A close friend of mine who is a journalist is going to Havana to celebrate her birthday this winter. She asked if I wanted to go along. I sent her this article about a Cuban airport worker hiding out in the landing gear in order to escape to Canada, commenting "I can't imagine wanting to visit some place people are so desparate to get out of".
But that was just a glib riff on something I feel much more deeply. I don't understand the moral difference between enjoying a vacation in Cuba and visiting a slave plantation. For what is Cuba except a plantation writ large? Everything that is good about a visit is a side effect of the repressive Castro regime that accepts no limits on its control of its inmates. My friend is a good person, someone who I've always thought of as more upright than I am. I just can't understand how she can so blithely ignore the massive suffering that under girds her pleasant vacation. It's one thing to be in the country because it's a job, another to willingly vacation there.
She's quite the liberal, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that someone who smuggled pictures out of South Africa during the apartheid regime would be willing to overlook Castro's oppression. It's a very common pattern, but no more understandable for it. She's claimed that Castro has "done good" for the Cuban people (as if buying your wife nice dinners makes up for beating her) and that without Castro the Cuban exiles would get back in control (as if Cuba wouldn't be freer and richer if they'd never left). She seems to think that the latter is what worries the Cuban people, but it's not clear to me that as a journalist, she would ever have been able to talk to people freely. It's certainly not the view I have from my readings of Cuban refugees and political prisoners.
There's no real point to this post, just some venting. I pride myself on being able to understand other's view points (it's something that makes me good at my job), but this person, who's been one of my closest friend for decades, I just can't grasp at all.