Originally posted by David Chen, May 31, 2014
Dear BUF Community,
My name is David Chen and I’m a student at the UW doing my senior thesis on how religion and spirituality play into the lives and activism of migrant farmworkers. I am thrilled to be a part of your most loving community. (I listened to the service for which Rosalinda gave a sermon, so I already know.) Unfortunately I am not sure if I will be able to meet the people to whom I write as I live two hours away.
The goal of this letter will be to keep the community informed about the struggle for migrant farmworker justice, and I will write it once a month at least throughout the summer.
Henry Bierlink published an article, “Whatcom Farm Friends back Sakuma Brothers in labor dispute,” in which, to give you a taste of the paternalistic tone with which it was written, claims:“…to demonize their farm, family and their customers is simply wrong, irresponsible, andintentionally divisive. Watching a family that endured the WWII internment camps go through another fear-based torment is painful” (emphasis mine). It baffles me how some individuals can justify the oppression of one racial group by another on the premise that that other was oppressed too. Furthermore, in Bierlink’s equation, demanding dignity is not only “wrong, irresponsible, and intentionally divisive,” but also a form of “fear-based torment.”
Bierlink closes his article, “We welcome a respectful dialogue with farm workers and their advocates in the spirit of mutual problem solving. We resist the temptation to demagogue complex issues like farm labor and expect the same from others.” How frustrating is it that the very thing the farmworkers are asking for is that which he declares has already been offered? And aside from“demagogue”—which means “a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument”—being a noun (not a verb), his use of it is highly offensive: it suggests that the farmworkers are irrational and so are all those who support them. I would replace “demagogue,” the grammatically and contextually incorrect descriptor, with“oligarchical,” which would rightfully point out that Bierlink and his middle-class friends are using their power to patronize and exclude the voice of society’s marginalized. I am again reminded that among the biggest challenges we face, as people who believe that we are all equal, is bridging the socioeconomic divide that has been so carefully crafted and meticulously maintained by those whom it benefits—but only materially.
Bierlink is the executive director of Whatcom Farm Friends, which lists C2C as a sustainable farming resource. In the past he has been supportive of Rosalinda, so it is no surprise that he tiptoes around any mention of her.
Bierlink published his letter in The Bellingham Herald. We at BUF composed a letter to the Herald in support of the farmowrkers last fall, and Julie Shirley replied: “We don't run letters to other people in letters to the editor. Also, it's a Skagit issue, and there's more than enough news to keep us busy in Whatcom County. You might try the Skagit Valley Herald.” Shirley doesn’t comment on how Bierlink has a right to voice his opinion while BUF does not, and her reasoning that letters cannot be addressed to others suggests a severe limitation on an individual’s freedom of speech.
In response, we want to request a meeting with The Herald’s editorial board. We want to do this in concert with the Bellingham Democracy group, who has had the same problem of having their voice excluded. We also want to invite other faith groups to bear witness during the meeting. Aside from the meeting itself, we want as many people as possible to sign the letter.
On a different note, the worker’s march in early May was a really good time. Though there were not quite as many people than last year, likely because of the rain, there was nonetheless a great turnout.
Rosalinda gave a recent sermon at BUF, which can be accessed at buf.org “Worship” “Recent Sermons.” We anticipate that Rosalinda will find a third career as a pastor, and are jealous of whichever congregation she chooses to join. Edgar has been offering Adult Education forums recently as well.
We want to have a dinner night at BUF sometime, and perhaps even make it an every-other-month or biannual event. The dinner would be mainly educational, but we hope that if there is any profit—which there could be if we could get it sponsored—it would benefit C2C. Ramón Torres, the President of Familias Unidas, wants to learn o farm organically, so it would be amazing if we could use his food in the meal.
Looking ahead to the Day of the Dead (El Día de Los Muertos), which is during Halloween, Kara is thinking about hosting a murder mystery fundraiser for C2C. Despite her initial concerns, due to a desire to be respectful of Mexican culture, Rosalinda assured us that the cemetery was a childhood playground and the fundraiser would not be in least offensive. Now we need talented writers who are skilled in the ways of murder mysteries to develop the story that will be used for this fundraiser.
Other items of note:
• Tamale and Tortilla sales are "on hold" for a while. It was profitable but new leadership is needed.
• Cesar Chavez Dinner was the most successful of the 10 years.
• Kara wrote an article for BUF's spring newsletter that can also become our first blog.
• Though national immigration legislation failed, there seems to be a wave of improvement in the situation on various fronts
• Community Gardens are expanding as well as presently growing, very quickly.
• Adam Smith has introduced legislation to create oversight of private prisons. Could this be an attempt to redeem himself from his namesake?
• 16 Sheriffs in Washington State will not hold prisoners for I.C.E. Whatcom's Bill Elfo just joined them.
• A new Border Patrol chief is expected soon. The antagonistic Chief Bates has been removed.
This is why the still-alive Adam Smith, mentioned above, needs to work so hard: “The man whose life is spent performing a few simple operations, of which the effects too are, perhaps, always the same, or very nearly the same, has no occasion to exert his understanding, or to exercise his invention in finding out expedients for removing difficulties which never occur. He naturally loses, therefore, the habit of such exertion, and generally becomes stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become. The torpor of his mind renders him not only incapable of relishing or bearing a part in any rational conversation, but of conceiving any generous, noble, or tender sentiment.” – Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, 2:302-3.