Kathryn Lopez

Is a Che T-shirt on the Christmas wish list of someone you love? If you love truth, justice and basic human rights don't fulfill that request. Give your loved one a quick history lesson instead. It might not sound familiar, but you've probably seen it.

Ernesto "Che" Guevera is probably at your local mall, his mug likely on a T-shirt -- an idiotic fashion statement.

According to the founder of a company that sells Che products: "Che's image has a rock 'n' roll edge to it that we're looking for." Che is chic for the sophisticated baby -- actresses Jennifer Connelly and Kate Hudson reportedly dress their little ones in Guevera. One mom whose son wears Che told The New York Observer that 1-in-10 kids in her New York City neighborhood probably own a Che shirt. "Some people probably think it's an icon of what's cool."

Quick quiz for Jennifer, Kate and other Che customers: Who said this? "Hatred as an element of struggle; unbending hatred for the enemy, which pushes a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him into an effective, violent, selective and cold-blooded killing machine. This is what our soldiers must become ..." Can you say, El Che.

The henchman of Fidel Castro's "Cuban Revolution," is a romantic cult hero once described by the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sarte as "not only an intellectual, but also the most complete human being of our age." In a just world, however, a complete Che Guevera portrait would include an executioner's soundtrack. As a biographer wrote: "... Che, as supreme prosecutor, took to his task with a singular determination, and the old walls of the fort rang out nightly with the fusillades of the firing squads."

Instead, we are gagged with Che, the young, handsome doctor, whose only fault seems to be having been born with asthma. Che Guevera was killed 38 years ago and, in death, his history has been turned into a myth that culminated in the 2004 "Motorcycle Diaries," executive produced by Robert Redford.

The movie was an ode to the young Che's South American journeys as a 20-something idealist. Never mind who he was to become. As writer Anthony Daniels has noted, "It is as if someone were to make a film about Adolf Hitler by portraying him as a vegetarian who loved animals and was against unemployment. This would be true, but ... rather beside the point."

Che Guevera attracts the same undeserved hero worship as "Uncle Fidel" Castro, who Hollywood also adores. The cult of Che only promises to grow when Oscar-winner Benicio del Toro plays him in an upcoming Steven Soderbergh movie, set to start filming in the new year.

Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.