“I love Fidel Castro … I respect Fidel Castro. You know why?
A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years,
but that [S.O.B] is still there.”
First, let me make a few admissions before going further:
- I am in no way defending Ozzie Guillen’s statement; this isn’t an admission, but I know I will be accused of doing such.
- I was born in the United States, and outside of a few trips to Canada I have never been outside of the country.
- I have never experienced the type of situation that Castro has subjected Cubans too, and I am very thankful for that.
- Other than what I have read I do not have any intimate knowledge of the lifestyle Cubans live in and, again, I am thankful for the life I have here and all the associated freedoms that come with it.
- Finally, for people — not just ballplayers — to risk everything and leave their entire lives behind just for a chance – again, a chance — to live somewhere else should say more than enough about the type of environment they live in. It does for me and it should for you.
And perhaps this also should be included among my admissions, because I know that this will not sit well with a lot of people, but I’m going to say it anyway: What, exactly, is so irreconcilably wrong with Guillen’s statement? Because this is one thing I have yet to understand.
Let me explain.
Take, for example, the final sentence in that statement: A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro but that sonuvabitch is still there. This is a fact. Plenty of people have wanted to rid the world of Castro. CNN once dedicated an entire article to some of the more asinine ideas that were floated out there during his reign.
And, in my opinion, there’s nothing wrong whatsoever with that final statement.
The problem, I’m assuming, with Guillen’s comments are the opening eight words: I love Fidel Castro … I respect Fidel Castro. And that is a problem, if and by themselves. It could be interpreted any number of ways, most of them in a very, very poor manner.
And, truthfully, I think that’s what’s happening in this instance.
Miami, the team Guillen manages, is located in the highest concentration of Cuban-Americans in the entire country. They are sensitive to anything and everything involving the mere utterance of that name, and they should be. But it’s also not his complete statement either.
Guillen doesn’t go on to defend Castro’s regime, Castro’s political views, or anything of the ilk. Guillen respects the fact that that sonuvabitch is still alive and kicking. Does he like it? I don’t know. And neither do you. Only Ozzie knows.
But he’s being vilified as if everyone knows and they don’t.
Was it stupid? Probably. Was it incredibly insensitive to even have the words “respect” and “Castro” in the same breath, regardless of his geographic coordinates? OK. But it doesn’t change the fact that Guillen said nothing more than that he respects Castro for his ability to live through numerous assassination attempts. Period.
Craig Calcaterra over at Hardball Talk points out this isn’t the first time he’s said this either. In a 2008 interview with Men’s Journal Guillen responded that Castro was the toughest man he knew.
“He’s a bull— dictator and everybody’s against him, and he still survives, has power. Still has a country behind him,” Ozzie replied. “Everywhere he goes, they roll out the red carpet. I don’t admire his philosophy; I admire him.”
So why didn’t this get front page news? Was it because he said: I don’t admire his philosophy? Well, he sure as hell followed that up with: I admire him.
How many people knew about that interview? Not many I assume. And yet it’s the same thought.
Fidel Castro, by all accounts, is a terrible person. Horrible. HORRIBLE. But Ozzie Guillen doesn’t admire the man. No, he admires that sonovabitch’s incredible luck.
In my opinion, we’ve become so engrained to show immediate reaction that it often clouds our better judgment. And this is no different. Respect and love were too closely related to Fidel Castro and a swift overreaction ensued.
So, I guess, all I’m really asking is: WHAT THE HELL WAS SO WRONG WITH WHAT OZZIE SAID?
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