I am writing in response to a recent letter applauding the actions of the Coast Guard against Cuban refugees. The writer was appalled by refugees who “blatantly disobeyed orders” in leaping into the sea to escape the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard, acting in its capacity as prison guard for Fidel Castro, blasted them with water cannons and pepper spray in attempting to arrest the refugees and return them to Cuba. The writer believed the refugees’ flagrant disregard for authority was proof enough that they were not the kind of people who deserved to live in the United States. Apparently the only people deserving of freedom are those willing to obey orders.
The writer’s attitude is one that would have been prevalent among other highly patriotic servants of government policy in the past, not the least among them, the guards at Buchenwald, members of the Gestapo, secret police, informers, snitches and thugs of every stripe who rationalized their brutality with the comforting argument that their victims were law breakers.
Although respect for the law is an admirable thing and a fundamental requirement of a civil society, it should not prevent a critical examination of the wisdom, motivation and morality of a law. Our government’s present policy toward Cuban refugees is one that turns their life and death struggle for freedom into a perverse sporting event. Cross the goal line at the high tide mark and you can live in freedom, get caught in the water and you will be returned to a life in chains, Fidel’s boot on your neck for the rest of your days.
We claim to be sickened by the cruelty of Castro’s dictatorship but punish the victims with a trade embargo and won’t lift a finger to help anyone escape. We send those who we catch trying to escape back to certain misery.
I am ashamed of our government’s policy and of the Guardsmen who enforce it, (even if they are “just obeying orders”). Had I been on the scene I would have cursed the Coast Guard for helping Fidel. I would have done all I could to help those brave Cubans reach shore and the freedom they risked their lives to have. I applaud the protestors who stopped traffic to call attention to the perverse and pernicious effects of our current policy. I deeply regret they chose to ignore “NO STOPPING OR STANDING” signs to make a point about liberty and justice and to obey higher laws than those inflicted upon us by Congress.