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Opinion: Good can come from Guillien situation with constructive approach

By Dan Kagan
On April 12, 2012

"I approved the proclamation which Fidel Castro made in the Sierra Maestra, when he justifiably called for justice and especially yearned to rid Cuba of corruption. I will even go further: to some extent it is as though Batista was the incarnation of a number of sins on the part of the United States. Now we shall have to pay for those sins. In the matter of the Batista regime, I am in agreement with the first Cuban revolutionaries," John F. Kennedy remarked to renowned journalist Jean Daniel nearly a year after the conclusion of the Cuban Missile Crisis, some 48 years ago.

In a Time article published this past Monday, Miami Marlins' Manager Ozzie Guillen went yet another step further. "I love Fidel Castro," Guillen said. "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 here."

And that's not even to mention the embargo; I mean, damn, does that guy command a great cigar industry.

The backlash that has resulted from the controversial skipper's comments, however, is understandable. The Marlins organization, which just erected a new, state-of-the-art stadium located atop the former Orange Bowl site in Miami's Little Havana, has received repeated calls from the local Cuban-American community for Guillen's suspension, or worse, his termination. During recent protests, some have even called for a boycott of the ball club altogether. In response, the Marlins have levied a five-game suspension, meaning that Guillen should return to his duties by April 17 for a home game versus Chicago.

In the meantime, I propose that we perhaps suspend ourselves for a moment as well, above the situation, and before resorting to gut reactions and off-the-cuff emotions, we should ask ourselves: isn't it all a bit much?

First off, let me assert that I do not share Guillen's loving sentiment for Cuba's brutal, long-standing authoritarian dictator, it is notable that Guillen made it explicit that he also does not respect Castro's system, just Castro the man, a respect he has since retracted. Let me also admit that I am not Cuban, and I have not undergone the oppressive, violent, and utterly torturous realities that many Cubans have had to and, in some cases, still endure to this day at the hands of Castro and his henchmen.

To any victim of Castro's regime, if Guillen's removal could in any way ease some of the pain you have undergone, then by all means, write letters, send emails, or make picket signs and take to the streets. It is- for now- your (allegedly) inalienable right to do so.

In my opinion, however, the outright media mêlée that Guillen has caused seems to speak to the continued existence of a psychological phenomenon best summed up by the famous Algerian post-colonialist author, Franz Fanon. Imperialism leaves behind germs of rot, he stated, which we must clinically detect and remove from our land but from our minds as well.

In Castro, Guillen sees a man who has survived against all odds, who has forged a unique Cuban identity despite being dominated, both historically and, some would argue, even today, by the nature of his country's location in America's predominant sphere of world influence according to the Monroe Doctrine.

As western news outlets have demonized Castro, Guillen, who is also a confident and outspoken Hispanic man, has similarly been antagonized on countless occasions by the media. Who Guillen failed to consider, of course, were the victims of the brutality Castro's revolution adopted, regardless of whether that revolution was justified or not. But Guillen's comments illuminate the complex inner struggle of a Venezuelan man attempting to forge some semblance of identity in a place far away from home. If you ask Guillen himself, he is the first to praise America and the opportunities it has given him. But that should not minimize his psychological struggle, nor should it the sins of America's Age of Imperialism.

But if we are to ever learn exactly what those sins are, or how they are to be rectified, society cannot treat Guillen's statements as a crime that must be punished. If Guillen were a learned scholar with doctorates in Cuban history and communications, it would be a different story. But he isn't. He's a hard-working baseball player turned manager whose success in his profession, as well as the very nature of the world around him, had mandated that he leave his home if he were to ever realize the fruits of his talents. Just as someone reading this might doubt the attitudes espoused in this article, which is written by an English major going into a fifth year, struggling to earn a basic degree as a super-senior, it makes sense that the general public should doubt Guillen's as well. But the point is the dialogue these comments spark. If society seeks to repress Ozzie, it will alienate not only him, but also others who think like him. Guillen's recent meeting with Cuban-American immigrants and Castro regime victims is instead a much more constructive way to build a cohesive community.

If the gap in understanding that now exists between the Marlins' organization and the surrounding Cuban-American community can somehow be bridged, Guillen's comments may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Not only could the organization end up growing closer to its fan base and Guillen end up learning more about how to better fit in with the society around him after becoming an American citizen in 2006, but more importantly, a small piece of what it truly means to be a member in the Hispanic-American Diaspora could be salvaged from the ruins of American post-Imperialism.

That being said, if the unrest is unable to be quelled quickly enough, the Marlins may end up taking further measures against Guillen in the future. Like any employer, they have hired him and they reserve the right to fire him. Baseball is a business, and as such, it is built on profit margins, not bringing its fans together. And that is sad.

And that's not even to mention Ozzie's 2005 World Series Ring, the first won by a Latino manager in MLB history. I mean, damn, does that guy manage a great ball team.


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