Some people have likened the recent Wall Street protests to the anti-war protests of the 1960’s. At that time there were a number of iconic symbols, pictures, and phrases that have come to represent that unique time and series of events; the peace symbol which stood for nuclear disarmament, the picture of the flower a Kent state student stuck in the barrel of a reservist’s rifle, the death chant of Timothy Leary, “Turn on. Tune in. Drop out.”
Some of the iconic and symbolic imagery of the Occupy Wall Street protests would be the much circulated pictures of one protester defecating on the US flag, and another actually defecating on a police car. Another would be the pictures of piles of garbage which the protesters left behind, perhaps in the hope that their mothers would drop by and clean it up. A symbolic phrase would be the false “We are the 99%” which is reminiscent of Jerry Falwell’s so-called “moral majority.” (Falwell was wrong on both accounts.)
Also iconic of the Wall Street protestors is the ubiquitous wearing of Che Guevara T-shirts. Apparently the movement’s ideology has an affinity with that of Cuba’s official executioner. The image is one of the most replicated photos in history; Guevara’s distant gaze, his youthful visage surrounded by flowing locks of black hair stuffed under a beret.
I have to wonder if the people wearing this image actually know who Che Guevara was and what ideology he espoused and killed for. I suspect some do and yet when I see an adult black man in New York City being interviewed wearing such a T-shirt I wonder if they knew that Guevara was a racist.
Last week was the anniversary of the death of Ernesto Che Guevara at the hands of Bolivian soldiers. It is fitting that we remember the man and his message in his own words.
“The blacks, those magnificent examples of the African race who have maintained their racial purity thanks to their lack of an affinity with bathing, have seen their territory invaded by a new kind of slave: the Portuguese.”
“The black is indolent and a dreamer; spending his meager wage on frivolity or drink; the European has a tradition of work and saving, which has pursued him as far as this corner of America and drives him to advance himself, even independently of his own individual aspirations.”
“The episode upset us a little because the poor man, apart from being homosexual and a first-rate bore, had been very nice to us.”
“The first person we hit on was the mayor, someone called Cohen; we had heard a lot about him, that he was Jewish as far as money was concerned but a good sort.”
“Mexicans are a band of illiterate Indians.”
“We’re going to do for blacks exactly what blacks did for the revolution. By which I mean: nothing.”
These quotes illustrate Guevara’s blood lust:
“Crazy with fury I will stain my rifle red while slaughtering any enemy that falls in my hands! My nostrils dilate while savoring the acrid odor of gunpowder and blood. With the deaths of my enemies I prepare my being for the sacred fight and join the triumphant proletariat with a bestial howl!”
“To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary. … These are the procedures of the bourgeois detail. This is a revolution! And a revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate. We must create the teaching of the Wall!”
On Oct. 8 1967, Che left the world with this cowardice plea, “Don’t shoot! I’m Che! I’m worth more to you alive than dead!”
Che Guevara was put in charge of executing counter-revolutionaries. People like a man and his twin 15 year old boys who refused to relinquish their farmland to Fidel Castro’s gang of thugs. Or a young woman, six months pregnant, or the countless thousands, perhaps as many as 2,100 people who were murdered at the wall below Che Guevara’s office. The firing squad sometimes ran day and night with Che gleefully administering the coup-de-grace to his victims, ending their lives with a single shot to the head with his pistol.
Not content with the revolution in Cuba the Argentinian Che travelled to The Congo and Bolivia to incite Stalinist revolutions in those countries. He met his just end in Bolivia, executed by a Bolivian soldier. His body was unceremoniously disposed of.
When next you see some college student or even an adult wearing the face of Che Guevara you might wonder if they would wear it knowing the true nature of the man: racist, homophobe, anti-Semite, communist, murderer. Would they wear the face of Hitler, of Osama bin Ladin, or of any other evil creature?
It may be out of ignorance that people display the image of Guevara. I would hate to think that they know full-well what they are doing.
Originally aired on Just Right #221, October 13, 2011.