I was driving through Lincoln Square today when I saw a crew representing Occupy Worcester. There were about 5-7 people on the sidewalk near the WWI monument. One of the demonstrators carried a large red flag with the famous image of revolutionary icon Che Guevara. I normally do not engage people in political talk, but when I saw Che’s face I had to say something. Fortunately, due to late afternoon Worcester traffic, I was able to idle for a minute and chat with the gentleman bearing the Che flag. I rolled down the window and he came over. I had to ask – why do you have Che on your flag? He answered that he was for “the people” and his philosophy was in line with the Occupy Worcester people. I told him the reason I asked, and I disagree but respect his politics on this, is that Che, for all his revolutionary fervor, was a brutal mass murderer. I did not get into whether Che’s actions were beneficial for those on whose behalf he advocated. At this point the light changed and I had to drive; I wanted to continue the chat so I said I would park and come back. I found a legal space several blocks away and did my usual quick-walk back to the encampment. The small group gathered around me as my new friend and I continued our conversation.
I am not sure if this group is representative of the whole Occupy movement, but our discussion, which was calm and cordial, was distressing. I said that Che committed violence not just in the theater of warfare but for political means, including the lining up of political enemies and their summary execution (he also executed priests!). This pretty much amounts to killing those with whom you disagree. The occupy group made the argument that the “kleptocracy” (to use their term) keep people from having health care or homes, and they are really killers in their own right and may well deserve death. This is scary stuff. I asked them if they thought violence was justified in their struggle and they said it may well be necessary and that the incidents of violence at other Occupy events throughout the country were “caused by the cops”. I tried to point out that killing those with whom you merely disagreed on political matters, no matter how serious, was just plain wrong, but they resisted this line of argument. After saying that, as a clergyman with a flock entrusted to my care I am a (minor) authority figure, I asked them if I may be a target. They said that if it came to that I may well be.
Things ended cordially – I had to go visit someone in the hospital and left. I may well return to engage them in more conversation on the Che matter. I did ask them if they would carry banners with Stalin, Mussolini or other such figures, all of whom were for “the people” but did many unsavory things. For articles on Che as a mass murder check out Jay Nordlinger’s writings here, and for the same from a left-wing perspective check out this from the New Republic.