In our house, Nov. 25 is called Markmas because it is exactly a month before Christmas, and my husband, Mark’s, birthday. He loves holidays and adding another is a tradition that our family and friends gladly celebrate.
So what should we call Nov. 25 now that the day has been tainted by the death of the tyrannical Cuban dictator Fidel Castro?
Castro’s passing is politically irrelevant, yet “mourned” by many in the streets of Havana (whether they want to or not). Nine days of mourning have been ordered. That means anyone caught listening to a radio or watching television or just humming to himself — even in the privacy of their own home — will see consequences. So if you’re grappling with the terms “tyrannical” and “dictator,” this should resolve that conflict.
Simultaneously, in Little Havana there is loud and joyous celebration. Enormous Cuban flags are paraded down 8th street alongside the U.S. flag, a commemoration of the adoptive country that constitutionally guarantees their freedom of assembly.
Although Cubans are known around the world for their music, there wasn’t a musical instrument in sight. Instead, there was the traditional beating of pots and pans, and I was delighted that this tradition now includes banging on electric rice makers. We are, after all, Americans now.
During television coverage of Little Havana, an English-speaking Cuban man put down the celebratory pots and pans just long enough to deliver a provocative sound bite, “He was our Hitler.”
The comparison, which gets bandied about quite frequently, has never felt appropriate to me. There is no comparison between the systematic extermination of more than 8 million people, with the inconveniences caused by a charismatic and arrogant dictator adept at unmitigated hypocrisy, making political deals that, above all, lined his own pockets, and turning a once prosperous nation into a morbid tourist attraction like Alcatraz and Auschwitz.
If there’s a similarity between the Cubans and the Jews, it might be their sentient cry of, “Never forget.”
But is not forgetting enough? How has not forgetting served us? As a sinister new administration steps into the White House, the muffled cry in too many hearts appears to be, “Could it happen here?”
For those grappling with the word sinister, look no further than the appointment of alt right leader Steve Bannon as chief strategist.
The answers will be much more clear come Markmas.