For the record, when I was eighteen, I had two posters on my bedroom wall. One was of Humphrey Bogart in “Casablanca”. The other was Che Guevara. I was also a huge fan of The Beatles.
These days, I still think Bogart was one of the greats. Still love the Beatles. But Che has been crossed off my revered list.
Over the weekend, a half dozen folks in my social media feeds copied me the photo above, giddy at the significance, wondering why they’d never known two of their “progressive” heroes had jammed together, guessing at what songs they might have sung.
Imagine! John’s strong beliefs in peace and equality combined with Che’s fearless desire to confront “The Man”. Why, surely nothing unjust could stand against them.
Sadly, it was just another example of how gullible, uninformed or maybe just desperate for affirmation some people can be.
The picture is, of course, a fake, a Photoshop blending of one taken of Lennon in 1975 with one snapped of Che in 1966. But the juxtaposition is even more bogus and about on the same level of those images of Jesus used to sucker kids.
I guess we all like to believe that those we admire are just like us, sharing our values, liking what we like, hating the same people we hate and most of all using their power and influence to make the world the way we’d like it to be.
Unfortunately, that desire blinds us from seeing our idols for what they really are or were and keeps us from finding practical ways of dealing with the issues we face.
John Lennon and Che Guevara never met and if they had they wouldn’t have sung a few verses of “Imagine” or “Revolution”.
If they had bumped into each other, the first question John might have asked Che was why Rock and Roll had been banned in Cuba as one of the first acts of the Revolutionary government.
Maybe he’d want to know why a man who fought for the rights of the people personally participated in executing thousands including hundreds of teenage boys and girls imprisoned for such crimes as being “anti-Stalinist” or practicing a religion.
While Lennon hired planes to fly over New York City towing banners saying “War Is Over”, Che wallowed in the blood of the struggle. His own diary includes descriptions of him killing unarmed wounded prisoners –- and enjoying it.
In addition to his music, Lennon wrote books and made movies. One of the first things Che did on capturing Havana was stage a book burning. He signed death warrants for authors and imprisoned or exiled filmmakers, songwriters and poets.
When John was preaching “Love is all you need”, Che was dispatching young men to labor camps for being “effeminate” and insisted that black people were lazy and unclean.
John Lennon was a far from perfect human being. A wife beater. A pathological liar. A serial hypocrite who sang “imagine no possessions” while living at the most fashionable address in New York.
But you always got the feeling he was trying to be better, searching for paths of redemption and kernels of truth.
Che was a homicidal psychopath.
What if he was replaced in that image above by another homicidal psychopath who hungered to play music with John Lennon? What if the other half of that photograph featured Charlie Manson?
Why not? He liked to kill people almost as much as Che. He fought the system.
Would you be sharing it then? Would you be wondering if they banged out a rocking rendition of “Helter Skelter”?
Give your head a shake.
Get to know your Gods or icons before you advertise their brand. And burn the Che T-shirt. It only tells the world you’re an idiot.