Rebel culture ignorant of real issues
If someone walked into a classroom or up and down College Avenue flaunting a Heinrich Himmler T-shirt, it would be sure to cause some stirs, and rightfully so. After all, it is deplorable for anyone to joyfully personify a genocidal mass-murderer. Yet for some reason, people worldwide — most notably, American college students — stand silent when their friends and fellow classmates don the image of the Marxist, murderous, Cuban parity to Himmler, Ernesto "Che" Guevara. I am going to make an optimistic, general assumption that the vast majority of Che admirers know little, if anything, about this terrible world figure.
There are many different types of Che lovers, mostly between the ages of 18-30, who can be classified into four distinct categories: the spoiled rich kid "rebel," the communist wannabe, the anti-war yuppie and, worst of all, the kid who just "wants to look cool." The most ironic of these four types of Che aficionados are by far the anti-war yuppies. These are people who attend rallies wielding signs calling for an end to war while wearing their favorite warmonger on their T-shirt. How ironic that people protesting against war will wear the face of a man who killed thousands of journalists, businessmen, women, children and dissenters, all while defending his actions by claiming these people were "counterrevolutionaries." When the revolution in Cuba came to a close, Che took the reigns of La Cabana prison, where his coldblooded torture, maiming and murder of thousands of prisoners took full swing. These yuppies are either extremely bipolar or should ostentatiously proclaim that war is bad unless it is facilitated by a Marxist revolutionary.
Yet, the atrocities committed by this sociopath did not end or start with murder. The communist wannabes who adore Che will be disheartened to find that their iconic leader really did not despise capitalism all that much. In fact, his largest concern was the general public attaining too much wealth, which is why he opposed the wage labor system of appropriating surplus value solely when it came to private industry. But he also turned the appropriation of the workers' surplus value into a state system, effectively distributing the wealth of the proletariat while the government reaped the benefits. Che and his cronies were so obsessed with attaining wealth that they set up concentration and forced labor camps in order to keep their dissidents in check, while creating capital for the government.
It is here the spoiled rich kid "rebel" most accurately resembles the life of Che. Raised in an upper-class home in Argentina, Che quickly began to witness the extreme poverty that was rampant throughout South America. Yet instead of working toward the interest of the individuals who were suffering, he decided to join the ranks of Marxist and Leninist dictators, suppressing the rights of all and shrinking the upper class while building a larger lower class. The problem with Marxism and Leninism is that it advocates against the bourgeoisie by leveling out the playing field through redistribution policies that ration food, medical supplies and wealth.
However, I assume the people who just "want to look cool" do not really care about his revolutionary past or communist tendencies. Rather, they see a faded, rugged-looking T-shirt and are trying to make a style statement. Why else would anyone wear a T-shirt of a man they knew nothing about? It would be like seeing a swastika, saying it looks cool and parading around town with it on your T-shirt. If you wouldn't wear a swastika, don't wear a Che shirt. Sure, Che and Fidel and Raul Castro did not kill nearly as many people as the Nazi regime, but if they had the resources to do so they would have definitely made the attempt. Che is recorded as saying that if he had the power, he would have nuked New York City; concurrently, the Castro regime embodied racist and homophobic rhetoric only paralleled by the likes of the Hitler, Stalin and Mao regimes.
Perhaps if musician Carlos Santana knew that Che thought, "Mexicans are a band of illiterate Indians," he wouldn't parade around in his T-shirt at awards ceremonies and red carpet events. Perhaps if college students knew that Che imprisoned and killed homosexuals based solely on their sexual orientation, they wouldn't revere this butcher of the innocent.
The scruffy, beret-wearing image of a man responsible for killing and torturing thousands should never be celebrated. If you are fond of the way he led a group of rebels against an establishment, I urge you to find another role model. It is a slap in the face to the victims, not only in Cuba, but also to the hundreds of millions of victims of communism throughout the world. Americans are entitled to free speech, but just for a moment, sit and think about the statement you are making. While you might see an interesting T-shirt, most of the world sees a cold-blooded killer.
Aaron Marcus is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in political science and history.