Every so often in American pop culture, “retro” becomes the style.
And whenever “old” is “new,” people beat a path to second-hand clothing stores and the internet for an authentic look. Type the word “retro” into e-Bay and 212,656 items of clothing appear for sale, including several vintage 1970s leisure suits.
I take great pride in the fact that I never owned a leisure suit. They were ugly in the 70s and I do not care to wear them now (note — I did own a really, really cool green leather jacket).
Despite the high degree of plain old ugly that gets rolled out as retro, many people still feel the need to look back on the styles with some nostalgia. We all occasionally pop an amnesia pill that makes us forget how un-cool we actually were in high school and college. Blame it all on television. Few really had the cool youthful experience of “The Wonder Years” and “That 70s Show.”
Unfortunately, it seems that politics has a similar retro-recycle phenomenon for aging world leaders. When old politicians give interviews, the public has a tendency to romanticize them. People often forget why they despised these old despots in the first place.
And, like ugly, paisley-print, wide ties, Cuba’s Fidel Castro seems to wander in and out of political chic every few years.
Castro is a hot topic again
After writing an article on the Middle East, Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic got a call that Fidel Castro would like to talk to him. Goldberg went to Havana and spent a couple of days with the old coot.
Goldberg’s series of well-written articles are being posted on The Atlantic website and are worth reading. Castro met with Goldberg for a series of interviews. The aging dictator provided so many shocking quotes that the series could easily go on for a week and still make national headlines each day.
In the first article, Castro is quoted as saying that Iranians should quit being anti-Semitic. In the second article, set at a dolphin show, Castro acknowledged that the Cuban model doesn’t work anymore.
In the days to come, these articles may be followed by editorials praising Fidel Castro for his “statesmanship.” The articles by Goldberg, however, should be taken as nothing more than insight into an historical figure. They don’t change the fact that the repressive Cuban government, which apparently doesn’t work anymore, was molded by Castro’s own bloody hands.
As many as 18,000 Cubans were executed by Castro’s thugs. Another 7,000 died while being held as political prisoners. Over 50,000 have drowned trying to escape.
Before romanticizing the good old days of Fidel Castro, let’s remember what he and his government have done to the good people of Cuba. Castro can give all the “retro” interviews he desires, but human suffering is his legacy. Castro was and remains evil. No death-bed pronouncements can save him from that historical fact.
Porno para Ricardo
I am hoping that Fidel reads this column and asks me to fly to Cuba. Instead of going to the dolphin show to hear him apologize for some other past atrocity, I will insist that we go to the small apartment where Gorki Águila and his father reside.
Gorki Aguila is the front man for the punk rock band Porno para Ricardo. The band started out in the Cuban mainstream, and even got their music videos played on state-run television.
As their popularity grew on the island, Gorki Aguila became bold with the band’s lyrics and began attacking the government. Think of him as a Latino Johnny Rotten.
The lyrics sung by Porno para Ricardo are mild by American standards. But in Cuba, singing “No more lies, old man” is treason. It’s earned Gorki Aguila two arrests — the last one for the unfathomable crime of “public dangerousness.”
Porno para Ricardo is now blacklisted throughout Cuba. The only place they play is a small room covered with egg cartons in papa Aguila’s apartment. They record there once a week and copy their CDs by hand for underground distribution.
So when Fidel Castro invites me over for a drink, that’s where I want to go. If Customs lets me bring my Strat, I might even join in. Whether or not Castro’s a fan of punk rock, he won’t like what he hears.
Rick Robinson is the author of political thrillers which can be purchased on Amazon and at book stores everywhere. His latest novel, Manifest Destiny has won seven writing awards, including Best Fiction at the Paris Book Festival.