4/1/2002

 

Cesar Chavez, A Great Man

 

Some people have recently celebrated Cesar Chavez day. Just which day varies or is selectable by workers. But regardless of the day, he certainly deserves it. Many of our founding fathers have mixed histories, or only did their noteworthy works for a few years around the time of the revolution. Cesar dedicated virtually his whole life to a cause. A cause worthy of being measured against cherished U. S. principles and biblical precepts.

 

He was born near Yuma in 1927. He knew both sides of the labor issue because his father had owned a ranch near Yuma when Cesar was young, and his father often employed migrant workers. But his father was good to those workers, and it was his father that first got him involved in the migrant labor struggle. By the time Cesar was thirteen they had lost the ranch due to the Great Depression, become migrant workers themselves, and his father was organizing strikes.

 

Cesar continued to push for farm workerís rights for the rest of his life, with a detour to serve in the navy. Despite being harassed with audits of his United Farm Workers, nothing could ever be found against him because he relied on the people he was helping, wherever he went, to provide him room and board, so no one could accuse him of profiting from his cause.

 

His methods were always peaceful, heavily influenced by Mahatma Gandhi and the ďahimsaĒ methods of promoting peaceful change. Living modestly and staying dedicated to his cause to the end, he accomplished a great deal for farm workers, and indirectly for workers in general.

 

Itís interesting that Pat Buchanan has recently published a book in which he frets about the influence of illegal immigrants on the U. S. Perhaps Mr. Buchanan is looking in the wrong place. Mr. Chavez suspected that big agribusiness didnít want any serious control of illegal immigrants, because having a mixture of them in the farm labor pool kept farm labor low-wage and easily manipulated.

 

Mr. Chavez performed hunger strikes several times to draw attention to his cause, and they worked. His longest fast was thirty-six days. The fasts, and all his time working in the fields, eventually probably cost him his health. He can truly be said to have lead an exemplary life, dedicated to the death to the help of others, and very effectively so. If that doesnít deserve celebrating, Iím afraid I donít know what does.