61 years ago today, Fidel and Raul Castro lead a group to attack the army barracks in Moncada, Cuba.
While his attack against US supported caudillo Fulgencio Batista wasn't too successful (look it up) it did lead to the arrest of the Castro brothers, which then allowed Fidel Castro to take the stage in his own defense.
That's where it gets good.
Castro argued that Bastista was an undemocratic dictator (yes, correct) and it wasn't ILLEGAL to try to overthrow an illegal government, therefore what he had done was actually the most legal and ethical and patriotic thing a person could do.
He ended his four hour speech with something along the lines of "condemn me if you must..... History will absolve me."
Castro was exiled from the island, went to Mexico, met Che Guevara, and trained to return to Cuba to complete the unfinished revolution of 1898, the one that kicked Spain out but didn't lead to complete independence. Of course it didn't. Cuba is strategically placed to block off a big part of the Caribbean, protecting the US's most vulnerable underbelly. But I digress.
In 1956 Castro and his compadres leave Mexico in a boat called the Granma and sneak back to Cuba, inciting Cubans to rise up against Bastista.
Violence grows (nothing like Syria, nothing like Darfur), and US backed Batista tries harder and harder to repress the violence with MORE violence.
It doesn't work and really the world sees Batista as an undemocratic dictator that looks more and more like Stalin or Hitler. The US can't back THAT, so in Spring 1958 the US withdraws support for Batista by declaring an arms embargo.
In a matter of months Batista will flee the island and Castro's junta will be successful. The 26th of July becomes a national holiday to celebrate the beginning of the TRUE revolution, the one that lead to Cuba's independence.
July 26th is a bitter day for Cuban exiles, reminding us of all that we lost since That Bastard Castro started crap.
Now I know you want me to be angry at Castro for bringing communism to the island, but I'm not.
Yes, he took my family's house, their business, their insurance and bank accounts.
But he didn't take their spirit, their love and their resiliency. My grandfather brought the family to New Orleans on a vacation, one from which we haven't returned.
And I'm glad. I've been to Cuba and although it's gorgeous and interesting and dripping with history, we definitely have it better here.
Go ahead and gripe about the NSA, about taxes, about whatever you want -- we live in a free country that has been percolating with opportunity for hundreds of years.
Here I know my kids can go further than I have, limited only by their intelligence, courage and self-discipline.
Here we have more protection, more security, better healthcare, more educational choices, and also we have Disney World and Universal and air-conditioned malls and awesome highways lined with gas pumps.
If you'd asked me years ago I would have said that the US should have encouraged Batista's government to execute the Castro brothers when it had the chance.
Now I accept what REALLY happened -- thanks to Castro, over a million people like me live in a much better place, far from communism, oppression and limits.
Maybe history will absolve Castro after all.
In my heart, I just did.