Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Batting Rage

Every once in a while I need a little reminder of how and why Miami is the dumbest, most beaver-shit crazy place on earth. Thankfully, the city's Cuban exile community and the local political leaders beholden to it -- the ones not under investigation, under indictment or currently in prison -- always come through for me like gangbusters. Their psychotic reaction anytime someone mentions the name Fidel Castro without including the words "pure evil" in the same sentence is as predictable in South Florida as afternoon thundershowers and cockroaches the size of Volkswagens.

The Huffington Post: Miami Marlins Manager Suspended for Comments About Fidel Castro/4.10.12

As much as I really do love and appreciate my hometown, it's moments like these that I'm glad I'm not there. And that serve as a really sad reminder that almost six years after this piece was first published here, it still holds up rather well.

"High Fidel-ity" (Originally Published 8.3.06)

As I've mentioned from time to time, I come from what is arguably the dumbest place on Earth.

For years, I tried in vain to alert the world outside Miami to the kind of unbridled insanity going on inside Miami. I'm pretty sure that I can say without fear of contradiction that the handful of decent minds who call the city home often feel like the spouse of a seemingly loving but secretly abusive husband: in a perpetual cycle of vicious beatings followed by quiet dinners with the neighbors who would never in a million years believe the truth. "Oh, but he's just so nice. He can't really be a complete sociopath," they'd say to each other later, after they had left the house, gone home, and unknowingly enabled the next beat-down.

No one would believe that Miami regularly behaved as if it were the only Third World country on American soil -- that is until Thanksgiving of 1999, and the arrival of a kid named Elian Gonzalez.

What followed -- although painful in its complete lack of logic or reason -- was what I had waited for my entire life up to that point. The crowds of crazies gathered; the circus started; the world watched. For the first time in my lifetime, television cameras and satellite trucks gave Miami a window to the world, and allowed everyone else to see what I'd known for years: the place is fucking nuts.

At the core of this lunacy, is one man; he's a man who you, like most people, have probably gone your whole life without ever giving a second thought to.

So let me ask you a question: Do you care about Fidel Castro?

I didn't think so.

Unfortunately, Miami cares about little else. In Miami, Castro is a constant, all-consuming presence. He's a demonic force which can never be exorcised. He's a boogeyman who, despite his old age and inability to keep the electricity on in most of his own country, is credited with everything from placing "spies" in top positions of local government, to knocking certain TV and radio stations off the air, to backing-up your toilet. He's a bearded devil who's been elevated to near-mythic status by a vocal group of hair-trigger hot-heads who still call themselves "exiles," despite the fact that their forced migration happened to land them in the wealthiest country on the planet -- one that's never demanded a thing from them and in which they've consistently thrived. I cannot stress in strong enough words the impact that Fidel Castro has on almost every facet of life in Miami.

During Elian, the derangement reached such outlandish levels that it caused some to practice what they called "civil disobedience" -- lying down in front of cars on causeways and backing-up traffic to make their point. City and county leaders also thought it a good idea to create their own foreign policy, refusing to cooperate with federal agents or anyone else who dared think about forcibly removing Elian from the hourly Little Havana dog-and-pony show, sponsored in-part by the City of Miami Chamber of Commerce and Gus Machado Ford.

When bands from Cuba have had the complete lack of common sense to stop in Miami, they've been met with death threats and violent protests from crowds of people who are too fucking dense to realize that by censoring the arts, they're performing a near-perfect impression of the man they hate to the point of madness.

At one point, the simplest way to win a local election in Miami was to go on WQBA -- the cleverly-monikered voice of intolerant conjecture for all of Dade County -- and tell its audience of highly-suggestible zombies that your opponent was, in fact, a communist. Let me say that again so that it can sink in: in an American city, not only would you not be laughed out of town -- but you could win a city councilman's seat, by calling someone a communist. Why Joe McCarthy never retired to Miami is beyond me.

And of course, anytime anyone has dared to suggest an end to the worthless embargo against Castro's Cuba, it's been advisable that he or she be wearing something akin to Kevlar. Never mind the fact that the rationale behind the sanctions was disproven decades ago. Put it another way: If your home were on fire with your family trapped inside, would you pull at a locked door for an hour, or at some point would you attempt to find another way in? Now imagine pulling at that door for 48 fucking years.

I could go on; believe me when I tell you that there are enough examples of this kind of absurdity to fill the Orange Bowl.

Based on all of this, it's no surprise that the news of Fidel's unprecedented ceding of power to his brother turned the streets of Miami into one big block-party. There was screaming and honking of horns. There was Cuban flag-waving. There were people dancing in the streets -- a combination of old folks who romanticize a pre-Castro Cuba, and kids who've simply spent their entire lives having the religion of Castro-as-Lucifer drilled into their heads. I challenge you to name a bigger party for an impending death that didn't also involve the public execution and dragging-through-the-streets of royalty. In Miami, the possibility of Castro's demise reverberates inside the echo-chamber like the trumpets of the gods.

Outside of Miami, though?

Once again, do you care?

With all that's going on in the world -- all of the threats from people who don't play by the normal rules; who don't safely follow the paradigm of an aging tyrant who wants nothing more than to keep himself in power; who are true believers and whose only wish is to be rewarded in the next life -- isn't Castro sort of, well, so 1980s?

As the Fidel deathwatch continues in Miami, and local and national politicians scramble to appease the city's powerful voting bloc by spouting silly, antiquated hardline rhetoric, the rest of the nation goes about its business, ambivalent to the circus in the south, completely unaffected by its craziness.

Couldn't be happier to be a part of that nation.

Adding: Salon is now running a piece that pretty much echoes what I'm saying here, albeit in a much less astringent manner. The salient quote: "If Guillen only loses his job for expressing admiration for Fidel's toughness, it will be a sign of civic progress. Not long ago, he might have lost his legs or his life." The column runs down in detail the Cuban exile community's long history of intolerance, censorship and outright violence directed at those who dare to say or do something it deems as a group is somehow pro-Castro. Is every Cuban-American like this? No, of course not. Is Castro a despicable murderer? Yeah, very much so. But check out the link in the middle of the piece -- the one to the story by Jim Mullin, formerly of the Miami New Times -- and tell me the overall attitude of Miami's hardline anti-Castro crowd has been one of sanity and respect for the law and for differing opinions.


em said...

If they didn't want extraneous commentary, they shouldn't have hired Guillen. His crazy ass comments were at least 25% of my reason for being a White Sox fan.

JohnF said...

I'll never understand the mentality of the voluntary exile who then can't shut up about how much they miss the country they left. At least the Cuban exiles had a good reason for leaving, but still it's time to shut up about Castro already.
Also, Ozzie Guillen is a complete raving lunatic. Let's not lose sight of that amidst the hubbub.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Pazienza,
It is truly disheartening that your desire to become a beacon of the progressive left movement in our country has driven you to abandon your roots and your childhood in Miami. Anything for a witty story? You experienced firsthand the pain that the Cuban exile community in Miami suffered being expelled from their country and forbidden to communicate with family. These people that took you into their homes and treated you like a son, fed you and told you stories of their experiences, provided you with unique first-hand-accounts unavailable to anyone anywhere else in the world. Even sports columnist Dan LeBatard recognizes the sadness of the Cuban exiles and the loss of their country at the hands of a murderous dictator. Yet you believe that time alone can wash the blood off of Castro's hands in the same way that a young punk blindly wears a Che Guevara T-shirt without any concept or idea that the man was a murderous psychopath. Should we let Charles Manson out of prison because it has been long enough and we should let bygones be bygones? Apparently the first half of your life has left you an empty shell with a social disconnect enabling you to write a "clever" post that,although may resonate with others that do not understand the Cuban exile community like you had the opportunity to, does not reflect the reality that you experienced. Perhaps you are now truly a member of the media. So sad.

Matt said...

True story. Elian Gonzales was the reason I quit working in TV news. I just couldn't take the nightly bullshit piled upon bullshit any more.

Glenad said...

I live in Fl and agree with you about how Miami acted like a 3rd World country. The Elian story exposed the utter stupidity of this. I was enraged night after night of watching those fools defy logic and the law. I think it weakened the stronghold on the Republican party in FL from the Cuban political power bosses. I enjoy reading your blog.

Ref said...

What's Marislesis been doing lately?

Chez said...

Hmmm. Interesting, "Anonymous." My ire is directed not at anyone who believes Castro is a murderous bastard -- which he most certainly is -- but with those who do so and allow it to blind them so thoroughly that their ability to think rationally vanishes. It's one thing to despise someone who hurt you, your family and your country so terribly but another thing entirely to take that anger and use it as justification to lash out in every single direction with unfocused fury every time anything related to that person is even mentioned. To simply join the mob of hotheads. Nothing good comes of that ever.

What Guillen said was dumb, but it's not something he should be run out of town on a rail for -- particularly not in an official capacity. He was merely expressing an opinion, albeit expressing an unpopular opinion very, very badly. Trying to silence dissent completely is, ironically, the kind of thing Castro has done for a very long time, only under the threat of a much harsher penalty.

That said, I do appreciate your passion and history. I would simply implore you not to allow it to thoroughly cloud your thought process so that all that's left is blind rage.

JohnF said...

Guillen's a bozo, but this is still kind of chilling. To get a 5-game suspension for saying something so incredibly tame is ridiculous. Those exiles must really rule the roost down there.

Chez said...

They do. And again, that was my point. So many never understand the irony of their furious push to censor anything they disapprove of because they believe it's pro-Castro.

Anonymous said...

Trust me, the decision by the Miami Marlins to "silence" Guillen in an official capacity by suspending him was not based upon any anti-American unconstitutional premise. It was more of a pragmatic reason... Capitalism... dollars and cents. The Marlins shiny new baseball stadium sits smack in the middle of "Little Havana", home to the largest Cuban-exile community in the universe. The reason for that is simply because the local Cuban-community has historically been the strongest minority supporter of the sport of baseball. Part of the argument for building the stadium in this location was that the surrounding "Little Havana" community would fill the stands long after the new stadium lost its shine among the hipsters and celebrities. But how can a commercial enterprise like the Marlins permit a high-profile employee to completely alienate such a large core fan-base opening the door to daily protests and boycotts by the immidiately surrounding blocks? Wouldn't MLB think twice about visiting Miami with its All-Star Game? Would MLB really want to deal with that? I think not. The price is too high. The Marlins acted correctly in suspending Guillen for such reckless insensitivity and stupidity demonstrated, especially by a new coach in a new town.

Chez said...

"Wouldn't MLB think twice about visiting Miami with its All-Star Game? Would MLB really want to deal with that? I think not."

The pertinent part of that very thoughtful comment. And whose fault would it be if a group of sane people interested in making money decided to bypass Miami out of a fear of outraged protests or general lunacy?

I rest my case.

Anonymous said...

I had to cover Elian and subsequently missed Easter because I had to get on a plane with his bat shit crazy Miami family the day he was taken to DC. I still remember being utterly pissed as I arrived at Reagan airport in shorts freezing my ass off and buying all the clothes for the rest of the week at the airport. I don't miss news one bit...

I will never understand the hypocrisy in this country regarding opinion. We shove democracy down everyones throat overseas but god forbid a baseball coach says something that is controversial. He's a baseball coach, not a political figure and he has the right to his own opinions, regardless of how stupid they are....and before I get bashed, I have been to Cuba roughly a dozen times during my career in news..I can tell you for certain that there is a disconnect between the Cubans in Cuba and the lunatics in Miami.

namron said...

To anon 7:05:

Remember 1999 when MLB sent the Baltimore Orioles to Havana for an exhibition? Passionate protest from the Cuban fan base in Miami did not alter their plan.

Loria made a conscious decision to go Miami-centric with his club and back hand the non-Cuban fan base. If he dumps Ozzie, then Little Havana will suffer a significant loss of park-in-my yard income from the Broward and Palm Beach fans. They are already pissed that the drive to game is an hour longer and now includes a trip on I-95 during rush hour. As a local writer said yesterday, if that new stadium had wheels it would be northbound on I-95 to Charlotte NC today.