Climbing out of the Communist Faith

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Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Ismael Hernandez, the founder of the Freedom & Virtue Institute. He is a black Hispanic ex-communist activist who is now a conservative. His decision to launch his institute was founded on years of hard work in poor communities and his eventual realization that, decades after the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement, there are still walls of silence, oppression and division erected in minority communities by governments, organizations and leaders who are invested in a government-centered vision for minority America.

FP: Ismael Hernandez, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

I would like to talk to you today about your journey from inside to outside of the progressive faith and what you learned from your experience.

Let’s begin with your personal story.

Hernandez: Thank you Jamie.

I was born into a communist household in the poverty-stricken island of Puerto Rico. My father was a founding member of the Socialist Party and an intellectually sophisticated Marxist who left an extensive FBI file. I joined him in the struggle to defeat America, the great enemy of humanity and oppressor of our people. His life was socialism and America was evil. My mom had some faith and occasionally sent us to mass with neighbors. She only cared about the four children at home. Marital discord was inevitable and I blamed America for the situation.

The FBI was a feared and ever-present enemy and I hated them. Eventually my double consciousness (there may be a God but socialism is all that matters) was “solved” when I joined the Jesuit seminary. It was the same as joining a communist cell. There I could have my cake and eat it too. After the deaths of several Jesuits in El Salvador, the Order decided not to send us to Central America to study philosophy.

I was looking forward to study with liberation theologians there. To make a long story short, I made a mistake as a communist: I decided to come to the “guts of the monster.” Eventually, America convinced me of the errors of my views. As I stepped on her soil my lungs were filled with the breath of true freedom.

David Horowitz’s autobiography Radical Son made me shudder. His account of his second thoughts and political transformation punctured my soul to its core. His estrangement from family and friends and his initial resistance and eventual surrender to the truth was as if I was living the account myself. It was as if the corrosive ideology that penetrated every cell of my body was now being decoded and shown to me — to let me know that I was not alone.

FP: Could you be a bit more specific about what led you to your second thoughts? What made you pick up David Horowitz’s Radical Son?

Hernandez: I came to America to study at the University of Southern Mississippi. Yes, Southern Mississippi of all places. An incision pierced my heart as the plane took off over the deep river intent on taking me to Pharaoh. No one would have then convinced me that I was one day to realize that my salvation lied through the waters of liberty. By the end of that first summer semester, I was unexpectedly called to the Dean’s Office. Some professors had highly recommended me for one of only three foreign-student assistantships paying for all my expenses.

For the first time in my life, I began to weakly contemplate the possibility that things were not as I had been told. There I was, still spewing words of hate against America and out of nowhere, and based only on my achievements, I had been offered a reward. Why? About a year before my arrival, I was leading an anti-American campaign in my hometown of Isabela calling on young Puerto Ricans to refuse to fight in the first Persian Gulf War. Paying for anti-American propaganda posters myself, I took pleasure in distributing hundreds of them calling for the refusal. Why? Why offer me any benefit at all? Yet, America embraced me and gave me opportunities I never dreamed of.

I soon found myself attended by heretical thoughts that I never before anticipated. A revolutionary wave was sweeping across my soul and I fought it with iconoclastic zeal. It is not possible, not for me. The fall of the Berlin Wall threatened to pierce another nail in the coffin of my self-confident ideology. It was not supposed to happen. Beginning to read what I previously considered meaningless “Yankee” propaganda, the shades of socialist orthodoxy suddenly failed to come to my rescue and a new world opened before me.  One day, I picked up Mr. Horowitz’s book because the theme sounded familiar. I had no idea who he was at that time. As I read his account of his childhood, I wept often at his stories and anecdotes, as they brought familiar pains and similar situations to me in the context of my beloved father. Not being able again to talk to my father about my views and to see friends still hurts me.

FP: I am sorry for the pain you endured and continue to endure for the courage to have left the political faith. Can you tell us a bit about how you were not able to share your views with your father and how your community abandoned you after you committed your heresy?

Hernandez: The journey of truth-discovery is often painful. It is not so much what is said by some “friends,” but the silence, the looks and the separation from those who once were so close that hurts the most. With my father, the loss was deeper. In his universe, nothing was supposed to interfere with a revolutionary’s commitment to the cause, nothing. This explains why my father grew so detached from his children and wife, as if coming too close to us was adulterous. I can still see him now, standing with pumped chest and eyes wide open while mother sat at the table and contended with him:

Revolution is my life. You see these children, [pointing toward us] if I could offer their lives right now for independence and revolution, I would do it without hesitation!” He yelled at mom.

I can remember mom crying while we tried to console her. Deep inside, however, I was in proud agreement with him. How my metamorphosis must have pained him. My passion for socialism fading, I had become a stranger to him and he could not take it. No rejection from past comrades could compare with the sadness of my father’s disappointment. Close to the end, we ceased to discuss politics at all and dreaded to bring up anything touching on ideology. My father was the product of his generation and of deep convictions. Not prone to openly express much emotion or accept an intellectual challenge from one of his sons, I realized that my chances for a deeper encounter were nil.

The closest I felt to my father was while reading his only letter to me, where he expressed his love and admiration for what I had accomplished and thanked me for a previous letter I had sent him. Not that I had not known of his love; I always knew of his love for me although he never verbalized it. After all, I was the most radical of his children, the one who could always understand. The great fear of totally losing him by losing the dreams of revolution, I am thankful, never materialized, and his letter was enveloped in that truth.

My stance with other radicals was another matter. It ran a tumultuous course others before me have experienced. A Puerto Rican socialist reading this account will despise me even more. For black leftists, consternation at my position easily shifts toward dismissal. I am simply someone who cannot understand their reality, as I am not one of them. Moreover, for others, I will remain forever suspect — a price I am ready to pay for my embrace of freedom.

Just a few years ago, I buried my father with his beloved Puerto Rican flag embracing his casket as he embraced it with his life. He died a communist. At that time, I again silently sang the revolutionary songs to pay homage to the fallen warrior. While burying him, I stepped on a dream where I remembered his laughter and joy during rallies while I, long before, have waved my red flag and pumped my tight left fist by his side. And I cried over his death and I still honor his life.

Failing health and the nearness of finality notwithstanding, his closing days were met by a measure of God’s love. Absolute coalescence between his politics and faith was never achieved, but I know that God likes fighters on his side. Although his revolutionary utopian plan remained unrealized, he fought the good fight. Where there is no passion for truth, there can be no yielding before its throne. Therefore, by the end, the communist warrior prayed daily and with devotion and received communion. I have no doubt that in the heavenly abode, the full truth now finally discovered, he is still gathering the angels around to do more than just sing.

Looking back to my father’s journey, I feel a sense of contented thankfulness for the mercy of God upon me in revealing through my father that life is nothing but a meaningless eventual vanishing if truth, as the key to open the mysteries of existence, is not passionately pursued. It is true, the air of freedom now filling the lungs of my soul killed the fantasies of socialism within me but dad’s committed life taught me how to retrieve and wave a new flag, the flag of freedom. And now, I am convinced, he still looks on in contented approval.

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  • Chezwick_Mac

    Powerful interview. Hernandez may be prone to a degree of rhetorical excess – perhaps a hangover from his days as a Marxist, but his analysis on race at the end of the interview is both penetrating and profound. I wish him all the best in his endeavors.

  • therealend

    The only thing you can tell about a person by their race is which continent their ancestors came from. Period. Secondly, leaving something you believed in deeply can be depressing. You go from believing to having your beliefs shattered. Just because Marxism sounds so perfect doesn't mean it is, or will be. It means you haven't heard an adequate analysis of its true nature or, you aren't ready to hear one.

  • tagalog

    Too bad that, in all his studying, he didn't read Richard Wright's essay and the rest of the book The God That Failed. He might have saved himself some time.

    Reading The Gulag Archipelago probably would have helped too.

  • wesley69

    "Socialism is a utopian plan to build what cannot be built, to realize what is only illusory, and to destroy what works even if the result is chaos and death." This is one of the most telling statements Mr. Hernandez makes in this interview.

    Mr. O. had similar experiences as he grew up. He was given opportunities by this country and took advantage of them achieving success in politics. But, his journey lead him to become the most radical leftist president in our history. Mr. Hernandez, when exposed to the "flag of freedom" began to question his beliefs, which he eventually reject.

    Two journeys – two different paths chosen. What is interesting is Mr. Hernandez's description of the fall of the Berlin Wall as another nail into leftist thinking. It seems that Mr. Hernandez learned the lessons of history, whereas Mr. O. refuses to and continues to push the US down the socialist path, believing, I suppose, he will succeed where all other have failed. A very compelling interview!

    All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
    Thomas Jefferson

  • wesley69

    "Mr. Hernandez’s most telling statement is that Marxism is “ a utopian plan to build what cannot be built, to realize what is only illusory, and to destroy what works even if the result is chaos and death."

    Thinking about Mr. Hernandez’s reflections on his own life, I realized that Mr. O. had similar experiences as he grew up. He was given opportunities by this country and took advantage of them achieving success in politics. But, his journey lead him to become the most radical leftist president in our history. Mr. Hernandez, when exposed to the "flag of freedom" began to question his beliefs, which he eventually rejected.

  • wesley69

    Two journeys – two different paths.. Another interesting point was Mr. Hernandez's description of the fall of the Berlin Wall as another nail into his radical thought process. It seems that Mr. Hernandez learned the lessons of history, whereas Mr. O. refuses to and continues to push the US down the Marxist path, believing, I suppose, he will succeed where all other have failed. A very compelling interview!

    All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
    Thomas Jefferson

  • bubba4

    The Horowitz is strong in this one…

    How old is this guy because Puerto Rico became a Commonwealth of the United States in 1947…and at least 20 years before that people born in Puerto Rico were citizens of the US.

    It sounds like he suffered child abuse, not political persecution. He woke up one day and discovered he had been a free citizen all along. Happy ending!

    • Minaka

      Yep. The father he still adores was abusive in a way, keeping his kids shackled to his own discredited belief system (the same father who roared to his wife that he would sacrifice those kids in a minute for his communist cause). It's like one of those aging Japanese soldiers who emerged from the jungles decades after WWII ended and hostilities ceased.

    • winoceros

      I think he was, of course, a citizen of the United States, but his family and associate perspective was that of separatism and denial of the United States. When he speaks of coming to "America," I think he just means coming to the mainland.

      Many people have no idea how different it is culturally and nationalistically living in a place like Hawaii or Puerto Rico and what a sense of "other" mainlanders are. Obama never set foot on mainland soil until he was 17. He was surrounded by either leftists or Muslims his whole life before that.

      It's why he can't get his colloquialisms right.

  • Rifleman

    Using "Horowitz" as a synonym for "truth" was brilliant bubba.

    I guess you've never heard of PRNP, PSP, FALN, or Los Macheteros?

    • bubba4

      It was actually kind of a Star Wars joke…but whatever.

      • Rifleman

        I know, but that was too easy ;-)

    • winoceros

      Rifle, rifle…you are hereby sentenced to watching the holy trilogy, Episodes IV-VI only, and getting back to us.
      :)

  • Indioviejo

    Puerto Rican marxism, runs deep and for a very long time. The Independentistas" under Pedro Albizu Campo were totally marxist, just as Lolita Lebron, would be assasin of HST, (Pardoned by Clinton), and as recently as Ana Belen Montes, convicted spy. The fact that so many Puerto Ricans are, and have been very loyal Americans, is a torn in the heart of the marxist everwhere. No other group has a higher percentage of people serving selflessly in our military in proportion to the Island's population. They know Freedom and they defend it.

  • Ralph N.

    Re: final quote: ". . . true participation in the molding of our true self will find the end of racialism. Only in such discovery will our racial identity find its rightful place . . . " And as Columbus might have said, "Only after circling the globe will we be able to finally prove the earth is flat."

    A bit less Mario Salvio – and more Moses, would have given hope for optimism. Freedom can lead to democracy just as easily as to demagoguery. Marx himself found it necessary to live in the freedom of the U.K. to publish his ideas.

  • truebearing

    Leaving an ideology you have been indoctrinated into is hard, but not as hard as displeasing your father by rejecting the ideology he taught you. That takes courage and strength.
    Obama chose to follow the ideology of a father he didn't know, and who abandoned him, in part because of his ideological mission in Kenya. Obama adopted his father's ideology and forged an identity as a leftist ideologue, never apparently having the courage or clarity to question the beliefs of a man who would callously abandon his children.

    Of the two men, one would think Hernandez would be the one least likely to change, but his father did teach him to have courage. Obama desperately clings to his ideology and the hollow personality he has cobbled together, and his weakness makes him dangerous.

  • hijinx60

    This is one of the most touching and powerful interviews that I have ever read. Thank you Front Page Mag.

  • Rik

    What else can you say about this article? Revelation from an incredible life story. Thank you Ismael Hernandez for sharing your pain personal story.

  • http://www.teacheconomicfreedom.org sjhaessler

    I admire Mr. Hernandez striving to practice the virtues of fortitude and prudence. What a moving account of the transcendent power of love. This interview inspires me to do more. Thank you Mr. Hernandez for sharing this story. Thank you FrontPage for making it available.

  • ile ramos

    Love you Ismael!! so happy to have met you over a year ago – all of us her at SWFL912 in Naples – keep fighting the good fight – and opening the eyes of our youth -God is honored & pleased – :)

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