His sin? Guillen said he loved and respected Fidel Castro.
He was right to “sin.” Castro overthrew the corrupt capitalist Batista in 1959.
Guillen comes from Venezuela, whose leader Hugo Chavez rightly befriends Castro and thumbs his nose at American domination of Latin America.
Paul Buchheit of the online Nation of Change lambasted Guillen for his abject apology, acting like “a penitent sinner at the capitalist altar.”
“He bowed down to the impassioned opponents of socialism,” Buchheit said. “He acted like millions of other Americans conditioned to equate criticism of free market capitalism with a lack of patriotism.
“Nationalized and social-oriented countries like Venezuela and Cuba have much to teach the unregulated capitalists.
“America imposed an economic embargo for 50 years against a destitute nation. Castro survived a half-century of attempts to overthrow, sabotage or starve his nation.”
Buchheit pointed that the embargo has been condemned by the European Union and the Organization of American States. Yet a majority of Americans supports this inhumanity.
“Americans reject political systems that support the needs of the 99 percent,” Buchheit concludes. “They worship a system that gives almost all the money to the 1 percent.”
So Guillen’s initial praise was no mistake. But they were, however, impolitic, a marketing disaster.
The Little Havana community in Miami, which hates Castro, is a fan base for a floundering baseball franchise with poor performance and attendance. Latino taxpayers mostly built a $634 million stadium for the Marlins.
Dick Lapchick, who directs the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, sees the irony in the uproar.
“Part of the reason that so many people left Cuba was that there was a lack of free speech,” Lapchick said. “Yet by expressing his beliefs Guillen is being criticized.”
A newscast in Cuba echoed the sentiment. It quoted a Cuban journalist based in Miami, Emilio Garcia, saying: “It is another sad page in the history of the Miami community that it is becoming more and more like a banana republic. It was pathetic to see this sportsman humiliate himself to keep his job.”
Guillen said he betrayed the Latino community. No. Telling the truth is never betrayal.
Günter Grass too
Günter Grass, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1999, also is being crucified for telling the truth.
His 69-line poem, “What Must Be Said,” got him banned from Israel because it said what Israeli leaders have threatened to do: take unilateral military action against Iran and its nuclear development.
The poem also tells the truth that such a strike endangers “the already fragile world peace.”
Another truth: The poem cites Israel’s own undeclared nuclear arsenal. Grass rightly says it must come under international supervision.
Matt Rothschild, editor of America’s Progressive magazine, has the right take on the furor: “The controversy only confirms what Grass was saying: it is impossible to criticize Israel without being lambasted.”
Or, being accused of anti-Semitism.
The New York Times complained that Grass was treating Iran as the moral equivalent of Israel, as if Israel is morally superior to Iran.
Any German criticism of Israel has been muted in the past because of Nazism and the Holocaust. But that is changing. German whispers are being spoken aloud, gradually becoming the Grass plea for justice.
Nor does Grass spare Germany, calling it complicit with Israel’s militarism by supplying it submarines capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
The Masters may be the most prestigious golf tournament in the world, but the PGA should no longer sanction it if the Augusta National Golf Club continues to bar women from membership.
Discrimination, never tolerable, is archaic in the 21st century. Yet Virginia Rometty, chief of IBM, one of the corporate sponsors of the Masters, showed up for the tournament this year despite the egregious insult.
The Wall Street Journal notes that Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America, got a $7.5 million pay package last year even though the company’s stock plummeted. Citizens for Tax Justice reports that 30 major corporations made billions of dollars between 2008 and 2010 yet paid no federal income taxes.
Tough being atheist
Julia Gillard, Australia’s first female prime minister, recently told the Sydney Morning Herald: “I’m good mates with President Obama. I tell him, ‘You think it’s tough being African-American? Try being me. Try being an atheist and a childless, single woman as prime minister.’ ”
Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.