Magazine December 19, 2016, Issue

That’s a Lot of Broken Eggs

Fidel is finally inert. Many of the online eulogies were heartfelt, as in “I hope your heart felt awful right before you saw the maw of hell open wide.”

Others, from the progressive sensibilities, were more nuanced. Castro was praised for standing up to the U.S., and never mind that he clambered to the top of a mountain of skulls to shake his impotent fist; it was the thought that counted. He had stood firm against capitalism, and that’s not only a get-out-of-jail-free card, it’s a put-everyone-else-in-jail card. Play it for five decades, tattered and worn; marginalize the dark-skinned people and shove gays into camps; and it’s all good as long as you say “Profit is evil” while lighting your cigars with 20-dollar bills.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who went to Cuba as a very young child and now runs Canada as a somewhat older child, issued a much-mocked statement of respect and love. If it had gone on longer, it probably would have continued in this vein:

“I will always remember the feel of his fuzzy beard against my tender cheek when I was just a boy, the rough smell of tobacco, the twinkle in his eye when he gave me some candy he called ‘People’s Socialist Confection #23.’ It was just a pebble dipped in sugar, and I broke a tooth. But my family saw firsthand the wonders of Cuba’s world-famous dental-care system, which restored my molar with good, honest cement.”

Green candidate Jill Stein tweeted out — oh, who cares. In her mind the people protesting a pipeline in North Dakota are the spiritual heirs of dear Fidel, because they are Standing Up to a global system — unlike those freshly minted traitors in Venezuela, who are facing a U.S.-imposed toilet-paper shortage but continue counterrevolutionary activities such as eating and excreting. A true global citizen would find a way to cork himself for the duration. Granted, no corks are available, but that has nothing to do with the nationalization of the cork-importing sector of the economy.

Anyway. Many of the eulogies suffered from a curious dissonance. Whom do we still mourn? JFK, cut down by a time-traveling Trump supporter. Whom did JFK want to overthrow? Fidel. What did everyone accuse Ronald Reagan of wanting? Nuclear war. What did Fidel actually want? Nuclear war. What’s really bad for you? Sugar and tobacco. What did Cuba produce? Right. If you wanted to conjure up the ultimate Progressive Demon, it would be a man in military garb selling smokes and sweets, driving a ’59 Merc belching blue exhaust, shouting “Kill Kennedy with atomic weapons.”

But he was a hero because there weren’t any McDonald’s in Havana.

He was a hero because university professors made as much as doctors, and thus they felt great solidarity when the rice ration was increased to six grains a week.

He was a hero because the people of Cuba were not subjected to the pointless despair of choosing one brand of soap over another in the store, and could use this liberated mental energy to pursue a life in the arts, like the famous poet José Bosquiano, author of the beloved epics I Need Not Bend to Your Bourgeois Concept of Offensive Aromas and The Imperialist’s Sheets Are Always White.

He was a hero because the revolution was Romantic. Why, look at that famous image of Che, head tilted up as he scrutinized the horizon for the dawning of a new day. I’ve always thought he was looking up at a nice penthouse apartment, and after the picture was taken he said, “Execute the occupants and move my stuff in by noon.”

He was a hero because he understood that to make an omelet, you have to nationalize the chicken industry, implement Soviet egg-production techniques that consist of making the chickens watch films of Stalin inspecting farms, imprison the chicken-farm managers who report a 65 percent drop in output, divert the reduced production to the military, erect enormous posters that blare the phrase socialismo o huevos so people will inform on neighbors who have eggs. Counterrevolutionaries! Hoarders of the Yanqui Ovals!

Then, if you still want to make that omelet, you have to break 5,000 eggs to instill party loyalty in all the other incubating eggs, and then you have to attempt to make an omelet, fail, and purge and execute the top 10 percent of all the chefs on the island. Final step: Print a week’s worth of stories in Granma about increased egg production, complete with pictures of Fidel enjoying an omelet. Run it with a story about blacks in America facing firehoses for trying to get an Egg McMuffin at a segregated McDonald’s.

End result? Some chefs escape to America and set up an omelet restaurant, and progressives try a genuine Cuban-style omelet and say, “This is awesome, I can’t wait to go to Cuba for the real thing.”

On the most recent National Review cruise, the ship stopped by Cuba. Not at Cuba, just near Cuba. For an hour or so the mountainous coastline was off the starboard side — deserted, empty, devoid of habitation.

I’ll bet there were more eggs on the ship than there were in the entire city of Havana. Well, sometimes if you want to make an omelet, you have to force people to do it. But they’ll spit in the cheese.

Anyway. Thanks for dying, Fidel. Somewhere at the CIA some new guy’s getting a citation. All these years, all those attempts — never thought of an exploding bedpan. Nice work, kid.

– Mr. Lileks blogs at www.lileks.com.

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