Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Why is Che so cool?

He's everywhere. Just last week I saw his iconic picture a half dozen times just walking around class, and everytime I see him, I can't help but cringe. I'm talking about Che Guevara and the ubiquitious woodprint like image plastered on t-shirts and all things capitalistic everywhere. I can't help but wonder if these fellow college students really comprehend the shirt they have chosen to wear. What motivates these people to raise Che to such rock-star status? Is it just because other kids are doing it, and thus it is cool? Do they love communist dictatorships? Doubtful. Sadly, I think most people see Che as just that image on a shirt or that guy in a movie who helped some lepers out.

Of course, Che's early life, which was recently put in cinematic form via The Motorcycle Diaries is fairly non-consequential and even somewhat admirable stuff. Perhaps people have bought these shirts to parade around in because they admire the man portrayed in the movie, but that picture is from a much different era in his life.

Alvargo Vargas Llosa detailed very nicely why it shouldn't be cool to wear Che memorabilia. For one, his own testimonials reflect his true, vicious nature: he would write about himself as a "violent, selective, and cold-blooded killing machine." Or, take this paragraph from the article:
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.
As director of La Cabana prison, he was responsible for the execution without fair trial of at least 179 people, and some estimates from the U.S. Government have him responsible for as many as 2000. Later, Che went on to spearhead the creation of Cuba's own police state modeled after the brutal Soviet Cheka.

What really confounds me is there isn't a lot of mystery around Che being a bad guy. He himself told other people a lot of his misdeeds, but the false image of him still remains.

I can't think of any rational reason why a responsible Liberal shouldn't loath Guevara, and yet so many people blindly believe that he must have been an admirable fellow. I get the sense that this is a liberal problem, and that no good conservatives would even think of admiring a communist. But then again, no good liberal would ever think of admiring a the murderous, brutal right-hand man of a dictator.

5 Comments:

At 8:12 AM, Blogger Chris said...

Interestingly enough, about an hour after I published this post I actually saw someone on campus with a Fidel shirt. So, scratch my comment on my fellow students not being brain-dead enough to love a dictatorship.

 
At 10:30 PM, Anonymous MJC said...

Here's info on the phot itself: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Che_Guevara_%28photo%29

I've read before that it caught on as a t-shirt image because they didn't have to pay royalties on the image.

 
At 4:06 PM, Blogger Denial so Fragile it Fractures said...

It doesn't really seem like a big stretch to me that people would actually respect a bad person. I could name at least a dozen figures that the majority of the people in our country regard very highly who were people just as nasty as Che. Secondly, I don't think that wearing a Che shirt in any way constitutes supporting "communist dictatorships". I mean, I don't think purchasing a Ford means you support facism or having a picture of Washington means you support slavery (not that many people have pictures of George Washington in their bedroom), so I imagine the same applies to Che. For the people who actually know who is one their shirt, he probably just represents a vague general symbol of marxist revolutionary struggle. And to the people who don't know who they're wearing, he's prolly just a cool pop culture object to consume.

 
At 7:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

yea, and the american college student's love of brutal political leaders is not specific to latin america...i get so pissed off whenever i see CCCP t-shirts on campus (like i did this evening). i just have this really strong urge to go up to these people and say, "you're right; those gulags really rocked."
J-Wex

 
At 8:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

YOU GUYS ALL SUCK! I KNOW WHAT CHE DID BUT HE STILL FOUGHT FOR WHAT HE BELIEVED IN AND NEVER GAVE IN. HE WAS ONE OF A KIND AND HE DID WHAT HE HAD TO DO TO HELP LATIN AMERICA! VIVA EL CHE'!

 

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