Ozzie, Fidel, and the U.S. Media Double Standard
The Miami Marlins’ Venezuela-born manager Ozzie Guillen has long been a major league jackass. As the manager of the Chicago White Sox (my favorite major league team since I grew up on the South Side of Chicago) he was notorious for endless narcissistic media rambles that all too commonly included noxious macho cultural commentary.
“ ‘Oh, Love’… My Inspiration is Money”
The Guillen riff that sticks most in my mind has to do with money, however. It came at the end the season last year. That’s when Ozzie trashed the first White Sox World Series victory in 88 years – the title he helped bring back to Chicago (where he was a brilliant White Sox shortstop during the 1980s and 1990s) in 2005. I’ll never forget what Guillen said to Chicago Sun Times columnist Rick Morrissey on why he was jumping from the White Sox to the Marlins in 2012. Guillen had some interesting things to say about what mattered most to him. He shat all over the dreams of White Sox fans young and old. He wasn’t motivated by championship rings, he told Morrissey, but by money. “With the rings,” Ozzie sagely observed, “I can’t do [anything] with that.” But with money,” Ozzie observed, “ I can go buy me a new boat, I can go buy me a new car, I can dress my wife the way I want to dress her, I can go to Spain,” Guillen said. “With the ring, I can’t go to United Airlines and say, ‘Hello, I won the 2005 championship. Can you fly me to Spain?’ Hell no.”
Ozzie’s rant continued:
“Money is everything besides health. Money is next to that. A lot of people say, ‘Oh, love.’ They don’t know what love means….I work in this job for money. I don’t work for nothing. Money. That’s it. The ring? Fuck the ring. I don’t even wear my fucking rings. I don’t….. I want to buy my fucking boat. That’s my inspiration. My inspiration is money. That’s everybody’s inspiration.’’
Guillen etched himself into my memory forever as an all time low-life with these sickening words. Upon reading them, I flashed instantly to Karl Marx’s and Frederick Engel’s purple 1848 passage on how “the bourgeoisie [really, capitalism/the profits system, P.S.] has…left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous ‘cash payment’. It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value….The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe.”
In Chicago, Guillen never paid much of a price for his recurrent ugly remarks. Some reporters, fans, and others would occasionally grumble about his insensitivity and arrogance and self-obsession. But generally the public criticism would conclude with shrugs and statements like “that’s Ozzie,” “that’s what you get with Oz,” “he’s a character,” “he sure likes to hear himself talk,” “oh, well, his players love him.” And “you’ve got to give him credit for that World Series.”
“I Love Fidel Castro”
This week, however, Guillen has paid for his motor mouth. The Wizard of Ozzie has had to publicly apologize for – and disavow – his “offensive” and “regrettable” comments and bow humbly before a 5-game suspension imposed on him by Major League Baseball and the Marlins.
So what was his great sin? Did he make a crack about the President and/or the First Lady? Did he call a Miami sportscaster a whore? Did he make an assertion about the sexual orientation of a Miami Herald reporter? Call the Everglades a stinking swamp? Criticize Disney World? Make fun of Mark Rubio? Blast retirees? Defend George Zimmerman?
No. He said something nice (sort of) about somebody – somebody you are ordered to loathe in Miami. He told a Time Magazine reporter that he loved and respected Fidel Castro.
Here’s the actual quote from Time: “I love Fidel Castro. I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that motherfucker is still here.”
Idiotic and vapid as this statement of “love” and “respect” might have been, it was an unpardonable transgression as far as South Florida and Miami’s influential community of right-wing Cuban-American Castro-haters was concerned. Still seething over the Kennedy administration’s failure to murder Fidel, they and their progeny will never forgive Castro, Che Guevara and their cohorts for making a great egalitarian and anti-imperialist revolution right in Uncle Sam’s Caribbean lake. The remarkable peasants’ and workers’ revolution led by Fidel and Che cost a small minority of wealthy, mostly light-skinned Cuban compradors their privileged position and property atop the U.S. neo-colony that had functioned as a U.S. playground and profit source until 1959 (the last year the White Sox made it to the World Series – with an earlier great Venezuelan shortstop [Luis Aparicio] – before 2005). Castro’s revolution achieved historic gains in social and medical welfare, poverty-elimination and equality outside and against the U.S. imperial system. It has inspired numerous other “developing” (formerly known as “Third World”) countries within and beyond Latin America to follow a path of independent and equitable development that still goes against Washington’s wishes as during and before the Cold War.
Though Ozzie also got in a bit of hot water for expressing admiration for Hugo Chavez in 2004, I have a difficult time believing that his “respect” for Fidel and Hugo has anything to do with the two Latin American leaders’ commitment to socialism and equality. Ozzie has always been about, well, Ozzie (and to some extent his family) and Ozzie proclaims proudly that he values money (and expensive item) above silly things like love and World Series championships. What he likes most about Fidel and Hugo is their success in gaining and keep strongman power over and against a powerful enemy. He probably also likes the two politician’s shared taste for giving long and rambling talks before vast captive audiences.
As part of his public apology, Guillen offered a curious translation of what he said to Time. “What I meant in Spanish, I was talking Spanish,” Guillen claims, “was that I can’t believe somebody who hurt so many people over the years is still alive.”
Sure, Ozzie. (Please see this essay’s endnote on the many people helped, not hurt, by the Cuban revolution).
The Standard Double Standard
Still smarting from his goodbye comments in Chicago, I take a certain delight in seeing Guillen eat crow. At the same time, I can’t help but be disgusted by the double standard imposed by the bourgeois and imperial biases of the U.S. corporate entertainment and propaganda system. Spit on gays and on women and spit on the World Series in the name of grotesque personal money and wealth attachment (“fuck the [World Series] ring….I want to buy my fucking boat”) and you get a pass: “oh, that’s Ozzie.” Offer some weak and tasteless praise for a great social and anti-imperial revolutionary and you must hang your head in shame and beg for forgiveness.
Paul Street’s many books include The Empire’s New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real World of Power (Paradigm, 2010), Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis (Rowman&Littlefied, 2007), and (co-authored with Anthony DiMaggio), Crashing the Tea Party (Paradigm, 2011). Street can be reached at email@example.com
 For a useful summary of remarkable accomplishments, see Owen Richards’ essay, written on the eve of the revolution’s 50th anniversary: “Cuban Revolution: Celebrating 50 Years of Accomplishments,” Direct Action, Issue 7 (December 2008), read online at http://directaction.org.au/issue7/cuban_revolution_celebrating_ 50_years_of_accomplishments. “To survive for 50 years, despite a constant and aggressive counter-revolutionary campaign waged by the
“Before 1959, the vast majority of Cubans had very limited access to health care. The capitalist elite had their private physicians but the poor had only a handful of rundown hospitals, and medicines were mostly unaffordable. In the countryside it was even worse; health care was virtually non-existent.”
“The revolution established that health care is a basic right of all Cuban citizens. It established a new ethic in health care — not for profit, but for service to the people. Cuba’s 1976 constitution states: ‘The state guarantees this right by providing free medical and hospital care by means of the installations of the rural medical service network, polyclinics, hospitals, preventative and specialized treatment centres; by providing free dental care; by promoting the health publicity campaigns, health education, regular medical examinations, general vaccinations and other measures to prevent the outbreak of disease.’ ”
“According to the Word Health Organization, life expectancy in
“In 2008, infant mortality in
“Not only does it look after its own people, but the Cuban Revolution exports its world-class health care to other poor countries. In 2008, 36,500 Cuban doctors were sent to 81