Let’s engage in some hypothetical thought, shall we? Going into this I want to stipulate that none of the people mentioned next have ever said or indicated anything that we are about to discuss. This is simply a jumping off point for further discussion.
Got it? Good!
What if Joe Torre had sat in his clubhouse in the Bronx and praised the terrorists that brought down the World Trade Center as courageous martyrs? What if Bobby Cox had waxed rhapsodic about the contributions of General Nathan Bedford Forrest in his post-military career as a leader of the infamous Ku Klux Klan?
I understand that many Hollywood celebrities and media members have spent decades attempting to burnish Castro’s image (and that of his murderous henchman Ernesto “Che” Guevara) and turning them into romanticized heroes. But they do this by willfully ignoring the horror and misery these two revolutionaries unleashed on the island of Cuba.
The regime of Fulgencio Bautista was corrupt and mob influenced, but then came Castro, who overthrew the Bautista regime. Castro installed a Caribbean “worker’s paradise” that claimed to give power to the people, when in reality power was centralized in the hands of Castro and his Communist inner circle.
For many Cubans and Cuban-Americans, the Castro regime has been a nightmare, filled with some of the worst governmental abuses imaginable. For those who have lost the freedom to return to their homeland or even lost loved ones, there is nothing to admire or respect about Castro’s Cuba.
It is against this backdrop that we must view Ozzie Guillen’s comments of praise for Castro, his admiration of the man who has held the Cuban people hostage to his will for nearly sixty years.
It is this history that has caused the anger and outrage within Miami’s Cuban-American community that forced the Marlins to suspend their manager for five games. It is this history that Guillen praised in his comments that caused the hearts of so many in the Miami Cuban community to break. It is this wound that Ozzie opened up with his ill advised comments.
It is this history that demanded that Ozzie be punished this time, instead of having it brushed aside as “Ozzie being Ozzie!” It is well past time for Ozzie to realize that it is not okay to say whatever happens to pop into your head. It is well past time for Ozzie to learn that as a representative of Major League Baseball that he has to have an internal filter so that his every thought does not get verbalized.
This is not a question of political correctness run wild, nor is it a case of Ozzie’s freedom of speech being abridged. No one is saying that Ozzie can’t speak his mind; he is just learning (again) that there are consequences for the words you speak.
For those who believe it is political correctness, ask yourself if you would think that if Ozzie had been speaking about Hitler or Nathan Bedford Forrest. Would it be okay for him to praise the oratorical prowess of the man who murdered eleven million Jews, or the man who first brought the Ku Klux Klan to prominence?
What people have to realize in this situation is just how Cuban expatriates view Castro, and then you would understand why this reaction has been so emotional. I think that Miami Herald columnist and ESPN personality Dan Le Batard described it best when he said, “Castro is our Hitler.”
I don’t think Ozzie should be fired for this mess he’s made. In fact, I agree with Bud Selig that the Marlins handled the situation about as well as could be handled. The five game suspension is strong enough to send Ozzie the message that his loose cannon act isn’t going to be tolerated as easily as it was in Chicago, but no so tough that it puts the early part of the Marlins' season in jeopardy.
However, we have to also make sure that we all hold Ozzie totally responsible for his words, because as contrite as I believe he honestly was today, this is not his first dip in the Castro pool. It was just a few years ago that Ozzie said something very similar to well respected Chicago columnist Rick Telander about his admiration for the dictator.
Hopefully Ozzie does truly learn a lesson from this and takes this opportunity to learn more about the man he claims to “admire”. There are plenty of Cuban-Americans in Little Havana that could really give him an education. Maybe this is the “teachable” moment that Ozzie needed to force him to grow up.
Maybe we have seen the end of “Ozzie being Ozzie.”