the teacher

This obituary in the Washington Post really struck me.

Just past 1 p.m. on Oct. 9, 1967, a young and trembling Bolivian army sergeant named Mario Terán pointed his M2 carbine from point-blank range at Ernesto “Che” Guevara. The long-hunted Latin American revolutionary, 39 years old and an international hero to Marxist guerrillas, had been captured by an army patrol the day before.

Guevara lay wounded and shackled on a filthy stone floor of a mud hut in the Bolivian town of La Higuera. He looked directly at his executioner and said, as Mr. Terán recounted years later: “Calm yourself. And aim well. You are going to kill a man!” …*

Although Mr. Terán rarely talked of the day he shot Guevara, Bolivian reporters who tracked him down years later quoted him as saying: “It was the worst moment of my life. I saw Ché large, very large. His eyes shone intensely. When he fixed his gaze on me, it made me dizzy.”

After the guerrilla told him to aim well, Mr. Terán said, he “took a step back towards the door, closed my eyes and fired.”

The presence of mind and the generosity of Guevara in these moments are startling.

I doubt I will want another man’s image in my own obituary. But there could be no other way here.

* Other sources phrase Guevara’s last words a different way: “I know you’ve come to kill me. Shoot, coward, you are only going to kill a man!” The phrase “Shoot, coward” seems like an addition provided posthumously, as does, to my ear, the phrase “only a man.” Each addition would coarsen Guevara’s display of humanity.

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