Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Che Guevara: Just a T-Shirt or a Warning?
I never got a t-shirt or a mug of Che Guevara. But the dead revolutionary spent more time on the bedroom walls of my life than any other person. With the possible exception of Ayrton Senna...the dead racing car driver.
I didn't know very much about him. Except that he was a rebel doctor who fought for poor people in Latin America...and was murdered by the CIA. Which made him a hero in my book.
And that he had Irish blood in him ....which of course explained EVERYTHING.
Later I found out that it was a little more complex than that. That he was an absolutist with a ruthless streak. A hopeless idealist who led himself, those that followed him, and countless other young Latin Americans he inspired, to disaster and death. Even if it was for a noble cause.
So on the 40th anniversary of his death I was interested in what people had to say about my old dead hero
At first I thought that this guy best summed up how I feel about him now. That Che is just an iconic image on a million t-shirts ...and his message has been overtaken by time.
"Wherever death may surprise us, let it be welcome, provided that this, our battle cry, may have reached some receptive ear, and some other hand may be extended to wield our weapons, and other men be ready to intone the funeral dirge - with the staccato singing of the machine-gun, and new cries of war and victory."
That was the harsh appeal of Che Guevara 40 years ago. Today, it sounds very similar to the message of Osama bin Laden.
And then I read what Ariel Dorfman, the Chilean writer, had to say about him and I changed my mind.
I suspect that the young of the world grasp that the man whose poster beckons from their walls cannot be that irrelevant, this secular saint ready to die because he could not tolerate a world where los pobres de la tierra, the displaced and dislocated of history, would be eternally relegated to its vast margins.
More than 3 billion human beings on this planet right now live on less than $2 a day. And every day that breaks, 40,000 children — more than one every second! — succumb to diseases linked to chronic hunger. They are there, always there, the terrifying conditions of injustice and inequality that led Che many decades ago to start his journey toward that bullet and that photo awaiting him in Bolivia.
The powerful of the earth should take heed: deep inside that T shirt where we have tried to trap him, the eyes of Che Guevara are still burning with impatience.
I like to think that too. Because settling for a world where billions live in desperate poverty and 40,000 children die every day is just not on for me.
Just as I like to think if I had to have a hero he was a good one. Just like the movie was...
Let the world change you and you can change the world.
Oh yeah. Forty years after he was murdered.
Che still lives...