Archive | Heroes RSS feed for this section

Who was Ernesto Guevara?

30 Jun

A couple of weeks ago I finished reading The Motorcycle Diaries. Soon after I finished I was on Twitter and realized it was Che’s birthday. If he was still alive today he would have been turning 83. I am not sure if it was the birthday realization or the book slowly sinking in but I really started to ponder Che Guevara and his life.

Sometimes people in the United States are scared to discuss Che or really take the time to study him. I think too often he is brushed off as a dead communist, which leads me to wonder why we still have this stigma in the United States about communism. While Che was trying to liberate the people of Bolivia he was killed by the CIA. I am so utterly disgusted by this; the US had no right to kill him, no right to be in Bolivia. Throughout my studies of Latin America I am too often appalled by the things the CIA has done.

Che was someone who from the start of his life wanted to help people, which is why he became a doctor. But throughout the Motorcycle Diaries you can hear his soul and destiny change as he observes injustice throughout his journey. Later in life Che left his career as a doctor because he felt a calling to something bigger. Che saw an unjust world, he observed his brothers suffering, which he was unable to be content with. He believed in a better, more just world. He believed that change was possible. These were his main ideologies. Are these the same ideologies that the CIA killed him over? If so then I believe I am guilty as well. For I too am unsatisfied with the injustice in the world, I too am pained over the suffering which my fellow humans are enduring daily. I too believe that change is possible and will dedicate myself towards a better world. So I too must be guilty to the CIA.

What I do not understand is why gringos are so quick to brush Che off as another communist, yet also so quick to throw on a shirt bearing his face. I feel that very few of us take the time to truly learn who he was and what his true ideologies were. I am not claiming that I agree with everything he ever said. One huge difference between my ideologies and Che’s is that he believed justice should be obtained through battle, where as I believe in nonviolent conflict. Neither am I proclaiming to be a Che expert. However, after reading Motorcycle Diaries I do feel like I know him better. I now know of his true intelligence, the brilliant way he described his thoughts and the scenes around him. I can relate to the emotions he felt as he witnessed the poverty and injustice in Latin America. I am also now excited to read more of his literary works, in fact another one of his diaries was released in Cuba on his birthday.

Often when studying historical figures I try to imagine them in today’s world. I wonder what would have come of Che if the CIA had not brutally murdered him. Would he have become like Castro, becoming a dictator of a country he was trying to liberate? What would he have thought of the corruption and poverty that still plagues Latin America today? How different would Latin America be if he were still alive, would it be better? Unfortunately, these are only questions which we can ponder, ones we will never know the answer to.

My main point, besides how repulsive it is that the CIA not only thought they had a right to take his life but went ahead and ended it, is that Che is worth studying, is worth trying to understand. His beliefs were solid and his words were inspiring. His words can be applied to today’s Latin America, where poverty, corruption and political instability are still very existent.

Where Have All the Heroes Gone?

24 Jun

Last month, in Alameda, a man drowned not far off the shore as rescue crews watched. Raymond Zack, 53, expressed he wanted to kill himself to his stepmother who then called the police. Zack then walked into the water off the shore of Crown Beach. Shortly after the call rescue workers arrived on scene and from there on they watched, along with witnesses, as Zack stood up to his neck in cold water for more than an hour.

So why did no one help? Why did the rescue workers, paid by tax dollars, not rescue the man? Well to break it down the Alameda Fire Department blames budget cuts which cut certification for firefighters in land-based rescue. Apparently, without that certification the city is liable for any type of water rescue. The Alameda Fire Department claims that its firefighters on scene were ‘handcuffed by policy’ and could not save the man since he was in the water. When ABC7 asked Alameda Fire Division Chief if he would enter the water if it were a drowning child he said, ” Well, if I was off duty I would know what I would do, but I think you’re asking me my on-duty response and I would have to stay within our policies and procedures because that’s what’s required by our department to do.” Should it really matter if someone is on duty or not? When growing up we are taught that firemen, along with police, are heroes and will save us when we are in danger. Now they are saying that when they are on-duty they are restrained by policy to rescue a citizen but off duty they would. This is just ridiculous; someone who truly has a desire to save people will do so whether or not there is a policy stopping them.

The Alameda Police Department said that they are not trained to go in water and do not have the right equipment. Another main reason they did not rescue Zack was because he was suicidal and they did not know if he was violent. Lieutenant Sean Lynch was quoted as saying, “He was engaged in a deliberate act of taking his own life. We did not know whether he was violent, whether drugs were involved. It’s not a situation of a typical rescue.” Zack’s stepmother later told the press that her son suffered from depression, he has spent time at a psychiatric facility and received disability. His stepmother also clarifies that he was depressed due to a chemical imbalance not from personal problems. It is well-known that people with depression often try to commit suicide, which is why the police did not go in to rescue him. When did the police stop rescuing people who have disabilities? Does this mean that the police will no longer help someone with Alzheimer’s who is disoriented? Or the police will no longer help someone with Down syndrome that is trying to hurt themselves? This is unacceptable, the police are paid by citizens to protect everyone, even those with mental disabilities. Also, from the Lieutenant’s statement it sounds like they did not rescue him because they were more concerned with their safety than Zack’s. When police officers swear in they are committing to putting civilians safety before their own, however these police officers seem to desire sitting back and receiving their paycheck instead. This is not the heroic image I had of the men in blue who are supposed to keep the peace.

The Coast Guard was also called to the scene. They said that Zack was in too shallow water to rescue him by boat. They called in their helicopter that had to re-fuel since it was coming back from another scene, and did not get there for an hour. I thought that the Coast Guard rescued from the water, I have a heroic image of them jumping from their rescue boats and saving people from the water. What I don’t understand is why they did not navigate the boat as close as they could and then send someone in to get Zack.

On top of all the rescue workers on the scene there were also about 75 witnesses on the beach watching the tragedy. Many of them were quoted saying that they kept waiting for one of the rescue workers to go in and save Zack. His stepmother was also on the shore, she said that she would have saved him but she is in her eighties and can barely walk. The point however is that no one did. Not until Zack had been in the water an hour and was floating face down in the water did a hero finally appear. A woman who is said to be in her twenties, a nurse trained in water rescue, jumped in the water and finally brought Zack to shore. The one hero in this whole story who put someone else before herself, unfortunately it was too late.

I am so appalled by this story. Where have all the heroes gone? Has our society become so devastating that no one is willing to put someone else before their own safety? How can a crowd, let alone rescue workers, stand around as a man dies. Many witnesses said that you could see Zack standing in the water and glancing back at the shore. Zack’s last images were of a community unwilling to help him, a community that did not care about his wellbeing. Can you blame him for not wanting to live in a society where people are unwilling to help their fellow brother? I cannot believe that not one person put Zack’s interest before their own and went out to help him. Maybe I am naïve and I have been fooled by all those movies where someone is considering taking their life on a balcony and the protagonist climbs out on the side of the building to talk the person into coming inside. Maybe these real heroes have actually never existed in the real world.

Not to be misunderstood, I am not saying that I am more righteous than all those people on the beach that day. Although of course I think that I would run into the water and save the man, I cannot say what I would do when faced with the situation.

I hope that this story has sparked outrage in you as it did me. I hope that this story inspires us to be better to our fellow brothers and sisters. And perhaps the next time one of us is faced with the choice to act heroically or look away we will act heroic. So I leave you now with one of my favorite songs “Hero” by the underrated Superchic(k) for further pondering of the concept of a hero.
\"Hero\" by Superchic(k)