In this post, I’ll say a little about myself and the purpose of this blog.
I’m currently finishing a Ph.D. at Princeton University where I study law, religion, and ethics. My research and writing at the moment is on Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers. A lot has been written about the subject by historians, journalists, and biographers but not much by scholars from my interdisciplinary field. I’m hoping to change that.
My wife and I have been living in Bakersfield, California since 2016 in order to be closer to the people and places I was writing about. The move was also a bit of a homecoming for me. I’m originally from Delano, where I spent most of my first 22 years of life, give or take some time for college.
For readers whose only experience of California is through movies and television, you’d be forgiven for assuming the state was all celebrities, technology, and coastline. Between Silicon Valley and Hollywood lay vast tracks of the most productive agricultural land in the world. With agriculture come farms and farmers, and with farms and farmers come their politics. (I’m simplifying a bit, but that’s the gist.)
Despite losing the statewide vote to Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump won Kern County with nearly 55% of the vote, effectively making it Trump country. It’s not well-known outside of the state, but the further inland one goes, the more conservative the people tend to be.
Not only was I born and raised in this environment, but I’m also a child of Mexican immigrants. As hard as it may be to believe, given what Trump said about Mexicans and immigrants, a number of my family members voted for him.
These biographical points give me a unique perspective. With my feet planted on both sides of our cultural and political divides, I’m much more likely to question what others take for granted. I also can’t dismiss the people and communities that I disagree with.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not claiming superiority. But by virtue of my life experiences and ongoing relationships, I have to learn to live peaceably amid disagreement. It’s hard but necessary work at a time when our differences seem insuperable.
Living peaceably amid disagreement doesn’t mean, however, that I can’t voice dissent or protest injustice. But it does mean that my dissent and protest are tempered by the relationships I want to maintain and the quality of those relationships.
One writer has referred to this as the virtue of civility: “the part of justice that disposes citizens to confront unjust relationships in ways that leave open the possibility of relational repair.” Unlike niceness, which remains silent in the face of injustice, civility aims at confronting injustice in the hope of repairing the relationship.
Cultivating civility in times like these may seem foolish or impossible or both. But I don’t see any other way around our current cultural and political impasse short of civil war.
The purpose of this blog, accordingly, is to speak about justice and injustice without contributing to our divisions and without assuming those divisions are hopeless or essential. And to do so in a manner that leaves open the possibility of relational repair or reconciliation.
I’m not saying it’s easy or that I have it all figured out, but we can learn together. Please join me for the journey.
Thanks for reading.