August 24, 2007

Commentary:

Contemplating Statues and Changes of Hearts

By Ernie McCray

Before putting a few words together regarding the statue for Pete Wilson, I thought I’d watch the news first. And no sooner than I clicked on the TV there before me on channel 8 were the words “VIDEO SHOWS MINUTEMEN DESTROYING MIGRANT CAMP” (aka people’s homes) and images of a woman trying to pull down a tent and a man emptying somebody’s cerveza on thirsty ground.

Such coldhearted imagery was a bit chilling to my bones. But as these vandals neared a chapel like setting of religious symbols the narrator/cameraperson vowed: “Hey, I won’t let you do that,” an apparent change of heart from moments ago when she warmly applauded the tent tugging woman with “She can hang with the big girls now.” Meaning, I guess, that she can destroy folks’ property and make them even more miserable than they already are with the best of them.

I don’t know if the woman really had a change of heart of any significance. But I do know that if we’re to ever stop dashing the hopes and dreams of migrant workers as they struggle to simply survive we’ll surely have to experience a radical change of heart.

This woman seemingly, if only momentarily, found herself empathizing with the “migrants” at religious and human levels, sensing, perhaps, that she might share some of the same values as they do.

As the news shifted to other topics my mind shifted back to Pete Wilson because I can think of nobody who has played a larger role than he has in creating the kind of social climate that can lead to the inhuman images I had just witnessed in the news of the day. And I cannot help but wonder how we can bring about the change of heart towards Mexicans and Chicanos we must undergo if we place a larger than life bronze statue in his honor in the heart of San Diego. The imagery in such a move, in my way of thinking, would kind of seal the deal as far as trying to solve our problems with our brothers and sisters from south of our border.

Supporters of the statue claim that the economic success of downtown San Diego has made our city a must visit destination, a “new” San Diego, and they’re honoring the former mayor because he was the forward thinking visionary that got it all going.

But he was also the small minded visionary who got Proposition 187 going, a bigoted proposition, later found to be unconstitutional, that sought to use the schools as places to gain information that could deny undocumented immigrants social services. And, oh, Mr. Wilson championed that hateful proposition like an unscrupulous used car salesman hawking a car that’s likely not to make it off the lot.

In running for president Wilson bragged about being “the first to outlaw affirmative action quotas in state hiring and end preferences for college admissions” - doing so.with very little to nothing to say about how to better include black and brown people in the workforce and in universities.

In the campaign he listed “four fundamental principle’s” he’s guided by. One of them states: “We should value family as the foundation of our society.” Well, his followers, and I include the likes of minutemen, as his followers, certainly don’t adhere to such a principle based on what I had just seen on television. And migrant families, like it or not, are members of our society.

Needless to say it’s extremely difficult to have a change of heart when we’re so insistent on being offensive and divisive, when we can’t empathize with others at a human level and see our commonalities as opposed to our differences. But we can keep trying though.

And a great start would be to realize that placing a statue of Pete Wilson in a prominent location downtown is not only grossly insensitive to the tens of thousands of Latinos who live here, it also makes a mockery of our nation’s declarations of freedom and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

McCray is a retired school principal.

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