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Mike Lowell made no bones about it 10 years ago when his words regarding Cuban dictator Fidel Castro were splashed across the front page of the Boston Herald: ‘I hope he dies’.
Now Castro is dead, passing away at the age of 90 years old late Friday night. And as the former Red Sox’ third baseman explained on the Bradfo Show podcast, his opinion of the Cuban revolutionary hasn’t changed one bit.
“I don’t think anyone should wish death on someone, but to live in this country and you’re hopeful Osama Bin Laden dies prior to him being killed. I would say probably 99 percent reaction would be, yes. It’s been said that Fidel Castro to the Cubans is Adolf Hitler to the Jews, is Osama Bin Laden to this country. That’s kind of the correlation,” Lowell said
“They had people who politically whose ideals were against Castro and they would put the mom and the dad in the middle of a circle and make the kids watch as they parade around them and then put a bullet in their heads. Now that’s savagery.
“I’m not sad he’s dead. Move on and if this helps change that regime, their thought process or something, it’s better for the Cuban people. I think everybody should pursue what they want to make them happy. That’s basically the bottom line. I don’t think a country should have a say in what you want to make out of your life.”
The angst Lowell and his family has toward Castro is deep-rooted in family members who were killed during the dictator’s regime, and the suffering that was inflicted prior to the opportunity for his parents, and his wife’s parents, to escape Cuba.
One example of the direct impact of Castro on Lowell’s family came in the form of an incident involving his wife’s father, who was jailed for 15 years as a political prisoner after not supporting the regime.
It’s all why Lowell has no problem suggesting the hatred for Castro for some Cubans is comparable to the vitriol involving Hitler and Bin Laden.
“Some would put Castro above Hitler, and why? Because they’re not Jewish. It’s what you relate to. It’s what hits home a little bit more,” Lowell said. “I’m not saying Castro is worse than Hitler, or Hitler is worse than Castro. I don’t want to get into the atrocities of Hitler because that’s possibly the abomination of the world as a human being. But I think Cubans view that as someone who is trying to eliminate everyone who was against what he thought, and he did it to his own Cuban people. If you told me it was a country of people coming in to take over your country, I understand. But it was within your own country. I think that’s a much more damaging and a much more savage way to go about things.”
Needless to say, the reaction to Castro’s death in the Lowell family was a strong one.
“I think it was more a lot of talk around my family where people wanted to out-live him. Almost to the fact that he didn’t get us,” he said. “Speaking to my parents, I really wish my grandparents, all four of them, were alive so they could say, ‘We outlasted this guy.’ That was a big deal. And to the generation that was younger I think they feel that maybe we were right in our sacrifice in leaving and rooting for something that is going to be better. Maybe we’ll stick around to be able to see it. I don’t think it was this party in the street type of thing, definitely not in my house. But I woke up my kids earlier and said, ‘Anthony, just to let you know, Fidel Castro died last night.’ His reaction, ‘We have to call my wife’s dad.’ Even at 12 years old, I don’t think he knows the details of his grandpa, but he knows he was in prison and it’s not like he committed a crime.
“It was news, but maybe just a step in the right direction that it’s maybe one less rung on the ladder to get things going in the right direction for the people of that country. You feel for them because that is the fiber of what I grew up with. That was my culture growing up. I’m the Americanized Latino. I have all the benefits of the United States with Cuban values and background, so I feel I’m doubly privileged in that sense. I got the taste of what it was like, but I got the freedoms of what they are hopeful for.”
When reacting to Castro’s death, there has been some who have pointed out some of the favorable elements in Cuba’s current society, such as education and health care. But, as Lowell pointed out, even that dialogue should be carefully dispersed.
“Literacy, health care. It’s great how good it is. But nobody jumps on a raft not knowing whether you’re going to make it or basically is going to die on the ocean if things are that good,” Lowell said. “It even got the point with Venezuela, and Bolivia, where Cuba was sending all their doctors, engineers and all their professional people who could give brain power over to them for discounted oil. Why? Because the country needed oil to survive. That’s what we’re going to send over, all of the people that take care of society? Are their good doctors and good professionals? I’m sure there are very good doctors in Cuba and accountants and all that. But for the greater good, what I don’t like is that if you want to be a baker, you don’t have the freedom to be a baker. You want to be a trash collector, you don’t have the freedom to be a trash collector. You don’t have the freedom to be what you’re passionate about, and that’s where I think they rip your soul out because you might be someone who works a job but your passion is something else and you don’t have the freedom to pursue that. You take away that, you take away the family aspect and you take away what you want to be passionate about, there’s no incentive to do anything good with your life. I think that’s the deterioration of the whole society. That’s why they’re an economic failure, because you don’t allow the people to pursue what they want. That freedom doesn’t exist. Not that we take it for granted here in the United States, but we realize how easily you can do whatever you want to do.
“What I got from talking even (recently-deceased Cuban pitcher) Jose Fernandez, guys like that, what level of desperation must you be at to find that that is a good alternative and a good choice for your life. And that’s where I say what would it take … I boat a lot here in Miami and it gets rough and I have a boat with an engine I hope more often than not works. To get on something like that with your family members and water and say, ‘Well, we have enough for three days.’ What happens when you hit Day 4 and Day 5 and you’re out there and the sun is beating down and doesn’t stop. That’s when I say, ‘What level of desperation must I be at to say I’m going to do this.’ Everybody’s level is different, but it can’t be good. There is never a level where you’re like, ‘It’s not that bad, but I’m going to jump on the raft.’ When you see that happening, you know there is something wrong with the system.”