Fidel Castro has yet to face justice
It is deeply wrenching to witness a week of lavish celebrations honoring
Fidel Castro's birth when most likely every day, somewhere in the world,
anguished families quietly mourn the death of a loved one at the hands
of this heartless, evil man. That Fidel, himself, may be dying is not
much comfort to me. I believe in justice and while he will be judged by
God when he dies, he has yet to be judged on Earth for his crimes
against humanity.
My father, Howard F. Anderson, was only one of 20,000 people tortured
and executed by Fidel Castro. Before my Dad's execution by firing squad,
he had most of his blood drained from his body to be used for
transfusions for the revolutionary troops. Other political prisoners who
watched the execution from their cells told me years later that my
father refused a blindfold. And he whistled as the bullets tore into his
body. One of the few memories I have, since I was only 5 years old at
the time, was that my Dad whistled when he was angry. With the ''ready,
aim, fire'' order, I, too, was wounded forever more. This ruthless
dictator robbed me of a lifetime with my father, a lifetime of fatherly
advice, a lifetime of memories.
So no, I don't want to see him die this way, of natural causes, or at
this time. I have always hoped the world would recognize him for what he
is and that Fidel Castro would be judged, convicted and sentenced for
his crimes against humanity in an international court of law. A death
from old age is far, far too lenient a punishment for a man who has
killed so many people, destroyed the lives of literally millions.
As a journalist, I refrain from generalities. But I do believe there are
few Cubans on the island and even fewer Cuban exiles who have not had a
family member either executed or imprisoned by this megalomaniac. What I
fail to understand is why there seems to be little national compassion
for the pain that Cuban exiles have experienced. Americans show
compassion for cancer survivors, for DUI and rape victims, for people
suffering from depression, physical and mental abuse. We show compassion
for famine victims in Africa; as an NBC news correspondent, I broke
stories about genocide in Ethiopia, and the world -- but especially the
United States -- responded with millions of dollars of money, but most
important, with compassion. Organizations have sprung up to defend and
champion the victims of all these issues, and rightly so. There is
public acceptance that these people have suffered and have been wronged.
It is morally right. So why, I ask, are Cuban exiles not afforded the
same support and compassion?
I was a CNN network executive when the Elián González issue was a major
story. I was horrified by the coverage by my network and all others. It
pained me deeply to see sound-bites by people who said about the
Cuban-Americans in this country, ''Why don't they just get over it? It
happened so long ago.'' I spoke up to my superiors at CNN. And I'm no
longer there. What I told them was this: Would anyone dare tell a
Holocaust survivor, or the sons, daughters and grandchildren of the
Holocaust to ''just forget about it'' because it happened so long ago?
Of course not. Castro did not kill as many as Hitler did, and I would
never diminish the horror and huge dimensions of the Holocaust, but
Castro was -- and is -- our Hitler in Latin America.
Despite my Anglo name, I was born in Cuba. My mother was born there. Her
parents are buried there. My father was buried there until Castro was so
ticked off by an article I wrote in 1978 as a Miami Herald reporter that
he had my father's remains dug up and thrown out. I am most proud of
being Cuban American. And I want the rest of the world to understand our
pain. It is part of our daily lives, no matt er where we live. It is the
ache of losing a country, but it is more than that, too. It is a loss we
feel in our blood and in our bones. It is also clearly an emotional
demise in many ways -- a void in our pasts which continues to the
present and will continue through the future. You can't make up for
years of lost family experiences -- normal, human experiences that most
other people enjoy. These are memories that have been stolen for all
time. For myself, I have only two memories of my father and what saddens
me is that I can't be absolutely certain that they truly are
recollections or whether I've simply grasped onto scenes from the few
home movies we managed to smuggle out of Cuba and morphed them into
memories. When I think of this, it provokes a deep, dark cutting sadness
in me.
Cuban exiles can't expect others who have not experienced what we have
to actually know our pain and understand our passion for wanting to
address the wrongs done us. Rape victims can't expect that. Neither can
the parents of children who have been killed by drunk drivers, or family
members who have lost loved ones in the current Iraq conflict. Or family
members of the victims of Columbine, or 9/11. The people who survived
the genocide in Ethiopia and in so many other places can't expect anyone
to truly know their pain. Our pain is part of our spirit. The most we
can hope for is compassion. The day that Castro's illness was first
reported, I woke up very early and was watching CBS. On their early
morning shows, they repeatedly said that ''Castro is considered a
ruthless dictator by some in Miami.''
I fired off an e-mail to CBS President Sean McManus. What I wrote, in
short, was this: If a man who murdered 20,000 people, imprisoned for
decades hundreds of thousands of others, caused countless hundreds of
thousands to flee the country (many losing their lives in desperate
attempts to reach freedom on flimsy rafts) and has repressed a nation
for nearly five decades - - denying them the most basic of human rights
-- is not considered a ruthless dictator by all, who the hell is? I
haven't heard back from him. I don't expect I will. In fact, I suspect
he, and other network executives, will continue to cozy up to the Cuban
government (whoever leads it) in order to make sure that when Castro
dies, their networks have access to the coverage. That's the way it is
in the corporate news world. But I have faith in my fellow American
citizens. And I know, in my heart and spirit, that when the truth is
known, those of us who have suffered at the hands of Fidel Castro will
finally receive the compassion we are due.
While Fidel is celebrating a birthday, my brothers, sister and I are
mourning the death not only of our father but also of our mother,
Dorothy Stauber Anderson McCarthy, who died less than two months ago.
She was 39 years old when Fidel made her a widow. She struggled to raise
us and give us a new life, and she was most successful. But her greatest
triumph was to instill a sense of right and honor in us, to teach us
strength and morality. A month after her death, a New York judge ruled
that we should receive millions of dollars of the frozen Cuban assets
held in this country because of Fidel Castro's murder of my father. It
is a very welcome decision but very bittersweet. Fidel Castro is alive
and he knows he has been tried, convicted and sentenced to pay for his
heinous act. But the fact that my mother isn't alive to see this final
measure of justice is a soul-deep wound that I will live with for the
rest of my life. I weep for her. I weep for us, and I weep for all who
have been the victims of Fidel Castro. Happy Birthday? Please.
Bonnie M. Anderson is a 27-year veteran of print, radio, Internet and
television journalism in English and in Spanish. She has worked on
camera for local, national and international news organizations,
including two decades with NBC News and CNN. Anderson won se ven Emmy
Awards, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and has been nominated for
the María Coors Cabot Lifetime Achievement Award, which is sponsored by
Columbia University. Capt. Anderson is now following a family tradition
and is running a charter fishing operation out of Culebra, Puerto Rico.