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My Love Affair With Dixie

by Humberto Fontova

Regarding the bilge from Begala about the red sections of the electoral map as hotbeds of "hate" and murderous bigotry:

One day in Guatemala a GI who was training my older cousins for the Bay of Pigs invasion finally lost it. He was a professional soldier and his excitable and unruly charges were giving him fits.

"Straighten up, goddamitt!" he barked. "Remember! It’s YOUR f**king war!"

He was exactly right…..exactly right. All we asked to get by was: " a little help from our friends." We didn’t need no stinkin "no-fly zone" half a world away, and hundreds of thousands of miles wide, and enforced for a decade by half the US Air Force. We needed it 90 miles away, three miles wide, for two days and using, at most, two planes. We didn’t need no stinkin "New World Order" — whatever the hell that means. We needed help in toppling the deadliest and most direct threat this nation faced since 1812. This wasn’t no two-bit Bedouin thug making a camel-raid on a neighboring tribe either. It’s plain as day in recently-declassified Soviet documents my friends: Fidel and Che wanted to press the button and incinerate half the populations in the South during the missile crisis. That’s the MAIN reason the Soviets got them out!.. Holy S**t! They said.(In Russian) We can’t leave these things here with these nuts!"

True stuff here, my friends. But don’t look for it in the asinine "Thirteen Days." Can’t have a Hollywood movie portraying Nicholson and Redford’s fishing buddy as a meanie now can we?

So you talk about an Operation Just Cause! That was the Bay of Pigs! Yet we couldn’t convince Washington to spring for a minuscule fraction of the firepower it hurled against a two-bit pimp in Panama or tribal warlord in Mogadishu!

My friends, if I live to be a million years old, I will NEVER UNDERSTAND the workings of the Liberal North American mind.

But Ah!…..If Nixon — the man who nailed Hiss and saw through Castro on the very first meeting in 1959 — had only shaved off that five-o’clock shadow before the debate! If Daley hadn’t stolen those votes! Sweet visions!…

My wife always protests here. "Then he’d given your uncles and cousins air cover, Fidel woulda been hanging by his heels like Mussolini, and we’d never met!" she wails.

"Nonsense!" I counter. "You and your sorority sisters woulda been going to Havana for Spring Break, not Panama City. We’d a met."

Whatever, a month later that same GI was in another sputtering fury, but at his commanders in Washington this time. He couldn’t believe what he heard. He choked with rage. Yes, he was a soldier. And orders were orders….But like the Krauts heard from 101st Airborne at Bastogne — "Nuts!"

But this "Nuts!"was spat at his own commander. Our war had become his. He defied direct orders from the Ivy League’s Best and Brightest and followed the dictates of his stout Southern heart. He was an Alabama boy. His instincts prevailed. Free of Ivy League taint he had archaic notions of right and wrong. These crazy Cubans often exasperated him, but he quickly forged deep bonds with his men (many of them black, Messiers Rangel, Jackson, and Mfume). He knew who the enemy was. He knew what was happening on that island.

So he waded ashore and leapt into what was by then a clearly hopeless battle as his ancestors looked down, whooping and cheering and waving their rebel caps. His ammo exhausted, his resupply canceled by Washington, thousands of Communists swarming in, he fell dead amongst his adopted brothers.

He was trying to free Cubans, Mr Begala, foreigners. And I wouldn’t call him a "bigot" or a "crackpot" or a "mercenary" anywhere near Little Havana, if I were you, sir.

That odious "Miami Mafia" set up a trust fund for his children’s education too, Mr. Begala. Know of any such funds from your snooty French friends for the sons and daughters of the brave men piled-up at Omaha Beach?..Hunh?….. Didn’t think so.

El Pais que nos abrio los brazos — "The country that opened it’s arms to us," as my late and saintly grandmother always referred to the US. And she was referring , yes, to the (small) federal government of the time but mainly to neighbors, to local governments, to private and religious charities, and often to perfect strangers.

In the early 60’s we lived in a humble apartment complex in New Orleans. The city hosted a major NASA construction site so it sucked in workers from all over the "xenophobic" and "hate-filled" South……. Who’s at the door now? ….AHHH!! Is that a WHITE HOOD?!!

Of course not, Mr. Begala….it’s Mrs. Jeffrey with a basket of fried chicken, and Mr. Jeffrey offering help translating the job application.

The Jeffreys were originally from Texas, Mr Begala. That’s religious nuts in Waco and sadistic murderers in Irving to you.

To us it’s Mrs. Jeffrey with her big basket of food, and more importantly, with her big Texas smile. She’s taking my mother shopping with her again. She’s consoling her during another sob-fest about Papi in La Cabana prison and maybe in front of the Paredon this very dawn. It’s also Mr. Jeffrey, a WWII and Korea vet who knows a little Spanish, swerving from fiery rage to silent sympathy while apologizing to my grandfather in a heavy Texas twang for the Bay of Pigs — as if it was his doing, as if he hadn’t done enough for others’ freedom already!

You’d probably never understand Mr. Begala, but as Mr. Jeffrey saw it, that was HIS flag on those ships off the Cuban coast. HIS flag on the planes overhead. And though he choked on the name, it was HIS President who gave them the order to scram. Mr. Jeffrey had seen that flag go up over Manila and Seoul. Dozens of his buddies who helped carry it fell along the way. He saw what that fluttering canvas meant to the delirious crowds who screamed and wept and cheered, knowing that freedom was at hand.

We can argue about America’s "national interest" till the cows come home, and reasonable people can differ on whether it means putting out (or stoking) fires in every pesthole on earth — but dear Mr. Jeffrey, wherever he is today, (and if you happen to be reading this, God bless you, sir) knows that if his flag had flown over Pyongyang in 1953, North Korea wouldn’t today be a charnel house of mass-murder, starvation, and cannibalism. If it had waved a little longer off Playa Giron we wouldn’t be neighbors. But that’s okay. We might have met on vacations. The Lord works in mysterious way. And yes, Mr. Begala, you’d probably call the Jeffreys "religious nuts."

Another knock……AAHH!!…. are they wearing SWASTIKAS!! No Mr Begala, it’s Mrs. Frey, from upstairs. The Freys hailed from Mobile Alabama. That’s the land of Selma and Bull Connor to you. To us, it’s Mrs. Frey with her bleached-blond bouffant and hilarious (to us) Southern drawl, offering us terrified children another ride to that strange school where nobody understands us ( bilingual education my ass! We learned English in two months!)….And what’s in that bag? Mami’s in tears again, but these look different….ah, some clothes outgrown by the Frey children, for us. (No way Mami! I ain’t wearing that!) And looks like a new blouse for her.

And here comes Mrs. Boudreaux from across the street. She’s a local, from the land of — SHRIEK and SHUDDERR!! — David Duke, to you Begala. To us she’s a perpetually cheerful woman with fuzzy slippers and a HUGE-bottom (Cubans always notice this) who’s bringing a big pot of Gumbo and a phone number of a friend who might have a job for grandad — and Glory Be! — speaks a little Spanish.

They came almost every day, Mr. Begala. Just ask my parents.

And this was in the very gizzard of the "bigoted" and "hate-filled" South, Mr. Begala. When you’ve just fled a totalitarian hell with the clothes on your back, when you find yourself in a strange land not knowing the language, when nights are a sleepless, mind-churning marathon of worries: did uncle Pepe fall to the firing squad this dawn? Is cousin Manolo still in hiding? Where’s the next meal coming from? — how on earth will we pay for the kids schooling? with all this going on, that stuff helps, believe me. ( I speak here for my parent’s generation. I was seven years old. Seemed like a Disney adventure to me.)

As one whose family was almost suffocated by them, I’m here to tell ya that the arms of the "bigoted" folks of Dixie opened damn wide for these foreigners. And the embrace from Hollywood’s favorite caricature of "intolerance" and "xenophobia" and "hate" on these weird octopus-eating strangers was plenty tight and plenty warm.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Mr. Begala.

Humberto Fontova’s book entitled The Helldiver’s Rodeo — about cajun-style undersea lunacy — is due for release on March 1st. It’s already listed on Amazon.com and can be pre-ordered.