We’ve spent the last week in the San Joaquin Valley in California campaigning and looking at farm worker issues… In Keene, California, we stopped at the National Ceaser Chavez Center. I met with Douglas Blaylock who administers the Robrt F. Kennedy Farm Workers Medical Plan. While a good plan (medical, dental, vision, prescription drugs…), Mr. Blaylock said only 2% of the farm workers (some 5,500 people) are insured under the plan. Among the top medical issues for farm workers are asthma and cancer from being exposed to all the toxic chemicals (herbacides, pestacides…) currently being applied to the fields. Mr. Blaylock said “cancer clusters” were being found among farm workers and their families in various places throughout the Valley. Another excellent reason to “grow organic…” In Arvin, California, a dusty farm town just south of Bakersfield, we learned a good number of farm worker families live two or three families to quite tiny houses and trailers — as farmers scrape to get a foothold in this country, or scrimp in order to send money back to relatives living in abject poverty in Mexico. While in Arvin, I met with Fr. Lucas Azpericueda who is personal friends with Vincente Fox, the current leader of Mexico. Prior to becoming president of Mexico, Fox was the head of the Mexican State of Guanaguata. Fr. Lucas said Fox helped transform this State to one where there were many jobs, good education, adequate housing… Fr. Lucas said a key to immigration issues here is to help each state in Mexico become as sustainable as possible. Common sense is most people don’t want to leave family, neighborhood, culture… unless, of course: because their children are hungry and there is no hope where they are… While in Bakersfield, the Bakersfield Californian newspaper ran a piece about some students from Loyola Marymount, a small, private Catholic college in Los Angeles, spending their Spring break in nearby Lamont, California. The students stayed in small homes with farm worker host families and spent some time working in the fields. The article explained one day the students went to an orange grove where they picked part of the day, then knocked off early. They were exhausted, according to the article. Yvonne Garcia, a 20-year-old political science major said she was troubled knowing the host family had to keep picking, not only that day, but into the future. “That brought up the question of why them and not us, and what’s the difference,” Garcia said, then trailed off: “I don’t know…” Note: I, on the other hand, believe I do know ‘what’s the difference.’ That is, these Loyola Marymount students probably grew up, for the most part, in quite a lot of privelege out in the suburbs. Their parents, most likely, weren’t willing to sacrifice their comfort much to bring real social justice, and solid systemic change, to help these farm workers have every advantage possible. (The parents, for the most part, just bought the oranges at the cheapest price possible in the grocery stores, and maybe kicked in a few bucks for the poor at church every once in awhile.) As a result, these children probably grew up without any real social justice models to speak of. Coming out of this insular suburban mileau, of course the youth are going to be perplexed about the deplorable conditions and causes when they see abject poverty up close for the first time. Being uninformed about this is not necessarily their fault. However, once they know. And for that matter, once we all know, then we become spiritually charged, not to so much to spend a lot of time philisophically ruminating about the ‘us vs. them’ question in the cloister of our suburban comfort, as to tangibly mobilize (and sacrifice) to do as many things as possible to help the farm workers (and all the other marginalized)– including changing the system… Ways to help immediately would be, for instance, to go to the The Ceasar E Chavez Foundation or Chavez National Center websites to find out ways to donate, or get involved on other activist levels… Another suggestion would be to, say, put aside an extra $10, $20, $50… every week you buy produce. Then donate it, for instance, to a church in the San Joaquin Valley that’s doing outreach to help the migrant farm workers here.