Life events and family history inform the opinions you read here every week
It was pure happenstance last week, the combination of a spur-of-the-moment decision to take in a movie and the arrival of one of those freebie publications that fill up the mailbox every month, that caused me to think about the evolution of my political views and the opinions you read each week in this column.
If there’s an overriding philosophy in my long-held beliefs, it’s that we’re all in this together and we ought to take care of one another.
It’d be very easy to craft a different narrative out of our family history.Immigrant coal miners who forged a 19th century life in a new land out of backbreaking hard work. An early 20th century entrepreneur who became a successful business and community leader. Succeeding generations of teachers, nurses, ranchers, business owners, pastors, financial professionals, reporters, even broadcaster/politician/columnists, all creating their own American dream.
But it wasn’t the now-popular concept of rugged individualism that permeated multi-generational dinner table conversations in the household of a widowed mother with six young kids down on Main Street or in the classrooms and pews at the old St. Joe’s. It was all about working together, doing for each other, helping out, sharing and common good.
It’s an ethic I’ve attempted to honor, with occasional stumbles, throughout my life.
So, they weren’t surprising, the feelings and memories that emerged, as the two of us sat alone in one of the Regal theaters last Thursday night viewing “Cesar Chavez” or as I read the history and upcoming 100th anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre in “Colorado Country Life,” the Rural Electric Association publication that comes to our mailbox courtesy of Grand Valley Power.
My father’s birth certificate says he was born in Rouse, Colo, a long-forgotten mining hamlet between Walsenburg and Trinidad, just short of two years prior to the massacre at nearby Ludlow. My grandfather ran company stores for the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, which operated the mines and hired the militia that, along with Colorado National Guard troops, fired on and then burned the camp of striking miners in April 1914, killing women and children.
Around the time of the massacre, according to family lore, my father’s mother said to my grandfather, “George, you can’t work for these people,” and he struck out on his own, owning and operating mercantile stores in Glenwood Springs, Marble and finally back in his hometown of Crested Butte.
That event, to be commemorated next month at the Ludlow Memorial National Historic Landmark, is also why some have heard me say my other grandfather and his father were union coal miners when that was a capital offense in some parts of Colorado.
Somewhere in our cluttered garage, buried with other memorabilia, is an audio tape of a news program I put together several years after the strike, grape boycott and other events depicted in the movie “Cesar Chavez.” 1972 was a time of similar unrest in Arizona, where a new law forbidding strikes during harvest season prompted Chavez to begin a 25-day fast as farm workers and allies gathered nearly 170,000 signatures to recall Gov. Jack Williams.
It was a heady time to be a young radio news guy. A national story in your own backyard, radio networks anxious for reports and many of the cast of characters in the movie in and out of Arizona from the union’s headquarters in Delano, Calif.
What sticks in my mind is covering an evening candlelight march to a small south Phoenix church to a Mass for farm workers. Then-presidential candidate George McGovern was among many non-union members in attendance and the reason why, as we approached the altar to receive communion, there were tall, burly men who occasionally appeared to be talking into the sleeves of their dark suits. And Chavez being helped to the altar for the small piece of tortilla that would break his fast.
The recall attempt was unsuccessful. But two years later, Arizona elected Raul Castro as its first Latino governor, showing how coming together can bring ultimate, if not immediate, results.
And a couple of examples of how history and life events inform the opinions you read in this column.