Over the Hill

Let's see more understanding, less fighting from politicians

Phil Dirkx
Phil Dirkx

It’s occurred to me during this election season that some candidates seem to want to fight. At least that’s what I think I heard said on two or three of their campaign commercials.

They promised to fight against this law they don’t like or that policy they disagree with. They seem to want me to believe they’ll fight for me. I’d rather have them vow to understand me and my needs.

I’d vote for a candidate who wants to understand and help all of us, including people who don’t especially look like him or her or me. If we want peace on Earth, we’re going to have to understand the varieties of people who live here.

And I surely won’t vote for a candidate if I learn he or she mainly understands people who make large campaign donations.

Many kinds of people live in California, and all deserve to be understood. Also we all want to live in peace, and here in San Luis Obispo County, we generally do.

Most of us would also like to forget the race riots in Los Angeles that broke out more than once during my lifetime and maybe during yours. But we should remember them and try to understand the causes and the people involved.

We should also remember the refugees who migrated to California from the Midwestern Dust Bowl in the 1930s and survived here as migrant farm laborers. My wife, Mamie, was one of them. They were looked down on, shunned and sometimes mistreated by their bosses.

And boy, did they need someone to understand them. Here are some of the California newspaper headlines from the 1930s: “BATTLE TO CURB MIGRANT INVASION” and “Citizens Organize Against Horde’s Influx.” Here are a couple more: “Squalor in Tent Cities,” and “BAR MIGRANTS WITH DISEASES, COUNTIES URGE.”

If anyone needed to be understood, it was those migrant workers from America’s Middle West. But I’d bet that many California politicians of the 1930s promised to fight the “migrant invasion.”

In fact, some state legislators did try to pass a law to keep the migrants out. One headline referring to Gov. Culbert Olson said, “OLSON PROMISES TO VETO BILL PROHIBITING POOR FROM COMING INTO STATE.” He, at least, understood the U.S. Constitution.

The willingness of white Californians and our politicians to understand all kinds of people will soon be put to a test again. The state Department of Finance predicted last year that, “Early in 2014, the Hispanic population will become the plurality in California for the first time since California became a state.”

So give me politicians who want to understand everybody. It’s the smart thing to do and the right thing.