This morning, at one of the on-post gyms, I stopped a young man (19 years old) who was walking in wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt. I asked him if he thought that it was appropriate to be wearing that in a US Army facility. He looked at me blankly, while his escort, in PT uniform, said, "It's okay, he's a civilian." I explained that it wasn't okay, and that Che Guevara was a mass murderer and a petty thug, and that wearing that shirt was not an appropriate statement to make on FT Hood. The kid was willing to turn his shirt inside out (and I would have let him), but his friend, who was an NCO, objected. I asked him what he knew about Che. The answer was not much, he'd seen Soderberg's movie, but that was it. I had what our liberal friends like to call a "teachable moment."
I explained to him that Che was Castro's jailer, the man who set up his concentration camps and who ordered the murders of thousands of innocent Cubans, often just after their families had petitioned for their release, and that in doing so, he had filled the same capacity for Castro that Himmler had filled for Hitler. I also told him about Che's antics as a Guerilla fighter in Congo and Bolivia (in which he ended up attacking his own column and got lost in the jungle and nearly starved, due to his own ineptitude), and how he was a laughingstock among real Soldiers. I also explained that Soderberg had taken some liberties with the story, such has giving Che a heroic death in battle, when in fact he had begged to be taken prisoner and tried to bargain for his life. Finally, I pointed out that a lot of Cuban-Americans had joined the army, and that for them, that Che t-shirt was as insulting as a Himmler or Pol Pot T-Shirt would be to the descendents of their victims. When they left, the kid seemed genuinely contrite about wearing an icon without knowing its history. The NCO was irritated about getting an earful from an officer and missing a workout, but I told him that if the kid turned the shirt inside out, he could wear it.
I can't wait for Wilbur, Wei or Arroyo to tell me why it is okay to ban US flag t-shirts in a high school on Cinco de Mayo, but it's okay to wear an icon of an anti-American thug and mass murderer to a US Army facility.