I have always found it humorous the backlash against Che’s image on T-shirts and the like. Now I am against people (cough hot topic cough) making money off of his image. Especially when they make no attempt to pay the original photographer’s family. That aside though, the idea that Che was some sort of homicidal maniac who killed people on a whim is rather amusing because it ignores conditions in Cuba at the time of the revolution.
Fulgencio Batista not only had the support of the US, but he had been repressing the country for years. It is widely believed that Batista and his men killed 20,000 Cubans during his final reign. Yet this is never quoted anywhere. Meanwhile Che’s list of verified executions is around 200. Even if in the end he had a hand in the death of a possible 1,000 people, it’s still 1/20th of what Batista did during his reign on Cuba.
Look, it’s a sad fact of life that Civil Wars cause a lot of casualties. When you are replacing one regime with another there are going to be some broken eggs. Is Che a saint? No, but who is? Morals are an interesting shade of grey, especially when it comes to overthrowing a dictator who is willing to kill so many of his own people. I’m sure George Washington had people executed during the revolutionary war. For that matter there were many men who were executed for leaving both armies during the American Civil War.
In a vacuum, yes, Che’s crimes are reprehensible. But the reality is that this isn’t a vacuum. If Che had been a renowned liberal democrat, trying to spread democracy in the Carribean, would this be brought up? Most likely not. Most Americans for that matter don’t even realize how many brutal dictators the United States supported in Latin America and South America who would kill their own citizens by the thousands.
As Chomsky pointed out, this is an amazing American thing. We are able to hold someone responsible for crimes, which when compared to the skeletons in our closet are nothing. The complete ignorance of history is horrifying. I’d almost rather debate with someone who knows of Che’s executions, then to talk with someone who is wearing a Che shirt with no idea of who Che is, what he did and what he stood for.
Che is also today very much like Guy Fawkes. Most people don’t realize exactly what Fawkes was rallying against with the Gunpowder Plot. He wanted to assassinate the current King because he was a protestant. They were hoping that his Catholic daughter would take over the crown and return the kingdom to the Pope. But since then he’s become something more, he’s become a symbol to people wanting to stand up and unite against the system. Much in the same way it is for Che. It’s no longer the human that matters, but the spirit. The idea that people could unite and overcome everything, and if they failed then let’s try again.