TOO LONG has our beloved Southland been bogged down in the tragic attempt to live in monologue rather than dialogue," Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in "Letter from Birmingham Jail." In this historic meditation, King discusses how he non-violently confronted injustice in Alabama. Confrontation was imperative since "freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed."
King noted how segregation "ends up relegating persons to the status of things," making it sinful as well as economically unsound. Such sinfulness could not be appeased or ignored.
Moving on to the concept of lawfulness, King pointed out that Nazi Germany legislated its hideous practices and cited the illegal behavior of Hungarians who defied Soviet tyranny in 1956. "I am sure that if I had lived in Germany during that time," King wrote, "I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal. If I lived in a Communist country today where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I believe I would openly advocate disobeying these anti-religious laws." Morality and law are therefore not synonymous; they can often be antithetical.
Lesser known than "Letter from Birmingham Jail" is King’s 1965 "Letter from a Selma Jail." He wrote here, "We are in jail simply because we cannot tolerate these conditions for ourselves or our nation."
I am sure Dr. Biscet would find commonality with Dr. King’s words. He wrote to Coretta Scott King in 1999, "We derive our inspiration from the Reverend Martin Luther King, Mrs. Rosa Parks, and the city of Montgomery."
Like Dr. King,, Dr. Biscet is a prisoner of conscience because he cannot tolerate barbaric conditions for himself, his family, or his country. He cannot tolerate a regime that rips individuals from their loved ones for "crimes" such as "disrespect" and "enemy propaganda." He cannot tolerate a regime that cages a country and maintains a malicious ideology through systematic terror.
Just as Dr. King would not cooperate with segregation’s relegation of persons to the status of things, Dr. Biscet will not cooperate with a regime that even more savagely dehumanizes over 11 million people. Too long has Dr. Biscet’s beloved Cuba been bogged down in the tragic attempt to live in monologue rather than dialogue.
In addition to being a heroic Cuban, Dr. Biscet embodies the best of America. In Biscet, we see not only King but also Henry David Thoreau and Frederick Douglass, who refused to tolerate slavery in America. From Douglass defending free speech in Boston, to King confronting Jim Crow in Montgomery, to Biscet demanding human rights in Cuba, we see a brotherhood of conscience united in resistance to evil.
King wrote from Birmingham that "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." After September 11, these words have unprecedented resonance. Right now we are closer to Cuba—one of the seven regimes classified by the U.S. State Department as a sponsor of terrorism—than to our state capital and every state in the union.
I began this fast on November 3 because slavery and terrorism so close to our country cannot be ignored. Fidel Castro and his ruffians want silence and darkness. I want to spotlight the captivity, the terror, and the mass murder they have perpetrated for nearly 43 years.
Dr. Biscet knows that passivity will not yield liberation. As Dr. King observed, "human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability." A progressive, prosperous, and humane Cuba requires a steadfast demand for justice.
Thank you for your solidarity and your persistence. I look forward to the day when Cubans will be able to gather as freely as we have tonight.