March 5, 2004

Commentary

A Statue for Pete?

by Ernie McCray

Based on my impressions of Pete Wilson, when I first heard that some of his friends are planning to honor him with a statue, all I could picture in my mind was him drop-kicking people across the U.S./Mexico border, people struggling to feed their families and maintain their dignity.

That’s the only image I could come up with considering how, as governor, he championed Proposition 187, one of the most hateful concepts ever devised in a free society. And one aspect of the proposal particularly bothered me, the part where I was supposed to, as a school principal, hassle friends of mine, students and their mothers and fathers who might have been here “illegally.” My job was on the line because there was absolutely no way I could have turned against people who’ve greeted me with big bright smiley “hellos” and high fives and snug hugs everyday. Take part in denying them services like medical care and educational opportunities? Not in this life.

But Pete Wilson ran with the Prop 187 flag like a drum major in the halftime show at a college football game. Just a fanning hate with out a hint of shame. And we’re to honor this man with a statue in his name?

“But, oh, the statue is about when he was the mayor and made people believe in a new San Diego,” his supporters exclaim. A new San Diego? Oh, he might have been the catalyst for a few more taller buildings and shopping malls and a couple more fine eateries and places to party but what, as far as human relations are concerned between the diverse communities in this community, has really changed?

If there was really something to Pete Wilson’s “America’s Finest City” jive, wouldn’t he have set a tone wherein we would today be progressive enough in our collective thinking to, say, loudly resist having our school system run by a tyrant who, in the eyes of this town’s powers-that-be, can do no wrong? Would we not censure our mayor and City Council for embracing an organization like the Boy Scouts of America which denies membership to our atheist and gay children? Is there a promise of hope hidden in all this that I’m missing?

Hey, Pete has never inspired hope in me. I recall a time in the early 1980s when he and his council were supposedly considering looking into the situation concerning our city’s investments in companies doing business in South Africa. I can still feel the chill in the room as they zipped through their parliamentary procedures with no zeal whatsoever, as though the topic was absolutely of no importance to them, as though human beings’ inhumanity to other human beings anywhere didn’t affect human beings everywhere. They spouted a few empty phrases, took a vote, and went on to the next agenda item as though they had left their souls to wilt in their lunch boxes.

I very animatedly expressed my concern for their lack of passion regarding a global problem to which we were contributing, and the mayor said to me: “Make yourself in absentia, Mr. McCray.” Boy, I’ll tell you, there’s nothing that makes one’s day like being dismissed in Latin.

That day spoke volumes about the man, and it’s no wonder to me that he eventually evolved into a foe of affirmative action, because it was in the spirit of the times that didn’t in any way put his political career in jeopardy. And since the latter part of his political career was pretty much dedicated to polarizing communities of color from the mainstream, his striking out at people who enter our country, often at great risks to their lives, came to me as no surprise.

Anything worthwhile that Mayor Pete Wilson may have contributed to San Diego, a while back, is tremendously outweighed by his reprehensible behavior as Governor Pete Wilson. Having this man immortalized in bronze is a slap in the face to anyone who seeks a better world where all people are treated with dignity. His statue would do nothing to further human relations in our city.

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