It is a sad commentary upon the state of the world that anniversary of a bloodthirsty tyrant’s death is celebrated around the world, and here in the United States, not with glee that his anti-freedom rampage was cut short, but with mourn for the loss.
“I halt in my daily combat to bow my head, with respect and gratitude, to the exceptional combatant who fell on the 8th of October 40 years ago….I give him thanks for what he tried to do, and for what he could not do in his country of birth because he was like a flower yanked prematurely from its stem.”
But amid all the ceremony, what really gets to Ms. Guevara is the use of the man she calls Papi in ways that she says are completely removed from his revolutionary ideals, like when a designer recently put Che on a bikini….
Ms. Guevara and her family, too, have tried to stop the marketing of Che’s image in ways that they find abhorrent. She says they have reached out to lawyers in New York, whom she would not identify, to pursue companies the family thinks are misusing the image, not to sue them for damages, but to ask them to stop.
“We’re not after money,” she said. “We just don’t want him misused. He can be a universal person, but respect the image.”
Yeah. It truly is a travesty that Che gets no respect.
Ms. Guevara travels the world speaking at conferences dealing with Che. At one in Italy, she learned after signing T-shirts for some young people that they were fascists. “They knew nothing about him,” she said with a sigh.
Seriously, why would fascists be interested in Che?
And, according to the NYT, the problem of Che-chic is not just found on American and European college campuses:
Even in Cuba, one of the world’s last Communist bastions, Che is used both to make a buck and to make a point. “He sells,” acknowledged a Cuban shop clerk, who had Che after Che staring down from a wall full of T-shirts.
But at least here he is also used to inspire the next generation of Cubans. Schoolchildren invoke his name every morning, declaring with a salute, “We want to be like Che.” His quotations are recited almost as often as those of Fidel Castro.
Well, that’s good. Heaven forfend that the children go without their daily dose of indoctrination. The really sick thing is that they probably have no idea that being “like Che” means being like this:
In January 1957, as his diary from the Sierra Maestra indicates, Guevara shot Eutimio Guerra because he suspected him of passing on information: “I ended the problem with a .32 caliber pistol, in the right side of his brain…. His belongings were now mine.” Later he shot Aristidio, a peasant who expressed the desire to leave whenever the rebels moved on. While he wondered whether this particular victim “was really guilty enough to deserve death,” he had no qualms about ordering the death of Echevarría, a brother of one of his comrades, because of unspecified crimes: “He had to pay the price.” At other times he would simulate executions without carrying them out, as a method of psychological torture.
Luis Guardia and Pedro Corzo, two researchers in Florida who are working on a documentary about Guevara, have obtained the testimony of Jaime Costa Vázquez, a former commander in the revolutionary army known as “El Catalán,” who maintains that many of the executions attributed to Ramiro Valdés, a future interior minister of Cuba, were Guevara’s direct responsibility, because Valdés was under his orders in the mountains. “If in doubt, kill him” were Che’s instructions. On the eve of victory, according to Costa, Che ordered the execution of a couple dozen people in Santa Clara, in central Cuba, where his column had gone as part of a final assault on the island. Some of them were shot in a hotel, as Marcelo Fernándes-Zayas, another former revolutionary who later became a journalist, has written—adding that among those executed, known as casquitos, were peasants who had joined the army simply to escape unemployment.
As I stated at the outset, it really is sad that this murdering tyrant is not shunned around the world. Every time I see some fool wearing a Che t-shirt I want to scream “Do you even know who that is? Are you sure that you want to parade around with a mass killer’s face imprinted on your chest?”
Of course, a good deal of that ignorance is because of ridiculous fluff pieces like this NYT article. Throughout the entire expose, the only mention of Che’s misdeeds is couched in weasel-words (my emphasis):
“There’s no doubt that when Fidel dies someday, his image will be just like Che’s,” said Enrique Oltuski, the vice minister of fishing and a contemporary of both men. But Che’s mythic status as a homegrown revolutionary does not extend everywhere, even if his image does. When Target stores in the United States put his image on a CD carrying case last year, critics who consider him a murderer and symbol of totalitarianism pressed the retailer to pull the item.
“What next? Hitler backpacks? Pol Pot cookware? Pinochet pantyhose?” Investor’s Business Daily said in an editorial, calling the use of the image an example of “tyrant-chic.”
“Consider him a murderer”? There’s not even a question of doubt on this score, as Che unapologetically admitted to many of his nefarious deeds in his diaries. But don’t let that stop you from appearing to be above the fray. Just go on with your fawning report about how poor Che’s image is being disrespected, and how passionate and wonderful his daughter is for wandering the world to promote violent revolution. Wonderful.
The San Francisco Gate’s take on the memorial to Che including this interesting paragraph entitled “History lesson”:
Medical-student Che was 23 years old when he set out on his first journey, with a friend, around Latin America. On the road, he “discovered a new world far removed from the reality he had known in [his hometown of] Rosario and in Buenos Aires, with his life focused on his studies and on playing…rugby.” During a second trip around the continent, Che spent time in Mexico City, where he met Fidel Castro, a young Cuban lawyer who was talking up his dream of returning to his homeland to lead a socialist revolution against Bautista. Che fell in with Castro and took part in a 1956 rebel invasion of Cuba that sparked a three-year, guerrilla struggle that led to the ousting of the dictator. Che became the first minister of industry in Castro’s new government. In 1966, he set out for Bolivia to export the socialist-revolutionary message. The following year, in the southeastern Bolivian town of La Higuera, Che was killed by representatives of Bolivia’s military and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
Notice anything missing? If not, would you mind checking your closet for me? There are few items there I’d like to burn.
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