Dissent in a Box, or Insularity as an Ally of Totalitarianism

After the German National Socialists came to power, Adolf Hitler entered into a concordat with the Catholic Church in July 1933. Article 1 guaranteed "freedom of profession and public practice of the Catholic religion." Article 23 stated, "The retention of Catholic denomination schools and the establishment of new ones, is guaranteed."

Der Führer, however, was a Lügner (liar). His policies went on to include expropriation of Catholic newspapers and schools, conscription of Catholic children into the Hitler Youth, and infiltration of Church activities.

Fr. William Saunders notes:

Gestapo agents attended Mass and listened to every homily preached, prepared to arrest any priest attacking or criticizing the regime. Chanceries were searched for any "incriminating" documents. Communication with Rome was limited. Nazi propaganda represented the Church as unpatriotic and hoarding wealth with clerics portrayed as idle and avaricious. By 1940, all Catholic schools had been closed, and religious instruction confined to the Church itself or at home. Meanwhile, anti-Christian teaching was imparted in the public schools.

In response to this ethnocidal offensive, Pope Pius XI released the encyclical Mit brennender Sorge ("With Burning Concern") in March 1937, affirming at one point:

Whoever had left in his soul an atom of love for truth, and in his heart a shadow of a sense of justice, must admit that, in the course of these anxious and trying years following upon the conclusion of the concordat, every one of Our words, every one of Our acts, has been inspired by the binding law of treaties. At the same time, anyone must acknowledge, not without surprise and reprobation, how the other contracting party emasculated the terms of the treaty, distorted their meaning, and eventually considered its more or less official violation as a normal policy.

Clergy and laity who defied the Reich soon found themselves in concentration camps.

In 1937, imagine that German Catholic exiles march in Washington against the National Socialists' persecution of Catholicism. Their assembly is passionate and their cause just, but there's one problem: it's auf Deutsch.

Most people who view the assembly don't understand the German placards denouncing Hitler and his totalitarian repression; they view it as an alien gathering and move on. Hitler hears about the assembly and cackles, "Die Dummköpfe denken sie sind in Deutschland!" ("The fools think they're in Germany!")

And thus insularity becomes an ally of totalitarianism.

I don't have to imagine such an alliance, though, since I live near one.

Like Hitler, Fidel Castro targeted Catholicism after coming to power in 1959. The methods of repression could have been modeled on the Nazis': expropriation of Catholic media and schools, harassment of religious services, forced labor camps for "counterrevolutionary" clergy and laity. (As with Nazi Germany, this was part of an animosity to Christianity in general and religion overall. For instance, over 90% of Cuba's pre-1959 Jewish population has fled the country.)

There's no lack of anti-communist media in Miami where the majority of Cuban exiles live. Airwaves contain daily denunciations of totalitarianism in Cuba.

En español, that is.

There's not one daily anti-communist program in English. There isn't even a weekly one.

This is ghettoization incarnate, with two awful consequences: fulfillment of Castro's wishes and alienation of Americans.

Regarding the former, Castro must be elated that exiles segregate their message from Americans, in contrast to his ersatz newspaper available in several languages — or for that matter pro-Castro English radio programs in America.

Regarding the latter, the implicit message to Americans in Spanish anti-communist programs is, "We don't care about you." Exclusion doesn't tend to beget interest.

Cuban Miami's prosperity is substantial and admirable, so it's not like the means don't exist to underwrite English programming. What doesn't exist on this matter is a mentality of Americanness. (How ironic that a community so American in entrepreneurial and educational attainment is anything but vis-à-vis its dearest cause.)

Keep it coming in español, Miami. Your adversary in Havana loves it.

February 24, 2003