Let’s say that all you knew about Adolf Hitler was that he painted scenic pictures, postcards and houses in Vienna, loved dogs and named his adorable German Shepard “Blondie,” and frequently expressed solidarity with “the people.”
You might sport a T-shirt adorned with his image if you thought such a charismatic chap was also good-looking in a beret. But your education would be widely regarded as incomplete.
If you later found out that the guy on your T-shirt was a mass-murderer, you might ask your oppression studies professor why she left out a few important details.
This hypothetical resembles a real-world phenomenon seen today on numerous college campuses. Fifty-two years after his demise – in October 1967 – Ernesto “Che” Guevara is still spoiling perfectly good T-shirts. Every time I see one, I gag.
In pop culture, Che comes off as an adventurous motorcyclist, a humble-living commoner, a romantic revolutionary, and a swashbuckling sex symbol.
His ghastly history as one of Fidel Castro’s favorite thugs routinely gets whitewashed because, in spite of all the murders, he supposedly had good intentions (read: hate the rich, concentrate power, shut down dissent, help the poor by creating more of them).
In his book, “Exposing the Real Che Guevara and the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him,” acclaimed journalist Humberto Fontova describes who the guy really was: “Cold-blooded murderer. Sadistic torturer. Power-hungry materialist. A terrorist who inspired destruction and bloodshed through Latin America.”
Here are some tidbits about the psychopath-on-the-T-shirt, drawn from Fontova’s book and other sources:
- Upon the victory of the 1959 communist revolution in Cuba, Che commandeered for himself one of the most luxurious mansions in Havana – complete with a yacht harbor, monster swimming pool, seven bathrooms, sauna and massage salon, and five television sets.
- Che played a leading role in the regime’s brutal policy of crushing dissenting opinion and opposition media. He promoted book burning and signed death warrants for authors who disagreed with him.
- As the key man in establishing the Castro regime’s security apparatus, Che supervised the torture and execution of untold thousands of Cubans without trial. He had a special affection for firing squads.
- Che was no equal opportunity oppressor. He held special dislike for gays, whom he incarcerated in multiple prisons. He was a well-known racist as well.
- Fidel Castro appointed Che Guevara as communist Cuba’s first “Economics Minister” and president of the country’s National Bank. Within months, the Cuban peso was practically worthless.
- The Soviet missiles in Cuba that nearly precipitated a world war in 1962 were Che’s idea. When the Soviets were pressured by the Kennedy administration to remove them, Che publicly declared that if the missiles had been under Cuban control, they would have been fired at the U.S. because the cause of socialism was worth “millions of atomic-war victims.”
- Che left Cuba in 1965 to foment violent insurrections first in Africa and then back in Latin America. He was captured by the Bolivian military on October 7, 1967, and administered a dose of his own summary medicine two days later.
Bottom line: Think twice (actually, just once ought to be enough) about adding a Che Guevara T-shirt to your Christmas giving this year.
Lawrence W. Reed, a resident of Newnan, is president of the Foundation for Economic Education. He writes about exceptional people, including many from his book, “Real Heroes: Inspiring True Stories of Courage, Character and Conviction.” He can be reached at email@example.com .