In the wake of Ozzie Guillen’s pro-Fidel Castro comments, a tidal wave of media-driven self-righteous indignation has come crashing down on the Miami Marlins manager. On Tuesday, the team announced that they were suspending Guillen for five games because he recently told Time Magazine, “I love Fidel Castro … I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that [expletive] is still there.” Guillen has since apologized, but obviously it was not enough to prevent the suspension. Major League Baseball is also reviewing the situation and may take additional action.
And so, in one off-color comment that seems to praise Cuba’s former dictator more for his perseverance than his politics, Guillen becomes the latest casualty of a political correctness that could hardly be described as universal. It’s important to note that this has little to do with Fidel Castro’s atrocious human rights record, and everything to do with Castro being an official enemy of the United States. Guillen’s offense wasn’t that he was voicing support — however flippant — for a brutal ex-dictator, but that he was voicing support for a dictator who is not one of the preferred despots of the U.S. government.
One can easily imagine a myriad of scenarios in which Guillen or anyone else could have used similar language (and even more endearing language) to express approval of other dictators, without having to remotely worry about a public backlash. But in fact, one does not have to imagine the scenarios because there are enough actual examples. For example, if Guillen had expressed his approval of the autocratic Saudi royal family, or if he were a defense contractor who sold them $60 billion worth of weapons, his actions would be met with yawns. Similarly, if he had referred to former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak as a “friend” of his family, that wouldn’t make Guillen offensive, but rather the next U.S. Secretary of State. If in the 1980s he had gone to Iraq, shook Saddam Hussein’s hand, and given him financial support and weapons, that would make Guillen a member of the Reagan administration.
The Guillen incident is a mere distraction from the real scandal. A manager in Major League Baseball has no political power, is in no position to make or influence decisions at the levers power, and yet he is pilloried for some stupid offhand remarks expressing mere verbal support of a former dictator. Meanwhile, the people in power in this country who are, right now, using taxpayer money to prop up authoritarian regimes, largely get a pass for their very real support of oppressive governments.
Guillen’s comments were dumb and to many, offensive. While a reprimand may have been appropriate, let’s not be fooled into thinking that our society doesn’t tolerate those who support bad people. Indeed, quite often they’re reelected.