives. Realize that when Castro is in the news again, someone’s American objectives are achieved. Don’t worry that the objectives of Christ for Cuba suffer neglect, but simply celebrate that someone’s objectives will be met.
There will be a political victory celebration somewhere in November that could not have happened without Fidel Castro.
Lawrence Coleman is senior minister at Churchland Baptist Church in Chesapeake, Va.