"Nicaragua’s most important war is the one fought inside the United States…The battlefield will be the American conscience."
—Tomas Borge, former Sandinista Minister of the Interior, 1983
I THINK of my grandfather when I look at the Cuban exile community in America.
My paternal grandfather was an émigré from Bolshevism and knew the dreams of Lenin and Trotsky meant human devastation. When he died in Brookline, Massachusetts, he was not a Russian-American but an American.
Before immigrating to America my grandfather lived in Mexico, where he studied medicine and mastered a new language. In 1926 he wrote an article on the third anniversary of Max Nordau’s death. (Nordau was an important figure in the modern Zionist movement.) The article was in Spanish.
My grandfather mastered another language in America, toiled again to become a physician, and maintained Zionist convictions. In 1962 he wrote an article on the founder of modern Zionism, Theodor Herzl. The article was in English.
My grandfather could have written these articles in his native Russian, but he sought to maximize his audience and, I believe, convey his gratitude to these countries for opening their doors to him. Like Ludwig von Mises (an émigré from Nazism), he appreciated that "What is specifically ‘national’ lies in language" and acted accordingly.
If I were Fidel Castro, I would ask one thing of the Cuban exile community in America: Do not oppose me in English.
I would ask this because English is the language of America, and I would not want my enslavement and atrocities highlighted in the common language of over 280 million people in a consequential country.
Tragically, the exile community all too prevalently opposes Castro in the language of Cuba instead of the language of America.
Of course there is English material that documents Castro’s despotism. Just three examples are the recent documentary Made in Cuba: Children of Paradise, Juan Clark’s Human Rights in Cuba: An Experiential Perspective, and Mario Ramirez’s website for prisoner of conscience Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet.
In the crucial realm of mass media, however, the exile community is grievously deficient.
Yes, several programs in Miami discuss America’s closest sponsor of terrorism, but they are overwhelmingly in Spanish. The vast majority of Floridians and Americans are not fluent in Spanish.
Americans are fluent in the language of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution; the language Frederick Douglass and James Meredith spoke when they confronted slavery and segregation; the language Todd Beamer spoke on Flight 93 before he confronted America’s enemies on September 11.
These overwhelmingly Spanish programs are not only incomprehensible by mainstream America; they alienate mainstream America.
I have spoken with too many Americans who tell me that the exile community could care less about America’s support. When I ask them why they feel this way, they invariably cite its linguistic exclusivity.
This exclusivity ghettoizes—yes, ghettoizes—the exile community and conforms to what Castro wants. That exiles yearn for Cuba’s emancipation makes their self-imposed ghettoization a sad irony.
Many Americans feel the exile community is indifferent to their support; many exiles feel Americans are indifferent to their cause; and a murderous tyrant still enslaves Cuba. The imperative is not for Americans to accommodate Spanish (i.e., foreign) media but for exiles’ media to accommodate America.
English was good enough for my grandfather, and it’s good enough for the Cuban exile community. To maintain the present dearth of mainstream media only helps Castro. Why should a butcher’s wish be fulfilled?