Against Revolutionary Tourists

I won't go so far as to declare, “Anybody but de Blasio.” New York lived through Giuliani. We'll probably survive de Blasio, too. But for the record, he shows all the signs of being a moron of the kind mass-produced by the Left, usually sporting a scruffy, bereted Che silk-screened on their chests. They embrace lefty revolutions that do some proxy nose-thumbing at the US, and watch at a safe distance as ideologies and their consequences are writ large in somebody else's life.

When confronted with human rights abuses of their pet leftist regimes, they typically make half-hearted excuses, blaming a meddling US (ignoring their own fingers in the pie), or tout access to health care or literacy or whatever. No matter that their revolutions' accomplishments were ages ago and relatively brief and now the books are censored, the schools crumbling, health care reserved for the regime's faithful elite, and government critics end up in the brig or worse. They don't even notice that the gloriously downtrodden poor are still hungry and voiceless, unless you count the labor unions, run not by the workers but by their employers, the state.

No, when it comes to all that, I can't condemn Mr. de Blasio as being particularly unique –– one of those flowers that blossoms once a millennium. He's just the zucchini of left-wing cretins. Absolutely garden variety, celebrating every leftist revolution he's ever heard of. Usually a couple decades late.

In 1987, when he got involved supporting the Sandinistas, they'd already been in power since 1979 and it was no secret that they celebrated their victory over Somoza's brutal right-wing dictatorship with mass graves. Two or three years later, they suspended civil liberties. And while they did teach peasants to read, the effort was often wasted when the newly literate were tortured or disappeared after protesting official policies.

While Reagan's contras helped destabilize the new Nicaraguan government, excuses for torture and mass murder and dictatorships make me think of Lisbeth Salander in “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” When she was told a serial killer was only evil because he was abused as a boy, she responded, “Bullshit… He killed and he raped because he liked doing it… Gottfried isn't the only kid who was ever mistreated.”

A grave is much like another, whether Somoza put you there, or a Sandinista. By making excuses for these regimes, we lend them support that extends their lives and makes us as complicit in their abuses as Reagan was with the contras, as all Americans are when we support Middle East dictatorships to keep a nice cheap flow of oil.

Still, faux revolutionaries will probably continue to idolize Cuba, even if the honeymoon of the 1959 revolution also lasted only a few months. Already, in 1960, our hero Che was setting up the first labor camps designed for “people who have committed crimes against revolutionary morals.” In the following years, they'd be filled with plenty of queers and dissidents. Most recently, people with AIDS were interned with only slightly better treatment.

It's hard to believe Mr. de Blasio didn't know that when he went there in the early ‘90s to celebrate his honeymoon and supposedly protest the US embargo. It was the beginning of the “Special Period” after the Soviet Union's collapse, when most people experienced the island as a place of hunger and repression, an enormous jail. The beaches and hotels open to him were closed to ordinary Cubans in a cultural apartheid (you can't blame on the US) that only allowed them access if they were waiters or cooks or prostitutes. Here's to protesting US policies over a mojito in a country where real protests are brutally suppressed!

It was even more vile, in 2002, when as a councilperson, he grinned next to Robert Mugabe in front of City Hall. Once a hero in Zimbabwe's fight for independence, the African dictator only continued to win elections by slaughtering his opposition, rigging votes, and distracting the population with anti-gay pogroms –– a favorite pastime of left-wing revolutions, especially those with communist roots like Cuba.

Since I can't rub de Blasio's nose in the messes his revolutionary tourism has supported, I'll just quote James Baldwin at him: “It is not permissible that the authors of devastation should also be innocent. It is the innocence which constitutes the crime.”

Ever since Stalin, if not before, it's been clear there are no redeeming qualities in the dictatorships of the Left. And beyond that, history and common sense tell us, over and over, that social change cannot be engineered from above. You can't march into Iraq and declare democracy. You can't torture and mass grave your way to freedom and economic justice. If interference by American government is wrong, so is interference and unquestioning support from any large groups of outsiders whose only real interest is in protecting a mythology, a cage that other people are forced to live and die in.