The dual personality of doctors has been observed since ancient times. Thousands of years ago, the mythological Dr. Imhotep of Egypt had a personality similar to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde—two personalities in one person. Even more recently, this has been noticed in terrorists and extremists. In 2007, for instance, 45 Muslim doctors planned US terror attacks from Britain. And just five months ago, a Fort Hood medical doctor, a psychiatrist in fact, open fired on his fellow American soldiers in the military base where he treats other soldiers.
Scientists have also been known for this type of bipolar madness, such as the mad CERN scientist who was arrested seven months ago for plotting terrorism. There are hundreds of similar cases, but sometimes, these people become larger-than-life heroes, especially for the people that they fight for. One of these bipolar idols is Dr. Ernesto “Che” Guevara, a physician who is a hero, a caring person and a martyr, yet also a brutal guerilla revolutionary who left behind a legacy. Mr. Che is a hero. He is a Marxist revolutionary from Argentina who played a leading role in the Cuban revolution of the late 1950s, second in command to Fidel Castro.
He is an icon in Cuba because he fought against inequality. Latin America was plagued by socio-economic inequality caused by imperialist nations such as the United States through the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Some American government officials, such as Secretary of State John Dulles, owned or worked for US corporations that exploited land and labor in Latin America. And Che felt strongly about the immorality of these dealings (Kellner 32). He strongly believed that in order to correct the inequity of the situation, only an armed struggle through a revolution could change the status quo (Sinclair 12).
In a speech given in 1961, he attacked the United States, which hypocritically calls itself a “democracy” while discriminating against African Americans and other minorities, physically torturing them through the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), and controlling the financial system through a few well-to-do groups of white people. By 1964, after the successful Cuban Revolution, he became a diplomat to the United Nations (UN) in New York City (Kellner 60). And in a speech to the UN, he condemned South Africa for its “brutal” apartheid and challenged the UN to end the racist policy.
He also attacked the United States in the UN for racial prejudice and injustice that allows whites who murder blacks to go free and prohibits African Americans from demanding their civil rights as human beings. Che was also an economic advisor to Castro, and he advised Cuba to follow the example of China to develop the Cuban industry, but Castro favored the practices of the Soviet Union and ignored Che, as asserted by John Riddell for the Centre for Research on Globalization. Had Castro followed the advice of Che, Cuba could have followed the economic success of China instead of the collapse of the Soviet Union.
He also supported the communists in Vietnam and called for the development of “many Vietnams” throughout the world, in a letter written in 1967. This led him to aid communist uprisings in Congo and Bolivia. Dr. Ernesto Guevara is also a caring physician. He was asthmatic, and in 1954, he worked in the allergy department of Mexico City’s General Hospital. He also lectured about medical subjects in the National Autonomous University of Mexico. His wife, Hilda Gadea claims in her book, My Life with Che, that he wanted to work as a physician in Africa. She also mentions that he was always deeply troubled by the suffering surrounding him.
One of his patients was an old laundry woman and Hilda recounts how Che was deeply saddened by her situation. He felt that she symbolized those who were exploited and neglected. He then wrote a poem and dedicated it to the elderly woman, stating that he will fight for victims of poverty and exploitation, leading to a better society. Even after the Cuban Revolution, he continued to care for the wounded and the sick. In 1960, he provided emergency medical assistance to blast victims at the Havana Harbor which killed more than 76 and injured hundreds.
Moreover, Leonardo Tamayo, who fought alongside Che said that he was like a father to him. He was his teacher. But the “most beautiful thing” that Che taught him was “to be human” (Schweimler, BBC News). Also, when Che was fighting in the Congo, he needed an interpreter to translate Swahili and other local African dialects for him. The teenager, Freddy Ilanga, became his translator, and over time, Ilanga’s admiration for Che grew due to his hard-working nature and his equal respect for blacks and whites (Doyle, BBC World Affairs).
And in preparation for his death, he wrote a farewell letter to his children, five all in all, which was to be read when he passes away. It taught them to be sensitive to the injustices committed against humanity around the globe. This sensitivity, he says, is the revolutionary’s “most beautiful” feature (Guevara 167). Mr. Che is also a martyr. His actions always suggested self-sacrifice, and he was a man who was always ready to die for his cause. For instance, he risked his own life to save Joel Iglesias, his lieutenant.
With his gun tucked through his belt, he darted to the wounded Iglesias and carried him on his shoulders. The guards saw him, but they did not shoot him because they were so impressed with his act of martyrdom (Landau X01). Furthermore, after a frustrating ordeal fighting in the Congo, he wanted to send back his surviving Cuban companions back home and fight by himself, like the Lone Ranger, since some of his comrades already died. But Castro sent two representatives to convince him to come back since it was not yet his time to be a martyr.
And since Che thought that there was “nothing” more to do in the Congo because the leaders were “corrupt” and had no passion to fight, he complied with Castro and retreated (Kellner 87). But he knew that one day, it will be over for him, so he already prepared for his coming death by writing his own epitaph. In it, he welcomes death, as long as someone else continues the fight against inequality and injustice (Bourne, The Guardian). He also believed that his death would become a type of “renaissance” that would bring forth “renewal” or “rebirth” (Nadle 42).
Just before his enemies killed him, they asked Che if his own immortality was in his thoughts, but he said that he only reflected on the revolution’s “immortality,” as Time magazine reports. Eventually, he was executed. But when his corpse was displayed to the local public, many of them thought that his body seemed like Christ’s, so some of them clipped locks of Che’s hair as holy relics (Casey 179). Indeed, after John Berger, an art critic, saw photographs of his cadaver, he realized that it resembled Mantegna’s painting of Christ after he died (Casey 183). In the end, some Bolivian farm laborers consecrated Che and called him St.
Ernesto. They pray to him for their daily needs (Schipani, The Observer). Mr. Che is also a brutal guerilla revolutionary. After joining, Fidel Castro’s July 26 Movement, he was trained by Colonel Alberto Bayo in guerilla warfare even though Che was planning to be a medic. He learned ambush-retreat techniques, running through rivers and jungles, and hiking up mountains. He graduated as the top guerilla of his class, and he made a great impression on the colonel (Kellner 37). But after their invasion of Cuba via a sea route from Mexico, the Cuban government under Batista attacked them heavily.
When his comrades started running away, he dropped his medical supplies and started arming himself to fight. Eventually, Che would become a commandant second only to Fidel Castro. He did not tolerate cowardice, so anyone who wanted to run away to the enemy, or accept bribes in return for information, or simply pretended to work for their movement while actually working for the enemy, were all considered to be venomous traitors and were all brutally slaughtered at the command of Che. He would send squads to hunt down and kill traitors; summary executions were also not uncommon (Anderson 237).
In one instance, when it became “uncomfortable” for the people to execute Eutimio Guerra, a convicted informant, Che himself shot him through the head in a detached manner, later writing about it as a sacrifice that was necessary for “redemption” (Anderson 237). He and his men were also outnumbered 10 to 1 in their battle for the control of Cuba, but in spite of this handicap, they were able to capture Havana and win Cuba, a “remarkable” feat, as told by some observers (Sandison 39). But to this day, many Cuban Americans and exiles hate him and consider him to be a “butcher” (Casey 325). However, even with his negative record, Dr.
Ernesto “Che” Guevara has left behind a legacy. His name is on the list of Time magazine as one of the most influential personalities of the previous century. Nelson Mandela also calls him the freedom-lover’s inspiration (Guevarra, II), while Jean-Paul Sartre thinks of him as today’s intelligent and “complete human” personality (Moynihan, Stockholm Spectator). The Black Panthers also believe that Guevara lives on through his ideals (Sinclair 67). Truly, a bronze statue of Che’s likeness stands 12 feet high in Argentina, where many high schools and museums are named in memory of him and his principles (Popper, Reuters).
Furthermore, Cuban children pledge to follow him every morning, while his face is immortalized on Cuban currency (People’s Weekly World). A photo of him taken by Alberto Korda is a popular icon among counter-culture groups and modern merchandising (Lacey, The New York Times). It would not be unusual for someone nowadays to wear a hat, T-shirt, bikini or tattoo of this iconic photograph with Che gazing up to the left, like a saint, appearing Christ-like with a trimmed mustache and beard; his long wavy hair is covered by a beret bearing a five-pointed star at the center.
Indeed, the five-pointed star or the Wu Xing, as the Chinese call it, is a very apt symbol for the justice and equality that Guevara stood for. As Rodney St. Michael states in Sync My World: Thief’s Honor GA SK, the five-pointed star is a universal political symbol that stands for the multi-polar conflict and harmony between the five basic Selves, races, genders, classes, organizations, nations and so forth. In the end, while Dr.
Ernesto “Che” Guevara had five faces—a hero, a compassionate doctor, a saint, a vicious revolutionary and an iconic legend—his multi-faceted personality allowed him to become a very influential leader who still lives in the hearts and minds of millions of people around the world. He is truly a five-star icon. Works Cited Anderson, Jon Lee. Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life. New York: Grove Press, 1997. Bourne, Richard. “Obituary: Che Guevara, Marxist Architect of Revolution. ” The Guardian, 11 Oct 1967. Casey, Michael. Che’s Afterlife: The Legacy of an Image. Vintage, 2009. Dorfman, Ariel. “Time 100: ple.
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