The Ugly Little Doll of Tyranny

For the children.

On the March 21, 2016, broadcast of his new Levin TV show, Mark Levin showed his audience a symbol of tyranny.

In the 1970s, Levin, then about 18 or 20 years old, and a few other young people received a scholarship to travel to different parts of Europe. One of the places they visited was Checkpoint Charlie, a military outpost where people could cross the border of West and East Berlin. 

Levin and the others took the opportunity to board a bus for a short detour into East Berlin. A German woman with a Russian hat drove the bus down one street for four blocs into the Eastern sector. That was as far as they were allowed to go.

On that street there was a series of fake, empty shops, including a car dealership displaying identical black cars, a cafe and a department store. Levin was not impressed. While the bus driver, in broken english, was telling the young Westerners how wonderful the Socialist paradise of East Germany was, Levin asked her “Why don’t you take us a few miles into the city?” The bus driver pretended she couldn’t understand what this young American was saying.

The last stop was a souvenir area, where the Westerners were allowed to get themselves a meal - coffee and a biscuit, or bean soup and a roll, or whatever. Levin decided to buy a memento, something to remind himself of the hell that was Communism. 

The memento is an ugly little doll, made out a felt, with a black hat and shabby brown coat. It has a thick beard, a big nose, glasses, a cigar and carrying what looks to be some sort of contract. Even 40 years later, Levin can barely contain his disgust - “Number 1: Look at how crude it is; Number 2: Look at the stereotype! LOOK at the stereotype!!! And they were proud of this!”

Watching this brought to mind my two week visit to working class areas of Cuba in 2014. At one point in this visit, I took a couple of bus trips of my own. One was from Havana, on the Western side of the island, to Santiago, on the Eastern edge of the island, and a few days later I took a bus back to Havana.

The buses were probably older than I am, crowded, and hot, since the AC didn’t work. So I spent my time looking out the window - at the Escambray Mountains where Cuban patriots once formed a resistance movement and bravely fought tooth and nail against the communists for years until they were overwhelmed by Soviet military weaponry. The landscape of the tropical island is undeniably beautiful, with it’s palm trees and other plant life. But the landscape was blotted by what looked like slabs of concrete with windows - the lifeless grey buildings that characterize communist architecture. 

I made it a point to visit one of these complexes, and through some arranging I was able to accompany someone to see a family who lived in such a building. There were about 6 people living in the small, toilet paper-less (ever wonder what those who live in unfree societies do with their “free” government propaganda newspapers?) apartment, including 2 little girls probably no older than 7. The adults wanted to know what it was like to have freedom, but these girls were curious about something else. They wanted to know from this American guest about their favorite thing in the world - Disney movies. 

Here in the United States, my nieces and cousins have Disney toys that can sing and dance. But in Cuba, these kids simply wanted to have copies of the movies themselves. And they had not heard of “Frozen”, the 2013 movie that was taking the children of the world by storm.

I found myself, in broken Spanish, trying to explain to these 2 little girls the themes of “Frozen”. It is primarily a story about the power of love and family, but there is more to it than that. It is also about the injustice of having to flee your home and leave everything you have and everyone you love behind because of something beyond your control. These girls will someday learn of how that hard decision was faced by so many of their fellow Cubans who fled into exile, and by the desperate parents of 14,000 children who were secretly airlifted to the United States so that they could live a better life - an event now known as Operation Pedro Pan. 

I recently discovered that one of my heroes from when I was their age, Thuy Trang - who I knew as Trini Kwan, one of the original Power Rangers - had to flee Communist Vietnam as a 6 year old child and almost died on a refugee boat on the pacific ocean before being rescued. She and her mother were among the 2,000,000 Vietnamese “Boat People” who risked everything for a chance to live free, hundreds of thousands of whom did not survive the voyage. 

Sometimes children of the free world find themselves trapped in Communist regimes. I learned from Timothy Garton Ash’s book The File that in Berlin, on the night the wall went up (August 13, 1961), thousands of children who were on the Eastern side (for innocent reasons like visiting grandparents) were separated from their parents for decades. Ash writes: “A confidential report that I recently found among the papers of [West German] Chancellor Willy Brandt suggest that in August 1972 the GDR [East Germany] was still holding more than a thousand such children.“ 

Other times the Communists would kidnap children from the free world, like they did to hundreds of thousands of Greek children at the end of the Greek civil war as they retreated behind the Iron Curtain. When a Greek villager named Eleni Gatzoyiannis smuggled her children to safety and ensured their passage to the United States, the Greek Communists arrested her. On August 28, 1948, as she faced the Communist firing squad, Eleni defiantly cried out “My Children!” before she was martyred. (This story is told in full in the 1983 book Eleni, written by her son Nicholas Gage. President Ronald Reagan was so moved by the book that he recommended it to the nation in a 1987 nationally televised address.) 

The amazing thing about all this is that every step toward communism is justified as an act of compassion - often “for the children.” Let it be clear that it is capitalism that is the best for our children. If you ever have any doubt about this, just remember The Ugly Little Doll of Tyranny that Mark Levin bought in East Berlin. If that’s the best communists are willing to do to make their children happy, then that system is wrong for everybody who loves children.

(The details of Mark Levin’s brief visit to East Berlin have been pieced together from information Levin has given over the years - principally from the March 21, 2016, Levin TV broadcast and audio from his May 28, 2013, radio broadcast.)