I attended a fairly large 4th of July celebration this year. It was truly fantastic. It is always amazing to witness the greatest experiment in freedom and liberty celebrated openly and without limits on the freedom of speech protected by that liberty. There were various groups exercising their free speech: abortion opponents had large photos of sliced up bloody fetuses, the teachers union had a booth pushing their union (the NEA) as the savior of children, the tea party had a stage and were giving speeches and awards to local activists. It was dynamic and never ceases to amaze me the vast swath of interests who utilize the freedom of speech.
During the celebration, I witnessed a very young adult, maybe in his late teens or early twenties, with a T-shirt emblazoned with the picture of Che Guevara. The young man was accompanied by his father, who was maybe in his early 50’s. The father was wearing very patriotic American Flag shirt with a small American Flag tucked into the belt of his pants. It was fairly obvious the father was, at least for the day, engrossed with the patriotic activities and participating willingly. I couldn’t stop thinking, and still can’t stop thinking, about whether either the father or the son knew anything about Che Guevara.
I am not going to get into a history lesson about who, and what, Che Guevara was. Some think he is a hero and some think he is a savage butcher. The truth is, he is both…it just depends on your point of view. One thing that we can never, NEVER, disagree on is that Che was a communist who hated the United States of America and wanted to spread revolution around the globe. He stated that a, “bright future” would consist of 2, 3, or many Vietnams around the globe. Those many “Vietnams” would lead to the downfall of the United States.
I am fairly confident that neither father, nor son, knew what Che Guevara stood for and still stands for; or at least that Che was staunchly anti-American without all of the other details. Yet, Che was being worn proudly at an American freedom celebration. To be fair, I am pretty sure that the overwhelming majority of the attendees also had no idea who Che was. This brought me to a realization of how often free speech is exercised without even having knowledge of the basis for the free speech.
This is not to say that people are stupid or uneducated, but rather that we never have full information in formulating our views. It is impossible to have complete information regarding any aspect of our beliefs, views, and conclusions. Two different people see Che, and both may see something completely different. This young man may have just liked the Che shirt, but that shirt, viewed by different people, could incite a plethora of emotions. Think of it as an unintended consequence of free speech.
Let’s look at two different items: First the famous picture of the Vietnam execution showing an execution by firing a bullet into the head of the enemy.
This photograph of the execution has been widely circulated as barbaric and incited outrage. In this photograph, Lt. Colonel Nguyen Ngoc Loan, performs the famous execution at high noon in 1968. By most accounts this photograph became a powerful image of the anti-war movement and touted as the barbaric nature of the war. It was then used as propaganda by the anti-American/anti-war movement.
Now, let’s contrast that with Che’s own words after an execution Che personally performed: “The situation was uncomfortable for the people and for Eutimio so I ended the problem giving him a shot with a .32 pistol in the right side of the brain, with exit orifice in the right temporal [lobe]” see WikiPedia for a more complete description. Amazing that Che shot the victim in the right side of the head, just like the Vietnam photo. In his own words, clinical and factual, Che describes his executing the victim.
I am fairly confident that the father at the 4th of July celebration would not condone his son wearing the picture of the Vietnam execution on his shirt. But, then again, I don’t think the son would wear the picture. Yet, the image of Che was worn openly and for all to see.
Hooray for free speech, even when it’s based on incomplete information or made in the bliss of complete ignorance.
Here is the famous photo: