I want to introduce you to someone. Her name is Josephina, and she has an interesting story. Actually, to call it “interesting” might be somewhat of a misnomer. She has a compelling story and a cautionary tale.
She also represented a rare opportunity for me. I consider myself to be somewhat of an academic. If I were actually being paid for this pursuit, it would require me to seek out original sources to support my various hypotheses. (Though, sadly, this seems to be anachronistic now in modern academia. Original research has largely been abandoned for political pontification, but I digress.)
I must generally rely on others to do the research for me, and then I read their books. It is, frankly, somewhat more efficient than doing all the work myself, but it does require a certain level of trust in the authors.
As many of you know, one of my primary concerns is the rise of authoritarianism in the United States, and, along with that, the persistent, almost religious acceptance of the State by parties (both right and left) seeking to assert control over others, both socially and economically.
So a rare opportunity presented itself a couple of weeks ago. A new member was attending one of my classes. Her name is Josephina and she has the unique experience of having grown up both under communism as well as fascism. I could not let the opportunity to interview her pass. It took a bit of coaxing (more on that in a bit), but she eventually agreed to sit down with me and discuss her experiences and her political philosophy.
The interview started with me asking her why she was reluctant at first to talk with me. She told me (in no uncertain terms) that what she had lived through as a child has manifested in the United States. That comes with certain ramifications. She remembers all too well what happened to her family under communism and is deathly afraid that any level of outspoken criticism on her part could eventually come back to haunt her family once again. After I had asked her for an interview, so I could write this blog, she contacted me and said she felt it was her patriotic duty as an American to answer my questions and get her message out.
That is something initially striking about Josephina; she is one of the proudest, most patriotic Americans I have ever met, not just someone who has a healthy “love of country”… Josephina has the spirit of America embedded in her DNA. I believe this is a direct result of having experienced what life is like outside of a constitutional republic.
Josephina was born in Cuba, but the story goes back further. Her grandfather had emigrated to Cuba from Italy in the early part of the twentieth century. He was a shoemaker and eventually built a thriving shoe-making operation in Cuba. He made enough money to retrieve his son from Italy (Josephina’s father) and bring him to Cuba to join him.
After the revolution, the only way for them to maintain control of the operation was for the son to become a Cuban citizen, which he did. During this time he married Josephina’s mother. As the Castro brothers, aided by the psychopathic pediatrician friend, Che Guevara, started murdering people, Josephina’s mother decided discretion might be the better part of valor and the decision was made to leave.
The State was not pleased with them. After all, only a fool would flee a workers’ paradise like Cuba. Their decision must be coupled with consequences. The first of those consequences was complete relinquishment of all their property, but the State still wanted their pound of flesh. The two of them were basically “sentenced” to two years of hard labor as penance for wanting to leave. Her father was made to work in the sugarcane fields, literally as a slave, and her mother was forced to count beans in a coffee factory… also for no compensation. After two years they were allowed to leave the Island Eden with only the clothes they had on. They had a choice to make: Mexico or Spain? The two had already made the decision that the United States was to be their ultimate destination, but they couldn’t just walk across the border. (Yes… border control was a real, and now quaint, notion back then.)
They would have to spend two years in the stepping-stone country while they got their immigration status prepped for entry into the United States.
Spain was far more welcoming than Mexico, and there was a nefarious reason for this: Franco.
The one thing the fascists hate more than anything is competition, and communism is the ultimate competition when it comes to totalitarianism. (Theocracy, like in Iran, had not really made it into the big leagues yet).
Spain was more than happy to accept Cuban refugees, anything to help marginalize Castro.
I asked her what living under a fascist regime was like as compared to communism. Her answer was interesting. The “quality” of life from a structural standpoint was better, but there was an underlying darkness. Evil was just as present in Fascist Spain as it was in Communist Cuba. Ultimately, both regimes were terrified of the people and put policies in place to rob those people of their rights and essentially make them vassals of the State.
I told her that both regimes fundamentally confused me. The same confusion I had when the Ortega brothers began their destruction of El Salvador and the decimation of Venezuela under Chavez. These are strong Roman Catholic states, and totalitarianism and Catholicism have always struck me as mutually incompatible. For totalitarianism to work, there must be a presupposition that the State has removed all conflicts and problems. The State must be “right” all the time. Any debate or doubt must be crushed with violence, for if the State is potentially wrong, then it presupposes fallibility. If the State falls below God in His divine machinations, then the State becomes potentially suspect.
At least this was my thought.
I knew that Castro had abolished the church, but I did not know how Franco dealt with this problem. “Oh that? Yes, Franco let the Church operate, but priests who spoke out against the government, or worse, were suspected of being communists, were executed.”
Ahhhh… yeah, that’s how Franco dealt with that.
Eventually Josephina and her family would make their way out of Spain and to Southern California, where she resides today with her husband and her two sons.
As I mentioned above, she is a proud American. There is ABSOLUTELY no question about that, but she is a terrified American.
She sees the same forces that foisted misery on Latin America, as well as Spain, growing deeper and deeper roots here in the States. She is appalled that anyone could seriously entertain the idea of communism. (Her feeling about socialism is about the same. She described socialism during our conversation as communism with some private enterprise.)
She is worried, as we should all be worried. She knows what life looks like in a totalitarian regime. She also knows what life looks like for political dissidents in those regimes. Going against the State (or as Hobbes would call it, the Leviathan) is a terribly bad idea. Contrary to Hobbes, the state of nature to totalitarianism is actually preferable. It is in a communist or fascist regime that life becomes “nasty, brutish, and short.”