In Impromptus today, I begin with friendship — there has been some buzz about it lately. According to a survey, friendships in America are in steep decline, especially among men. This is not a new topic, of course, and it is not exclusively American. You will remember Digby Anderson, the British writer who for years contributed to National Review. In 2001, he wrote a slim, wonderful book called “Losing Friends.” I reviewed it here, under the heading “A Love and a Virtue.” (Aristotle said that friendship was no less than the basis of society, and described friendship as both “a love” and “a virtue.”)
Are Reagan conservatives and classical liberals responsible for social decay in America? The fraying of communities and the diminution of friendships? You hear that charge from both Left and Right. They say that we promote a dog-eat-dog society, full of “toxic individualism.” The sum total of our philosophy is “You’re on your own.” This, of course, is bollocks (as Brits such as Digby would say). Anyway, I get into this in Impromptus.
Other topics include baseball and Zaila, the Wonder Girl — the 14-year-old who just won the National Spelling Bee and holds three Guinness world records. Again, my column is here.
After I wrote it, the news from Cuba broke. A report by Frances Robles in the New York Times began,
Shouting “Freedom” and other anti-government slogans, hundreds of Cubans took to the streets in cities around the country on Sunday to protest food and medicine shortages, in a remarkable eruption of discontent not seen in nearly 30 years.
I loved those first six words in particular. They are marvelously apt: “Shouting ‘Freedom’ and other anti-government slogans . . .”
My mind ran to the great Cuban dissidents (and if you would like to read a Twitter “thread” I wrote, go here). Let me call an abbreviated role: Boitel, Valladares, Payá, Biscet, Antúnez, Fariñas, Roque, González Leiva, Sánchez, Pollán. I have been privileged to meet and interview many of them. The sacrifices they have made — almost indescribable.
In 2011, I spoke with Biscet — Dr. Óscar Elías Biscet — just after he was released from prison. (He had spent twelve years there.) Here is an excerpt from the relevant piece:
The Cuban people are “enslaved,” Biscet says, “but, here in Cuba, the slaves will revolt,” as they have done elsewhere. He mentions China, Iran, and Libya. And he describes a great challenge of the opposition: to shape a transition to democracy without a Tiananmen Square. Without a massacre by the rulers, who will not give up power sweetly.
Yes. Cuban rulers have a choice: Let the people go or mow them down. Think of how the Chinese Communists hung on in 1989. Think of how Maduro and the chavistas have hung on in recent years. Think of Daniel Ortega right now. Nothing in the record of Cuban Communism suggests that they will let the people go.
They have ruled for 62 years, the Cuban Communists have. The Chinese Communists: 72. The Kims, in North Korea: 73. The Assads, in Syria: 51. The Soviets had 74 years. In Cuba, will there be a 63rd year? Maybe not.
In 2003, Mark Falcoff, the excellent Latin Americanist, wrote a book called “Cuba: The Morning After — Confronting Castro’s Legacy.” I reviewed it here. Falcoff explained that the period following the regime’s downfall could be very, very bad. Yes, it could.
The title of Mark’s book reminded me of an old, loved spiritual, which I cited at the end of my review: “In that great gittin’-up morning, fare thee well, fare thee well.”
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