Earlier this week, President Barack Obama visited the resting place of Cesar Estrada Chavez to commemorate this hero's accomplishments and to announce the creation of a national monument in his honor. Many of us recall Chavez' notable sacrifices that brought international attention to the exploitation and abuse of migrant farm workers. If you are my age, you may recall the iconic photo showing Robert F. Kennedy's support and solidarity with Cesar Chavez. It is reassuring, but not at all surprising to know that spirit is still alive in Progressive minds.
Voices from the Right were quick to accuse the President of pandering to the key Hispanic demographic although anyone paying attention knows that this community figured out long ago in which tent they are most welcome.
I was most disturbed, however, to read the following Letter to the Editor in the Bakersfield Californian that pretty much sums up the sentiments of so-called "Real Americans."
What has this country come to? Why are we, as a community/country, immortalizing a man who organized illegal immigrants into a union? Not only that, but this was an individual who promoted workforce threats and violence! I'm talking about Cesar Chavez. Wow, maybe next we should memorialize Jimmy Hoffa.Let me take this opportunity to point out that every California governor in my lifetime, whether Democrat or Republican, at the behest of their BigAg benefactors, has welcomed migrant farmworkers with open arms. No one has benefited more than the residents of the Central Valley, including Greater Bakersfield, from a healthy and vibrant agricultural economy; one that has thrived because of cheap, mostly unregulated labor. There is no need to litigate the many malpractices of the employers over the years, but suffice to say, conditions have been steadily improving since Mr. Chavez stood tall in the face of danger and hatred.
And just as a reminder, the City of Bakersfield and the County of Kern were the first to ban, and burn, Steinbeck's masterpiece, "The Grapes of Wrath," so it is not difficult to understand that the intolerance and righteous indignation expressed today in that community has deep roots.