Remembering the death and life of Che

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the death of Ernesto "Che" Guevara. The governments of Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia, where Guevara was killed, were among those who held the main celebrations for the death of the Argentine martyr-turned-icon. Other Latin American countries such as Mexico, Nicaragua, Brazil and Argentina are also paying their respects to the legacy of Guevara, but on a smaller scale of celebration, according to Agence France-Presse.

It is through remembrance that an individual can appreciate history. We are living today only because our mothers gave birth to us many years ago. Of course, this is history we can appreciate because it is our life. But what about that of a man who gave his life to seek and preserve a better, and more importantly, a free society for others?

Guevara’s legacy can be quite generic in terms of its meaning. Whether you want to interpret it as an ideological foundation built on justice or an unfortunate trend in fashion, his legacy has left an imprint in societies throughout the world.

Some depict Guevara as a revolutionary hero for leading the armed struggle for Cuba’s independence from the Batista regime in the late 1950s, but others see him as a cruel and bloodthirsty killer. But like in any revolution or war, innocent lives will be lost – this unfortunately must be understood. His image today is somewhat similar to that of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (minus the zeal for rebellion and armed struggle), who is both loved and hated by xenophobes in the Bush administration.

Guevara, killed at age 39 by CIA agents, has been colorfully transformed into a symbol of resistance by the left for the past 40 years. His famous photo, taken in 1960 by Alberto Korda, has been, and still is, plastered onto T-shirts, keychains and purses, etc. If only he was alive today to see his face exploited by the concept he destroyed (capitalism) and worn by people who probably don’t even know the cause he fought for. I once asked someone who was wearing a Guevara T-shirt what he thought of the pictured man, and the guy said he thought Bob Marley was "cool."

Yes, his image has been a fad since the late 1990s, but it is also a symbol of resistance and rebellion for those who aren’t into glamorization. If Guevara’s legacy can give hope to those who need it, then there is absolutely nothing wrong with the idealism. In Lebanon and Palestine, activists adorn the Korda photo on banners during protests. Because of Guevara’s Marxist ideologies, many Communist-influenced parties hold much respect for the Argentinian. And on the 30-foot-wall in Palestine, you can see murals of Guevara in almost every village and town, where he is considered to be a symbol for liberty, a constant struggle for many Palestinians who have been fighting the Israeli occupation for the past 59 years.

Time magazine lists Guevara as one of the 100 most important people of the century. Though "important" doesn’t necessarily pertain to a positive connotation, it holds importance to his notoriety by both infantile leftists and the determined capitalist. Guevara’s celebrity and iconic status should not quell anyone from the truth of what he believed in. As Guevara said, "Whenever death may surprise us, let it be welcome if our battle cry has reached even one receptive ear and another hand reaches out to take up our arms."

Hammad, the opinion editor, can be reached via [email protected]

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