‘Che’ Shirt Reflects Poorly on Culture

I learned long ago that shopping with teenagers requires me to patronize places I would otherwise avoid. The combination of loud, thumpy music, unreasonably priced clothing with manufactured holes in the knees and overly perky salespeople reminds me it is good to be a grown-up.

Recently, however, owing to his incessant habit of rapid growth, my 15-year-old son needed new shoes. Thus, I found myself in the chain store Journeys, where one finds all manner of casual footwear, including styles even a mother can approve.

The Journeys store at my mall is well-managed and well-staffed. The salespeople are truly some of the friendliest, most attentive and most competent I’ve found in a store that caters to young shoppers.

Still, I can’t look these guys in the face. This is because despite their pleasant demeanor, every member of the sales team is pierced and tattooed in the extreme. They even sport “gauged” ear lobes — piercings that stretch the lobe to resemble elephant ears.

So gross.

So I adopt a strategy I have dubbed “Product Scrutiny.” Basically, I focus all my attention on the shoes under consideration as though I have never before bought footwear.

On our recent visit to Journeys, it happened they offered a freebie — a hat — for which we qualified by virtue of the size of our purchase. Two pairs of shoes, two packs of socks, tell the folks what they’ve won.

When the salesman shows us the free hat, I say, “Hmmm, I think the only time this style works is in the Cuban military or with a Che Guevara T-shirt.”

My son nods in agreement as we both conclude the hat will go directly to the Halloween closet.

But my comment isn’t lost on our salesguy, who offers cheerfully, “We have Che T-shirts!”

I say, “But he was a cold, brutal killer and the chief henchman for Fidel Castro. Why put him on a T-shirt?”

To which the young man responds, “Hey, viva la revolution. I dont like to live in the past.”

I can’t leave it at that, so I say, “Even in the present, he remains a heinous murderer. Being dead and all, he can’t exactly rehabilitate himself.”

Transaction complete, my son and I walk to the mall exit, and Jimmy listens to me rant about the magnitude of idiocy and ignorance that seems to permeate an entire generation.

How have we become a culture that thinks it is cool to wear T-shirts and caps glorifying a brutal mass murderer who helped to oppress a society with the scourge of communism? How have our young people adopted a philosophy as vapid and useless as “I don’t like to live in the past”?

And what happens to a culture whose youth are so uninformed and uneducated?

Unfortunately, according to a recent study by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, we’re going to find out. A few weeks ago it released the results of an annual survey of college freshman and seniors, in which 14,000 incoming and outgoing college students were given a 60-question civics test.

Half of the incoming freshmen failed the test, and worse, only 54 percent of graduating seniors passed. The schools that did the worst — that is, their graduating seniors actually scored worse than they did as freshmen — were among the nation’s most elite schools.

Another important finding, though, is that four years of college influences students’ opinions on a few popular yet polarizing issues: Abortion, gay marriage, prayer in schools, the divinity of the Bible and the opportunity to succeed in America. That the influence regarding these issues is resoundingly liberal is so obvious as to be a cliche.

So there’s the answer to a couple of my questions. We’re a culture whose young people think Che is cool because “The Communist Manifesto” is required reading for thousands of college freshmen, but not “The Federalist Papers” or even the U.S. Constitution. They’ve adopted a vapid “live for today” philosophy because they don’t learn the history of our government or anyone else’s.

What happens to such a culture?

Only time will tell.

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  • Joe DeVet

    I like to kid that the average attention span of the US citizen is about 30 seconds. About the time from one scene to the next on most TV shows.

    But it’s really not a joke. One of the outcomes is exactly what Marybeth is talking about.

    Another outcome may be the that an empty bag of wind like Barack Obama could be elected. No one remembers yesterday. So if you listen to his speeches, they start with a clever and plausible, but usually untrue or extremely biased, recounting of history. The false recounting of what got us to the present then sets the table for a false solution – his.

    We Catholics voted for him. In fact, in a real way, the Catholics are responsible for his being President. One of my most frustrating conversations around election day was with a colleague at the chancery office. They said, “But Barack Obama said he was pro-life.” And they were not able to grasp my rejoinder, “But look at his record. He is everything except pro-life.”

  • Mr. Obama would look right at home in a Che T-shirt. Remember the Mao Tse-Tung Christmas tree ornament, the one he and Michelle hung on the White House Christmas tree? How’s that for celebrating a mass murderer?

  • pjem311

    Wow!! When I read this article I had to go back and see if the author’s name was Hispanic, but there are not too many Marybeths in my Cuban-American family, so I guess not. I am an American born citizen of Cuban parents and have never, ever seen one article criticizing Che. Thank you so much!!! Our culture is so clueless that many fall for the “bohemian dream” garbage that is fed to them. Che Guevara was a mass murderer. When I see people wearing his shirt, it makes me want to puke. I watch South American soccer games and see these huge Che banners that just completely baffle my mind. Does anyone not know or remember the amount of damage and killing this man accomplished? All in the name of revolution? He was judge, jury and executioner for many of my parents and grandparents’ friends that had a different opinion than his. Why is it that I barely ever see Dr.Martin Luther King on a t-shirt? Che was someone who practiced human rights violations on an hourly basis and yet our uncultured culture believes him a great revolutionary?

    Thank you, thank you, thank you

    Gracias, gracias, gracias,


  • When I went back to college (2001) I found myself in a macro economics class sitting next to someone who had a Che t shirt on. I couldn’t concentrate on a single thing that was taught that day as the shirt just infuriated me. When the class was over I went to that guy, who was an “older” college kid, perhaps close to 30. I told him (in a nice manner) I found the shirt offensive and wanted to know why he wore. His response? “I got it in Mexico during spring break and thought it was a cool shirt.” When asked about Che’s history and the atrocities he committed, the guy just had a blank look, and all he could do was shrug his shoulders and say ” I didn’t know that.” This was a college senior.

    He didn’t sit next to me for the remainder of that semester.

    But since then, whenever I see someone wearing that shirt, I try to make it a point to go ask why they are wearing it. So far, no one has given me an intelligent response beyond “I thought it was cool.”

    I think the blame lies squarely on the public education system of this country.

  • plowshare

    I once saw, on a webpage–I cannot recall where–a mosaic of thousands of pictures of victims of Che, all put together to look like one huge picture of Che. That picture could make the Che T-shirt to end all Che T-shirts.