May 30, 2016

HE WAS EXPENDABLE: “California refuses to honor John Wayne, but the state lavishes tributes on liberal-friendly figures guilty of similar (or worse) sins,” Matthew Hennessey writes at City Journal:

For example, in 1988, the California legislature voted unanimously to declare April 21 John Muir Day. The Sierra Club founder, according to current governor Jerry Brown, was “a giant of a man” whose “scientific discoveries, engineering innovations and writings still inspire us today.” Presumably, Brown hasn’t read Muir’s reflections on “negroes” as “easy-going and merry, making a great deal of noise and doing little work.” It’s shocking to the modern ear to hear the celebrated naturalist declare that “one energetic white man, working with a will, would easily pick as much cotton as half a dozen Sambos and Sallies.”

Muir—the “great man”—evidently also had little regard for Native Americans. As The New Yorker’s Jedidiah Purdy surmised last year, Muir and other early environmentalists viewed communing with the American wilderness as “a way for a certain kind of white person to become symbolically native to the continent.” Yet, John Muir Day endures in California, celebrated with an official proclamation from the governor’s office every April 21, presumably because Muir’s status as the granddaddy of the environmental movement trumps his racist views.

On March 31 of every year since 2000, California formally celebrates Cesar Chavez Day, in honor of the founder of the United Farm Workers. “I ask all Californians to join me in continuing to build on his dream of a world where all workers are treated with dignity and respect,” Brown says in his annual proclamation. Countless California schools, parks, monuments, and public buildings bear Chavez’s name. And in 2014, President Obama declared March 31 a federal commemorative holiday in Chavez’s honor. All this for a man who, in a 1972 interview, called strikebreakers from Mexico “wetbacks,” a term widely considered racist and unmentionable today.

Not to mention Chavez’s later years leading a Jim Jones-like cult, as a left-leaning, Berkeley-born Atlantic author discovered much to her chagrin, in a 2011 piece appropriately titled “The Madness of Cesar Chavez.”

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