Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A Man to Remember

They were playing politics with Cesar Chavez's birthday yesterday, Hillary Clinton issuing a statement praising him and Barack Obama trying to one-up her by supporting the effort to make the birthday a national holiday. (Eight states recognize it now.)

Chavez would have been embarrassed by the fuss. A truly modest man, he worked tirelessly to improve the lives of migrant workers and, like Martin Luther King, was inspired by the selfless non-violence of Gandhi. At the age of 60, he fasted for over a month to protest the use of pesticides.

In the 1960s, nobody I knew would buy or eat grapes to support his efforts to get decent pay and working conditions for the people who picked them in California. Using his memory now to court Latino voters is particularly sad in the light of Chavez's own view of life and politics.

"When we are really being honest with ourselves," he said, "we must admit that our lives are all that really belong to us, so it is how we use our lives that determines what kind of men we are."

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