Speaking Truth to Power How does one article draw disdain from the left and the right?
“They deemed him their worst enemy who tells them the truth.” After the many reactions I received from my last article, “The Truth About a Mexican Hero,” I felt relieved when I read Plato’s famous words. One Indymedia website called me a troll, a person that wants to get people mad and get people a knee jerk reaction. The second Indymedia website put my article in a Hidden area because of policy violations. I emailed them to ask what exactly that meant and received no reply to date.
In the past, posting my 18-year-old-sounding, flaming, radical, 1960’s-era articles, as a long time friend says, was never a problem for Indymedia. I felt welcomed. When I wrote for the conservative, reactionary corporate-owned LA Times (oops can’t help the flames), I was always prepared, but nevertheless, taken back with the restrictions on speaking the truth. My hope is that this article will be printed without restrictions; where people can read UNTROLL like reactions that involve thoughtful and intelligent dialogue.
My thanks to all of you that sent in emails because it helps us all learn just how problematic this article was for all, especially the writer. The following emails are reprinted here with permission from the senders.
”Before linking Cesar to the Minutemen, however, it would have been more fair and accurate to point out that Cesar changed his position on the undocumented after people like Bert Corona convinced him to do so. Cesar learned from his mistakes. He wrote a letter to the San Francisco Chronicle that was widely circulated in which he repudiated the UFW's early stance on illegal immigration. To date, the Minutemen have not shown a similar gift for self-criticism. What is most troubling about your article is the timing. Why air Cesar's dirty laundry (which he tried to clean up himself) now? Will this information not aid the Minutemen in their propaganda efforts?” Saludos cordiales, Jorge Mariscal “What you write about Chavez and the UFW was true for a time, but I really wonder why you don't indicate that that position changed with time. Since you obviously know that and choose to suppress it, it totally undermines your credibility in my eyes, and those of anyone who knows the history of that period. It would also have shown a more balanced attitude on your part to point out that Chavez refused to enrich himself, as it would have been so easy for him to do and as so many other powerful leaders in our society have done. So what's your real agenda?” Mario Barrera Professor Emeritus University of California, Berkeley Here are a few reactions to the above emails by others who read my article: DIAS SENOR B!! Muchas gracias por sharing!! Guess am at the "adolescent stage" too!! Consider wherefore these people are coming from- mainstream! It's like telling our Black Brothers & sisters to wait for equality and civil rights, voting too! We wouldn't have gotten the 14th & 19th Amendments!! It's called not rocking the boat,etc.. Same thing with Dr. King, can't criticize either, but at least Dr. King was changing! Che came to mind- he never changed- a sexist,etc. Ever talk to Delores Huerta or Linda Chavez-Thompson(ALFCIO)? But that's the galling, glaring part that everyone doesn't want to address. Notice when they say "product of time" no one wants to address the racism,sexism,etc. It’s excused. TU GRINGA AMIGA!! lynn :) ps. As our Black Brothers & Hermanas say,” Keep truth to power"!! It is interesting how one must be aware when rocking the white ivory towers. True that academics research what they know, and they know it well - BUT Lynn brought up something that the Chemist pointed out. Its is a product of time and therefore a way of thought that is based on a certain formula. Almost like scientific method, if you want to be "rational." Regardless, I think your article problematizes what people take as norm, which should not be looked down upon, as it is in all our best interest to challenge what we know even if it will rattle the ground we walk on. What are your personal reactions? Peace, Fatima I've always believed that you should judge a person by all his actions, good and bad. When teaching my students, I always make it a point to show that many of our so called American heroes aren't as saintly as we have been led to believe. Case in point, Martin Luther King- cheater and womanizer, John Adams-slave owner and elitist, Thomas Jefferson - slave owner, cheater, women abuser etc... What kind of education are we fostering with our youth when we choose to ignore human faults? Society is led to believe that such individuals have led an idealistic life, when in fact, they're as human as any of us. When we purposely ignore, hide and fault those who point out the truth, we falsely create fictional characters out of ordinary individuals. Legends are made up of people like George Washington, who supposedly chopped a cherry tree down and later denied it only to later tell the truth. In reality, there is no way little George would ever even involve himself in such manual labor. He had enough slaves to turn that plantation into a corporation. If we just learned to accept the truth, our gente would be able to judge for themselves whether or not those individuals should truly be called heroes. Rivas After reading the first two emails I sent my article to some right wing websites and got zero reaction. I imagine their reaction was more than likely similar to a man at my work. He is a very conservative white male and only really reacted to the negative comments about the Minutemen and never once mentioned anything about Cesar Chavez. He stressed that it is not racist what the Minutemen are doing. He asked how would we react, “If wetbacks were hired for four dollars an hour to do your job; would you like that? We have had wetbacks doing this work before and they did a good job.” My co-worker’s father and brother worked here previously and took great offense to hearing his family members referred to as good “wetbacks.” While many different views are expressed here, this writer has one major concern. I can put this up on my little web page; I think Herman would refer to it as my soapbox that is not really freedom of speech because only corporate America and now even Indymedia has control over what issues are the important ones. Control over what we read is the agenda.
What has happened to us in the American media arena? Have we become so polarized that each side can only sing to its own choir? Has racism crept into the American psyche in a way that it is acceptable, at certain places in time, to ignore oppressive tactics used against immigrant workers trying to cross US borders? Are parallels of the tactics used by Cesar Chavez in 1979 and the Minutemen of today only different because some are seen as white swastika waving racist, and the other a hero to the Chicano movement? Have we seen other examples in the world that mimic this scenario where immigrant workers are the blunt of both the dominant culture and at times even their own extended ancestral families?
Accompanied with the aforementioned emails, I posed these questions to Noam Chomsky. His response was the following:
Difficult to measure polarization, but it's hard to believe that it's more extreme than before, or even anywhere near as close. Immigrants are almost always the target of attack by the dominant culture. Look at the way Irish and "Huns" (meaning anyone from Eastern Europe) was treated in the US in the late 19th century, or blacks in the North later (basically internal immigrants, coming from the South). Or Jews, as I remember very well from childhood. Does their own community join? In spades. Again it's standard, and from all directions. One factor is those who have sort of "made it," and don't want to see their fragile standing threatened by those "bad people" with whom they'll be associated. Another, from the opposite side, is those who are seeking identity and a history and culture they can view with pride, and don't want to see that challenged. And more. What you're experiencing is ordinary. Unpleasant, but then raising hard questions often has that consequence. Noam Chomsky Thank you Noam for your comments. They are greatly appreciated. It is important that we read and hear a variety of views, so that ultimately truth can speak to those that have power. In the end each person grows and learns from what they read and hear. I hope that in some small way, we have all gained some knowledge from each other here. My sentiments are that many of you will seek out the heroes named on this page and read what they say about the world, because every day they are engaged in the art of speaking the truth to power.