Historical Figures and their Movements

Fidel Castro was a dictator. He got his position by overthrowing a different dictator. This should be noted in the first instance as it is pivotal to analyzing his stance as moral figure in political struggles. The pertinent question after his death, in terms of pop culture and not politics, is: Was Castro a hero for the working class or a decadent absolutist?

When people become famous, or become actors on the world stage, their image eventually becomes disconnected in some way from the controversies of their lives. Ghengis Khan is remembered as a brutal leader who murdered millions of people, but he is also lauded for his brilliant leadership; the merits of the Pax Mongolica and its positive impact on the development of the European Renaissance are also debated by academics. The closest example to Castro and his legacy is Che Guevara, a revolutionary who aided Castro’s rebellion against Batista. Guevara is both a hero of the liberal left and a pop cultural symbol of rebellion. His brutality is glossed over in a moral relativism which equates the sins of the left as the same as he sins of the democracies in the Cold War. If we are being morally honest, we don’t excuse the brutality of any individual or faction, we condemn them all. But for most people, their extent of knowledge of Che Guevara is his ubiquitous photograph on t-shirts. Castro lived to the age where a new generation that had already lost much of their visceral feelings toward his rule. From this perspective he did not reach a level of infamy that would poison his public image.

Public perception of individuals shifts from age to age when more, or less, knowledge is in the public mind about someone; and it especially shifts according to the current social environment. When young American liberals look at Fidel Castro and his legacy they see free healthcare and education, not repression and fear. Castro looks good to this generation, as Cuba has two achievements that wealthy modern America lacks. To an older generation Castro is the evil dictator who conspired with the Soviet Union to threaten the United States. In 50 years Castro will probably be forgotten altogether, not infamous or successful enough to remain in the public consciousness.

Castro was another dictator, no better or worse than any dictator who has ruled in the past. The west venerates democracy, and anyone who shuns democracy is a heretic to the new secular Truth. Castro is having his moment as his legacy is being debated, but he is just another brutal man who will disappear into the folds of history.

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