Tyranny begins with small steps. . .

Not with a big bloody coup. It happens with the erosion of our rights in small little pieces, like water dripping on a stone. It happens because we don’t speak out and settle for that erosion for a variety of reasons.

I haven’t posted a Thoughtful Thursday in a while, but recent events have had me really wondering what’s going on in America today. How we have gotten to where various government agencies can infringe on the rights of American citizens with what I consider so little hue and cry from the citizenry.

Or maybe I’m just hyper-sensitive to Big Government because of my background so maybe today’s Thoughtful Thursday should explain why I am that way. Why this immigrant embraces American values so much and why she is bothered by what she sees.

Funny, but our neighbors in Levittown used to say that my mom was more American than they were and I guess this apple didn’t fall far from that tree. My friends say the same of me. I bleed red, white and blue and this is the reason why . . .

Tyranny and my family

Those who visit regularly know I was born in Cuba and left during the Cuban diaspora of the 1960s.

My family’s exodus from Cuba came in little bits, resulting in various separations, but before I get to that, it’s important to know more about how that exodus began.

My mother was a rebel in every sense of the word. A woman who wanted a career before it was the thing to do. A woman who knew what she wanted in life, and from her country, and was willing to give her all for what she wanted.

She was an amazing woman and one day I’ll write her story. Kind of. My first novel was loosely based on her exploits and I hope to one day finish that book and release it.

Life in Cuba during the Batista dictatorship wasn’t easy for some. While those in Havana generally had nice lives, it wasn’t so easy for others out in the fields and smaller villages.

My mother was relatively young when “the Revolution” began. She even supposedly dated Castro once while she was at the University. But when the troubles started, Batista shut down the University to silence the opposition.

There were secret police who would haul away people suspected of assisting the rebels. People would be beaten and killed, their bodies dumped on the streets as a warning to others.

That didn’t stop my mom from raising her voice against it and helping with the local Civic Resistance Movement. She dragged my father into it from what I gather, but together they did all kinds of things to try to make their country better.

Until they realized they had helped make it worse as Castro showed his true colors. That’s when my mom and other people involved in the Resistance started working for change again. Like many in the Resistance, my mom was offered a position with the government, but time and time again she made excuses, not wanting to get more involved with a government that she knew was wrong.

Mind you, she did all that while being pregnant with me and my sis, her “miracle children” but that’s a story for another day.

When the government started forming militias with the young, my parents sent my brother to live with friends in the United States, fearing he’d be brainwashed. That’s part of how it starts: indoctrinate the young. Turn them against their parents’ values and toward those of the government.

My parents were working with others to try and change things when they got a call from a friend: Castro’s police were coming for them shortly. They had to leave Cuba or risk prison and/or execution.

In a matter of days they put their affairs in order and left my sister and me with my grandparents, certain they would send for us in a short time.

But Castro didn’t want that.

When my parents arrived in the U.S., they noticed one of Castro’s people walk by. He smiled and tipped his hat to them as if to say, “Don’t think you’ll get away.”

At Immigration they were detained. Someone had warned the U.S. Government they were communist sympathizers. It took a lot of convincing and hours of interrogation, but my parents were finally granted political asylum.

My sister was six months old at the time. I was a little past two. Imagine as a mother leaving such young children. I don’t know if I would have had the courage my mother had at that moment, but I am thankful that she did have such strength. I would not have the life I have today if not for that selflessness.

That only began my family’s odyssey to the United States.

In Cuba, the government seized our passports to prevent us from leaving the country. Soldiers would regularly come by the house and toss it, telling my grandparents to have my parents return if they ever wanted peace and freedom. My grandmother would stuff us under the bed to keep us safe. I vaguely remember hiding under that bed.

I remember being afraid of people in uniform when I first got to America until my mother explained that the policemen were not soldiers and were there to help us.

This went on for nearly another year, until my parents were able to get us out of the country with the help of some friends in Mexico. But that started another year of flight as we bounced from country to country in Central America and Mexico until we were able to enter the United States as political refugees.

Maybe it’s because of that family history that I fear Big Government. I fear what happens when a small group of people get too much control and try to silence others with differing opinions.

It’s what Orwell wrote about in 1984 and it doesn’t surprise me that there’s been a run on the book in recent days.

Take a moment to think about. Read about it, but even more so, read beyond what’s on the pages. As a writer I know how easy it is to steer you in one direction or another with the right choice of words. A nasty “flip-flop” becomes reasoned “reconsideration” quite easily.

Think about the world you want to leave to children and ask yourself, Is this what I really want?

When I think of my mom and all she risked and sacrificed and struggled to achieve, I know what my answer will be. What’s yours?

2 thoughts on “Tyranny begins with small steps. . .”

  1. Wow! Thanks for sharing this, Caridad. You’re mother sounds like an amazing woman. What a fascinating story. I can’t begin to imagine what it was like.

  2. Your life has not been an easy one, Caridad. Coming to the land of the free was quite a change from what Batista and Castro did.
    Being born here and never knowing such oppression, I can barely understand what it must have been like.
    However, I have to remind you that there is no such thing as a sunshine government, especially one at war. There are certain things that are not meant for the general public, and anyone listening to our news reports or the internet. Having been in the military, I know that there are tough decisions that have to be made all the time that, if left out in the open for discussion or a vote, would pass the window of opportunity.
    The atom bomb comes to mind. I ask you to consider what happened when the Rosenbergs gave away that secret to the Soviets. We ended up in a cold war that lasted until the Russians had to give up or go broke.
    We must be cautious and vigilant with out secrets and who we allow to step all over us. Giving away military secrets is treason, not whistleblowing.

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