It is often said that before you die, your life passes before your eyes. It is in fact true. It's called living.
Lets talk about a particular individual, who for brevity's sake (and for the added suspense it gives this story), we will name X. Good choice for a mystery name, if I do say so myself.. Best heard to the strains of Supertramp's Long Way Home or Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon.
Okay, enough of the atmospheric qualities. :)
A boy, born out of wedlock on what we assume was a balmy day, some 80 years ago to a servant working for a rich man - who as it will turn out, was the father. He wasn't baptized till the age of 8, enduring the ridicule of his peers - and had to wait till the age of 17 to be formally recognized by being given his father's last name, which would shape his identity a few decades down the line.
At the age of 12, he wrote a letter to the Roosevelt, the US President, expressing his will to be a friend and in return, asking for a 10$ bill because he had never seen one before. History doesn't record whether an answer was sent back, or not. Growing up, he attended a gaggle of schools, finally entering a local university to study law. Embroiled in university politics, he began to head major factions and eventually traveled to another country to protest against US policies at a local convention. As fate would've had it, the country underwent a bloody coup and the streets erupted in heavy violence leading X to seek refuge at his embassy, and be shipped back - safe, but seared with a thousand impressions which would change his life.
Finally graduating with that law degree, he used his skills to develop a constitutionally legal framework of appeals to challenge his country's ruling government (a dictatorship, rather) on charges of corruption - which, surprise surprise, were refuted immediately. He was of course, put into prison, but not before he delivered a defence speech short of nothing but a masterpiece.
I warn you, I am just beginning! If there is in your hearts a vestige of love for your country, love for humanity, love for justice, listen carefully... I know that the regime will try to suppress the truth by all possible means; I know that there will be a conspiracy to bury me in oblivion. But my voice will not be stifled – it will rise from my breast even when I feel most alone, and my heart will give it all the fire that callous cowards deny it... Condemn me. It does not matter. History will absolve me.
Granted an amnesty, and failing to see his efforts gain fruition, he traveled to the United States and with help from other exiles in residence there, trained in guerrilla warfare. Engaged in negotiations with the USSR for weapons, and collaborated with South American revolutionaries to form a task force to topple the aforementioned dictator. And was successful.
Born a catholic, although he never practiced it, X was then summarily excommunicated by the Vatican for his role in the uprising. (Yes, the Pope actually upheld the excommunication of any catholic supporting revolutions). Miffed, to put none too fine a point on it, he banned Christmas as a State Holiday for almost 30 years - It was in fact reinstated as a state holiday in 1999, when he finally went back to a cathedral - a place he'd last visited in 1946, half a century ago.
But his story is far from over. His astounding resoluteness shown by successive comebacks in the light of radically challenging difficulties is the stuff legends are made of. In his own words,
If surviving assassination attempts were an Olympic event, I would win the gold medal.
Conservative estimates at the number of attempts made at assassinating him hover at around 683. Yes. Six Hundred and Eighty Three. Some of them are staid and boring, such as the sniper rifles, and bombs. Others are more intriguing, ranging from exploding cigars, poisoned diving suits, cold cream jars with poison, and in an incident reminiscent of James Bond, hiring an ex lover to kill him. Rumor has it that the US President even *consulted* Ian Fleming on his thoughts on getting rid of X. Want a piece of irony? His wife's nephews today are leading congressmen in the US and actively speak out against his policies. So does his daughter.
But personal threats were of definitely little consequence to one who was solely responsible for the closest the world ever came to exchanging nuclear missiles after WWII - what the incident was, of course, will become obvious once you get to the end of the post, so patience! Thats a good reader. Where am I going with this? The fact that this ostensibly indomitable person has been languishing in a hospice somewhere, undergoing operation over operation to save him from cancer. Which, if news reports are to be trusted, aren't going well at all. The predictions are already being made on possible death announcements, and a collective sigh of relief from the world's governments as the bane of (many of) their existence finally fades into the pages of history, albeit with 21 gun salutes rather than with the swish of a few pages shutting the last chapter of his life which they would've preferred.
I feel strangely attracted to X - his ability to resolutely stand for what he believes is right, amongst other things. To face off the biggest bullies on the block (figuratively and otherwise), and come up trumps requires guts and a razor sharp brain. Sure, there are detractors who label him a dictator, and I do agree that he's no saint - but then, how many people today can be given that honor anyway?
The capitalistic hegemony which has in recent past gotten away with the grotesque hangings of people in Iraq will be denied _this_ particular victory anyway - summary executions which are leaked to the public are bad enough, but incompetent leadership, a doting vote-base with (mostly) no inkling of anything beyond their own noses and to make matters worse, absolute belief in their leader have made the US nothing more than a bully on the world stage. But coming to the point - a gentle introduction to X.
Standing on the world stage as the longest serving communist leader ever, right across the waters of the world's oldest democracy is hardly easy. Bearing the burden of a dozen sanctions, economic and otherwise, he managed to not only revolutionize his country as much as was possible, he even sent support in the form of troops, resources and doctors to other countries. For this he was nominated for the Peace Nobel in 2001.
Ladies and Gentlemen. Give it up for Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz, the president of Cuba.
He may not have been perfect, but there's a lot we can learn from the likes of him.
I found that letter too!