He was a 29 year old American from Ohio who, in 1958, trekked deep in the forests of Cuba to join the rebel camp of the Segundo Frente Nacional del Escambray (Second National Front of the Escambray). William Morgan was not an activist, a politician, a peacekeeper or a celebrity, although his actions could have labelled him as such at one moment or another. He fought for the freedoms of the Cuban people not because he had a personal connection to one of the revolutionaries, nor because he had a personal vendetta against Batista. He went not for adventure or glory or money or friends, nor for any sense of pride or duty. In the words of Morgan,
“This is a wonderful world in which we live. But it will be at its best when every man is free and no where in the world are men oppressed because one man wants to rule others. I am here, because here are men who believe as I do; here are men fighting for liberty and justice in their land and I am here to fight with them.” (The Americano, p. 73)
Morgan was not Cuban. His family was not Cuban. His lover or friends or employer was not Cuban. So why did he dedicate the last three years of his life to a country and a people that would in fact lead to his death, with no saving graces offered from the country he had called home for the first 29 years of his life? Morgan knew what we all know. But he did not stop at hearing it and forgetting it. He did not stop at hearing it and hurting from it and regretfully pushing it away. Instead, Morgan asked,
“…Here is a dictator who has been supported by the Communists and he would fall from power tomorrow if it were not for the American aid. I ask myself why do we support those who would destroy in other lands the ideals which we hold so dearly?” (The Americano, p. 75)
And when there was no answer, it became not simply another unfortunate rhetorical question. It became his question to answer. And his answer was to go and fight.
How often am I guilty of not doing exactly that? How often do I mourn the state of the world –
orphans in India, mutilated to bring in bigger begging profits; cheap and chic clothing bought off the backs of child labourers in Canada and overseas; excessive motor vehicle use choking our asthmatic atmosphere; whole families slowly starving while I spoon my leftovers into the dog’s bowl –
and yet do nothing?
Every hour. Every day. I do nothing.
Until I take the unanswered questions of the today and make the answers my problem, nothing will change.
“At the State Department, William Wieland, by no means a supporter of Batista, said, ‘I know Batista is considered by many to be a son of a bitch… but American interests come first… At least he is our son of a bitch.'” (The Americano, p. 99)
But do we actually want change?
What is worth fighting for?