Monday, March 10, 2008

No, Che Was Not a Hero

Today, I came across on Babalublog an email from a mother who was beside herself because her daughter’s head was being turned by a leftist teacher who idolizes Che. Well, mi hijita, I know all about Che, and Che was no hero.

Heroes are warriors, not murderers. They fight for their people; they don’t kill unarmed men, women and children who disagree with them. They kill in battle those who take up arms against them, not systematic execution in cold blood. They glory in victory, not in blood lust. Most importantly, heroes are stand for an ideal.

Who was this Che you so admire? He was an Argentinean adventurer, a child of privilege. He was not even Cuban, but he saw fit to impose his brutality and alien ideology on a foreign country. He was not even particularly brave. His one famed “battle,” the one with the armored train, was a set up, the army having been bribed. Even on his final adventure in Bolivia, what was his response when captured? “I’m Che. I’m worth more to you alive than dead.”

Your Che was bloodthirsty, presiding over the Cabaña prison where he earned the epithet of “Carnicero,” or “butcher.” He did not believe in fair trials, describing them as an outdated middle class notion. He had many, many people executed. Less than two hundred people were killed during the revolution. Afterwards, Che bears the responsibility for the deaths of near four thousand people. The regime he helped put in place, nearly two hundred thousand.

Che was a sadist. He found the deaths he ordered amusing, at times writing “give him an aspirin” as code for “execute him.” Not content to merely order the executions, he had a special window put into his office, so he could watch them. Ask yourself, why? One day, a mother came to plead for her young son’s life. Che’s response while the mother sat in front of him? He picked up the phone and ordered the immediate execution of the young his mother wouldn’t worry anymore. And who were the people being executed? They included two pregnant women and hundreds, if not thousands, of young boys. You have to ask yourself why those young men, facing the fusillade of bullets, screamed out at the last, “Viva, Cristo Rey!” It is because they were staring down the barrel at the face of evil. And the face was that of your idol.

Your Che was a racist and a hypocrite. He whose face adorns the chest of the likes of Mike Tyson considered blacks “lazy;” South American peasants “animals;” and Mexicans “illiterate Indians.” The great “liberator” created the first concentration camp in Cuba. The defender of the poor expropriated for himself and took residency in one of the most luxurious homes in Cuba after the revolution, complete with one of the first large screen TVs. The great equalizer died with a Rolex on his wrist, one which the Cuban exile who witnessed his execution wears to this day.

The regime he helped install has lowered the standard of living for all Cubans, lead the entire nation backward, created of the island a prison where it is illegal to voice opinions contrary to the government’s, for more than three Cubans to gather, for Cubans to go to tourist hotels and beaches, to speak to foreigners. It is a regime which imprisons anyone with the audacity to ask for freedom, convicting, when they bother with any pretense of jurisprudence, people of "precriminal dangerousness." It is a cynical regime that touts its advances in health care and literacy, while ordinary citizens suffer from lack of the very basics, even aspirin; at the same time the country they inherited had the highest literacy rate of Central and South America, where now seventeen year olds “teach” in classrooms and where indoctrination is the main subject.

No, I don’t need anyone to tell me about Che. Heroes are measured in character and deeds. Che qualifies for neither. His philosophy was about shedding blood, taking from others. Can one of his defenders point out his beneficence, some good deeds? An occasion when he gave or created? Good question. And in that answer lies the truth about Che. There are many misguided people who will try to tell you differently, but ask them for the facts, not the old fictions about what Cuba was like, but true facts and figures. Ask what specific actions did Che take that made him heroic? Then you will see that your parents and grandparents, crazy as they may seem on the topic, are the ones telling the truth.

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