On the eve of Arizona's most famous native son's celebrated birthday, Phoenix-area Sheriff Joe Arpaio unveiled his latest media stunt, the war-time invoking Operation Desert Sky -- a 30-plane air posse of armed volunteers to track Mexican smugglers. Only days before, Arpaio rolled his department's private tank into a quiet west Phoenix neighborhood to apprehend a flock of chickens and their unarmed cock-fighting enthusiast.
It's not enough to question the logic of Arpaio's extremist follies, or the cost to taxpayers while Arizona continues to witness the deaths of denied transplant patients and deal with draconian cuts to education. Or the fact that the Tea Party-controlled state legislature openly refused to fund enforcement efforts for the level-headed Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, whose Pima County actually runs along the Mexican border (unlike Arpaio's Maricopa County).
Makes you wonder: Who represents Arizona today? The reality TV show of the anti-immigrant antics of the Massachusetts-transplanted sheriff, the son of Italian immigrants, or the towering legacy of Arizona native and labor leader Cesar Chavez for environmental justice and democratic reform?
Arpaio, along with the witch hunt of the Mexican American Studies program in Tucson, and the radical state legislature "Arizona Gone Wild" agenda -- are the very reasons that many Arizonans and advocates across the nation are redoubling their efforts to establish a Cesar Chavez Holiday.
Cesar Chavez is Arizona's and our country's most important forgotten civil rights champion.
Hailed by Robert Kennedy Jr. as "one of the heroic figures of our times," Chavez's nonviolent United Farm Worker campaigns for clean water and clean air, workplace safety and union bargaining rights could not be more timely today.
President Obama would agree -- or rather, presidential candidate Obama, who declared during the 2008 campaign:
"As farmworkers and laborers across America continue to struggle for fair treatment and fair wages, we find strength in what Cesar Chavez accomplished so many years ago,'' Obama said in a statement from his campaign. "And we should honor him for what he's taught us about making America a stronger, more just, and more prosperous nation.
"That's why I support the call to make Cesar Chavez's birthday a national holiday. It's time to recognize the contributions of this American icon to the ongoing efforts to perfect our union."
Feliz cumpleaños, Cesar Chavez.
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