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Che-nge the record, it's just a statue

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Every so often you see a story and think “How the hell is this still a thing?” The furore around Galway’s proposed Che Guevara statue is one such story.

You’d think that the chair of the House Foreign Relations committee would have a loaded plate, what with North Korea in a dangerous state of flux, the war in Afghanistan in its final throes, a cataclysmic situation in Syria ongoing and a band of nuke-happy lunatics purporting to be concerned about Israel getting more baying and mobbish by the day. But Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has still managed to find time to warn of the terribleness of Galway, a city thousands of miles away one eighth the size of a US congressional district, erecting a monument to Che Guevara. It is, she says, “an outrage” that such a thing is being proposed. An outrage! Some would say that a senior congresswoman placing a hold on millions of dollars of development aid funding for Palestine because of their audacious plan to become a country outrageous, but we won’t judge.

She is joined in her outrage by Iron Man wannabe and selector of antique causes celebres Declan “Senor Burns es El Diablo” Ganley, who warned that putting up the statue would be disastrous for tourism, credibility and Galway’s chances of getting a nice summer. And the story trundled on with a comment from the magnificently monikered historian Carlos Eire, who skilfully invoked both the “Bad as Cromwell” card and the “This is pure like denying the Holocaust, so it is” card.
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For the past few weeks people seem to be jumping out of the woodwork any time Che is mentioned in any half decent way, a bit like when someone on Irish Central says something positive about multiculturalism and we get insane rants from...well, you know. What is most galling of all though is not even the arguments themselves, but the double standards at play within them. Lehtinen blasts Guevara as a monster (as many Cuban-Americans understandably do) but the real problem was he wasn’t an American-sponsored monster, of which there have been many. Similarly, Ganley fulminates about the dangerous terrorist who murdered people, but when 2016 comes and the Easter Rising centenary comes around, it’s unlikely he’ll have such strident words for brave rebels Pearse and Plunkett.

Personally, I wouldn’t be in favour of the monument. Not because I have serious objections to Che’s character (I’m actually quite ambivalent about him) but having seen the drawings of the thing, it’s so gawky and out of place I wouldn’t be in favour of it if it had someone unanimously awesome like Steve Allen or Carlton Banks been emblazoned on it. But, monster or not, monstrosity or not, it’s still Galway’s decision to make. Perhaps they should take a leaf out of the American book on this one, and pursue their own interests vigorously, first and foremost.

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