Sunday, November 18, 2007

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

Like many others, I’ve been baffled by the angry reaction of the Latino group that failed to get Interstate Avenue named for Cesar Chavez.

In all likelihood, they will end up with a renaming of the more prominent Fourth Avenue for Chavez instead. The result will be much better than what they had fought for.

How can that be a defeat — or an affront or an insult, as they have called it?

The problem is that the group became so vested in the strategic way they had chosen to achieve their goal of honoring Chavez that the strategy's success became more important than the goal.

In the same way, many soldiers fall in love with war.

As several observers have noted, Cesar Chavez would have been the first to see the folly of his supporters’ divisive position.

Neither the Latino group, nor the Mayor who blindly and inexplicably backed them, saw the presumptuousness and effrontery of simply stepping in and replacing “Interstate” with “Chavez.” Never mind what people who lived along the avenue thought.

The Latino group and the mayor felt they had taken the higher moral ground, and, in one way, they had. The name “Interstate Avenue,” unlike “Cesar Chavez Avenue” had no moral force to it. It stood for nothing except itself and its obvious, historic commercial function.

The people who live and work along Interstate, on the other hand, could invoke their own morality. Try "Thou Shalt Not Steal."

The name of their stretch of the world was not something that could be taken from them by interest groups, ethnic or otherwise, and by politicians possibly stuck with IOUs and definitely feeling political heat.

As it turned out, the “Interstaters” could generate their own political heat.

And so the struggle became more important than the goal of honoring the memory of Cesar Chavez.

Of course, the substitution of 4th Avenue for Interstate as a compromise addressed the goal magnificently, but it also created “winners” and “losers” in the Interstate struggle.

The hope is that all the parties one day will be wiser for the experience. They may even end up congratulating each other on their shared victory.

For the City of Portland, that day can't come too soon.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home