Monday, February 18, 2008

Che the Annoying T-Shirt Boy

So, a Barack Obama volunteer office in Houston displays a Cuban flag emblazoned with the famous Che Guevara image. Obama has softly opposed the flag but many think he should be far more forceful.

Ah, Che. Is there a more ironic case of commoditization? Or a more pathetically ignorant? Che was a brutal man and even if you are a passionate socialist, you can’t morally support Che’s murderous methods. And yet his image pops up everywhere, particularly among a certain class of too-cool-for-thou lefty “intellectual.”

Everyone needs their heroes and the associated myths. Why a certain group of leftists reach for Che when there have been plenty of wonderfully admirable liberal icons throughout history is beyond me. I guess the more admirable historical figures lack the revolutionary chic, dangerous aura and international fame necessary for a bad-ass t-shirt. Because, really, isn’t Che’s image all about posing? It says “I’m a liberal but not the wussy kind, so, like, watch out, man!”

In this sense, the real Che has almost nothing in common with Che the liberal t-shirt boy. What Che Guevara did and what he believed are only tangentially related to his current popularity. Sure, it would be nice if those who unfurled his image weren’t so easily sucked in by the modern consumerist culture that strips symbols of their meaning and repackages them in easily digestible formats. BUT, their choice to display Che is indicative of nothing more than historical ignorance and ideological gullibility.

Pointing out that ignorance is appropriate but expecting anyone, particularly a presidential candidate, to issue harsh condemnations is a little ridiculous. The image is harmless and those who display it aren’t dangerous radicals, they’re just annoyingly pretentious. And if Barack Obama castigated every supporter who was annoyingly pretentious he’d have no time to campaign.

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