Thursday, April 16, 2009

No, no podemos

I see with weary derision that the push to name a street, ANY street, after Cesar Chavez has returned, like the swallows and the tulips, to Portland.Again we're hearing how ANYthing but a street is an insult to Hispanic Americans in general and Chavez in particular.

Again, everyone is desperately dancing around the subject of why all the white people (i.e. 80% of Portland) aren't all excited about this so as not to appear a racist prick.

I AM a racist prick, so I'll just come right out and say it.

I see no particular reason to name a Portland street after Chavez. He has no particular resonance with me as a national hero - I'm not Hispanic and I'm not a farmworker - and he has no real connection with Portland or Oregon other than the fact that our farmworkers benefitted from his activism.

I would add that in my opinion this is NOT the same thing as naming a street after Martin Luther King or Rosa Parks. Both of those civil rights activists were fighting for civil rights; the right of every American, regardless of race, or beliefs, or gender, or origin, to share in the liberties and responsibilities that we believe make this nation unique.Cesar Chavez was a lovely man. He struggled valiantly to improve the lot of Hispanic farm workers in particular, and Hispanic-Americans in general (to a somewhat lesser degree) through unionization and education. But for the most part his struggle was limited to that: Hispanic farm workers. Period.

For a Hispanic-American to revere the man and wish to honor him is laudible and understandible.

For an Anglo like me...why? What did Cesar Chavez fight for that should resonate with me? Why should I want to name a street after him and not, say, Sergeant Jose Lopez or Staff Sergeant Roy Benavidez?

You want me to join in honoring a Hispanic American?

Tell me that we should rename 39th Avenue "Staff Sergeant Roy Benavidez Avenue".

Tell me that we should honor a Hispanic-American who struggled and sacrificed - almost sacrificed his life, not for lack of trying - for all of us as a volunteer three times over, as a soldier, as a paratrooper and as a Special Forces NCO.

Or, if you feel skeetchy about the ethics of the Vietnam War, pick Joe Lopez. Hell of a man, helped defeat the Evil Nazis, tough stud of the Tomahawks, the 23rd U.S. Infantry. I'd be proud to drive my clapped-out old Ford Ranger down a street named after SGT Lopez.

Don't take it the wrong way, Cesar. But you gotta understand - there's things a guy just feels strongly about. And one of them is that you gotta stick to your homeboys, the guys who have your back, your pals. ¿Ese, vato? Even if one of them DID wear the Gaggin' Dragon back in the day...

¿Nombre una calle después de uno des sargentos?

Si, se puede.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Sgt. Lopez and Staff Sgt. Benavidez -- two amazing men. I'd definitely go for a street named in either of their honor.

I'm with you that Chavez does not meet the bar of universality.