“I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.” That was the line that anchorman Howard Beale famously shouted on live TV in the 1976 movie “Network.” He encouraged viewers to stand up and shout it from their windows. And they did.
This scene comes to mind when we see angry and desperate citizens take to the streets in Cuba, making the same decla- ration. What we saw happen was historic. For more than 60 years, they have lived under Communist rule — too fearful to fight. But everyone has a breaking point. For many Cubans, this was it.
The pandemic has made the inhumane and unbearable situation on the island nation even worse. Food is scarce, med- icine is nowhere in sight, and tourism, which brought some needed relief in re- cent years, has dried up. Many Cubans literally have nothing to lose.
Perhaps what we saw come out of Cuba is the beginning of the end of a government that scores of its people have attempted to flee in search of a better life.
Americans, who fight for and cherish their own freedom, should stand together with the Cuban people. After the protest, the regime there went right to the Communist playbook — by cutting off internet access so that its citizens will have a harder time attempting to unite and fight. Nice try, but it’s not enough to shield the truth from reaching the people. Cubans are well aware their brothers and sisters in Florida also took to the streets in a show of soli- darity. It may be just enough encourage- ment to continue their plight for change.
However, we also see some reaction in the United States that is alarming. Black Lives Matter received much criticism for its statement about the protests. “Black Lives Matter condemns the U.S. federal government’s inhumane treatment of Cu- bans, and urges it to immediately lift the economic embargo. This cruel and inhumane policy, instituted with the explicit intention of destabilizing the country and undermining Cubans’ right to choose their own government, is at the heart of Cuba’s current crisis,” the statement reads in part.
Debating the effectiveness of the embargo may be a valid point, but to ignore the atrocities the government has committed against Cubans since Fidel Castro took power is downright dangerous. Instead of calling out the Cuban government’s totalitarianism, BLM declared U.S. policy is to blame. Even more concerning is the notion the Cuban people are choosing their current government.
The Cuban government’s relationship with the Roman Catholic Church is also telling. Fidel Castro, who was baptized and educated by Jesuits, branded the Church as an enemy when he took power in 1959. He shut down churches and Catholic schools, and shipped dozens of priests to Spain.
It wasn’t until the fall of the U.S.S.R. and Castro seeing his economic outlook beginning to crumble that his position on the Church somewhat softened. That led to Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1998. The pontiff said, “Let Cuba open itself to the world and the world open itself to Cuba.” Since then, the grip on allowing people to freely worship has loosened.
Perhaps, in a time of crisis, the Church will once again see the opportunity to make a move that will ultimately help bring freedom to the people of Cuba and end their suffering.
Catholics should keep up the fight and keep Cuba and its people in their prayers.