Here in Boston, the news is full of genuinely moving stories about the courageous people who, when the bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, ran towards danger, into the chaos of injured and bleeding people and more potential explosions, in order to help the innocent bystanders overtaken by the agonies of a terrorist act. They were medical personnel already on site to tend to the runners, EMTs and police officers, runners and the people who came to watch them, who, when their community was threatened, stepped up to help in whatever way they could.
In the five days that followed, none of us knew what would happen next, whether the people who had done this would do it again, whether the next car chase, with bombs tossed out windows and bullets flying, would be down our street.
In that atmosphere of scant information, heightened emotion, wild speculation, and rumblings of racist, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim hate speech and violence, and despite the overwhelming, militarized response, and eroding civil liberties as the FBI questioned high school and college students unaware of their rights,---the danger of more attacks remained a distinct possibility, and even those of us who maintain a high level of skepticism about whether the police are here to protect us were able to appreciate the courage it took to keep combing through our neighborhoods looking for young men with little to lose and a whole lot of fire power.
I am thinking about the outpouring of gratitude towards the agents and officers who identified, found and stopped the young men suspected of this crime, the flood of appreciation and support for all the people who took risks, who tied tourniquets around bleeding limbs, went into potentially booby-trapped apartments to disarm explosives, who faced the possibility of their own deaths at the hands of people who had already killed, and put themselves in harm's way to protect the rest of us.
I'm fortunate to know five men who did exactly that. Who saw innocent people being threatened by indiscriminate political violence, and walked toward danger in order to protect them. They put themselves in the paths of people who had already killed, who had bombed hotels and airplanes, and hurled biological weapons at ordinary people going about their business in the streets, causing 101 children and 57 adults to bleed internally and die. The men I know infiltrated dangerous cells of bloody-minded criminals to discover and prevent their plans, and what they learned was turned over to the authorities.
But my friends have not been profiled on the nightly news for their courage. Sports teams have not donated the proceeds of a major league game to them.
Our government didn't praise them for what they did.
Proud terrorist Luis Posada Carriles
That's because the innocent people who were killed and maimed live in Havana, not Boston, and the terrorists aren't Muslim immigrants from Chechnya. They live in Miami, walk the streets openly boasting of their crimes, have been known to murder their critics in broad daylight, and get money and technical support from the CIA.
Not only did my heroic friends not get Humanitarians of the Year, our government arrested them, charged them with endangering our security, paid journalists to find them guilty in the press, sentenced them to decades in prison, with long bouts of solitary confinement, refused them their right to see their families, interfered with visits from their legal teams, and one of them, who was entitled to conditional release for the final years of his sentence, was forced to live in isolation, in danger of retaliation from the terrorists he opposed, instead of allowing him to finish out his time in his own community, as is usual.
And because the Cuban authorities did exactly what law enforcement did right here in Boston a week ago, and shot at the vehicle in which known terrorists were approaching a populated area, loaded to the gills with death, and planning to unleash it, they have convicted one of my friends, who never fired a shot, of murder.
My friends' names are Gerardo, Antonio, Ramón, Fernando and René. Their faces are painted on
the walls of hospitals and schools all over Cuba, children sing to them, and people of conscience worldwide work tirelessly to free them because these men walked into fire for the sake of others, for the sake of a revolutionary experiment in social equality which its enemies can't bear to leave in peace.
Yesterday, René Gonzalez, was granted the right complete his sentence in Cuba, where he will be celebrated as he deserves. Millions of people, in Cuba and around the world, feel about my friends as Bostonians feel about the heroes of Boylston Street and its aftermath. I can think of no better tribute to the dead and wounded and traumatized of the Boston Marathon bombing than to send these Cuban heroes home to their families, with our thanks for trying to make the world we share a safer place.
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