By Trudy Wischemann
A miracle occurred at last Tuesday’s Lindsay City Council meeting: people came. The largest percentage of them came because there were issues on the agenda which they wanted to address: two resolutions asking for official support from our town, one on DACA, the other on moving Eagle Mountain Casino from the Tule River Reservation to some land the tribe owns near the Porterville airport.
A third group, however, came to address an issue from the Council’s previous agenda Feb. 27: the transfer of grant monies from the project of upgrading the town’s baseball facility, the Olive Bowl, to the new project of demolishing the city’s public golf course and building new soccer fields there. Eight teenaged girls stood behind their little league coach as he demonstrated their need for community support.
The overall effect, in my mind, was to disprove a theory long held by many in this town: that no one cares. Often here in Lindsay, as in small towns everywhere, people are reluctant to express their opinions, especially if their opinions appear to be at odds with the powers that be. They can be reluctant to seem different, which is more difficult in small towns than in urban centers. But when things matter, when things really matter, people will — and do — step up to the plate.
Councilwoman Laura Cortes brought the DACA resolution to the Council’s agenda. It says, in part, that “the City Council of the City of Lindsay stands in strong support” of the thousands of people affected by the pending loss of the DACA program. It also urges “the swift passage of (S. 1615) and (H.R. 3440) Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act of 2017. . . a bill that will allow thousands of young students that have lived in the United States for years, and call it home, to realize their education dream and give them a path to legalizing their immigration status.”
As our newest council member, Cortes’ action was bold. It was rewarded by passage 4:0, with Councilman Watson abstaining. But the real value was seeing the youth of this town step forward to the microphone and tell the Council what it wanted: relief for themselves and their neighbors from the terrible prospects imposed by the current U.S. ICE deportation efforts. I was in awe of them and their leaders. Our teenagers were every bit as eloquent in speaking up for the realities of their lives as those students from Parkland have been about theirs. Their issue is no less threatening.
Friday I stopped by the library and found a book at the front desk that was offered to me for free, part of a program to generate interest in reading. It was Tim Z. Hernandez’ book All They Will Call You, published last year, about his project getting names on the graves of the unnamed deportees killed in a plane crash in 1948. The crash — and the namelessness of the deportees — was memorialized in a song by Woody Guthrie titled “Plane Wreck Over Los Gatos Canyon” but known by many simply as “Deportee.” The last two lines of the chorus say “You won’t have your names when you ride the big airplane. All they will call you will be Deportee.”
As I took the book home, I realized that one of the beauties of this current movement to staunch deportations is that we are working, as a people, to protect against this namelessness, this loss of identity. With students like ours, we are likely to succeed at least at that.
Trudy Wischemann is is a writer who always has a song in her head. You can send her your concerns about Lindsay or other small towns c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247 or visit www.trudysnotesfromhome.blogspot.com and leave a comment there.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.