Editor's note: This column first ran in The Desert Sun in 2019. We are running it as a reprint of the original column.
As we celebrate the March birthday of Cesar Chavez, we are reminded that we Americans are a people of all cultures, of many colors and many races. This is America. With the exception of Native Americans, we are a nation of immigrants from all over this world.
As we remember the life of this icon of the farm labor movement, we focus on the birth of America, our freedoms and our liberty. In our mind’s eye, we have the image of the Statue of Liberty, the lady with her arm raised in welcome to immigrants approaching Ellis Island. We read written on her walls, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. . . . Send these, the homeless, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
Yes, this is America, in which the framers of the Declaration of Independence stated: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” And I might add after 9-11 – in the words of the United States Navy – “life, liberty and the pursuit of all who would threaten it.”
Moreover, our forefathers followed up the Declaration of Independence with the Bill of Rights – especially that First Amendment guaranteeing freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, freedom of speech and separation of church and state.
Our patriotism today is not a narrow nationalism that disregards the rest of the world. Nor is it to a theocracy that would force one religious belief and morality on others. Our patriotism is a love of country and to a democracy that honors diversity and freedom.
True patriotism affirms the role of our nation, but only within the broader context of a global community. Patriotism is concerned with stopping that which is evil, that which demeans human life, but does so in ways that keep us from becoming the evils we deplore.
Our humanitarian crisis at the border challenges us to appreciate the struggles and contributions immigrants have made, especially those who till our fields. May we build bridges, not walls.
I attended the funeral of Cesar Chavez in Delano, California, in 1993, along with thousands who came from all over the world.
Let us take to heart the words of Chavez: “We need to help students and parents cherish and preserve the ethnic and cultural diversity that nourishes and strengthens this community and this nation.”
Happy birthday, Cesar Chavez.
Charlie Ara is president of the Palm Desert Greens Democratic Club. Email him at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Charles Ara says Cesar Chavez reflects a true patriotism