A Moment for Mr. Chavez

Today is the birthday of an icon in California, Cesar Chavez.

Eight years ago, I posted a link to an article in The Atlantic by Caitlin Flanigan reviewing Miriam Pawel’s exhaustive and thorough biography, The Crusades of Cesar Chavez. Pawel’s effort to tell the full story of Chavez’s life and work was rigorous, clear-eyed, and ultimately iconoclastic. The portrait that emerges challenges three generations of hagiography so utterly as to serve as a much more fundamental warning. Making idols of men threatens to cast the burden of their flaws upon the legitimacy of the causes for which they fought.

So let us no longer carve Chavez into an idol, but let us instead honor the cause for which he fought, however imperfectly. Rather than celebrate the life of Chavez, I will instead spend time on this day of global sequestration reflecting upon the nature of his cause, which to me is this:

No civilization can long stand that treats as a commodity any people, but especially those who harvest its food, teach its children, or heal its wounds. 

Building a pantheon of white-washed heroes does not advance that or any cause worthy of our better instincts. Truly supporting our farmworkers, our teachers, and our medical professionals demands more thought, more care, and some degree of sacrifice to make it meaningful. Let us resolve not to shirk from that responsibility.

Pandemic Ponderings #1: Boeing Flies Through the Storm

Boeing is seeking all $60 billion it requested for the aerospace industry despite saying the company didn’t need a bailout to survive. Boeing stock rose.

Source: Boeing Stock Rises As $60 BIllion Aerospace Industry Bailout Still Eyed | Investor’s Business Daily

I am going to start a series of posts that are a bit off-topic for this forum, but that I feel are appropriate given the times: Pandemic Ponderings, a series of thoughts about COVID-19 and the changes it is wreaking upon the world even as we face up to the beast.

I want to start by talking about Boeing, partly because I have admired the company for five decades, but mostly because it represents all that is right – and all that is wrong – with American companies today.

It is difficult to overstate the critical role Boeing plays in the economy and in the national defense, so I find it hard to begrudge the company its share of the Great COVID Corporate Welfare package. That charity is limited: too much of what ails the company today is self-inflicted. So while I will, at some point, deliver some tough love to Boeing leadership for the execrable way it has been managed, for now, a nod and a high-five.

And a thought.

Coming out of this pandemic, a wide swath of the population will now be accustomed to using virtual presence. People who might never have tried services like Microsoft Teams or Zoom before are now using them daily. Once you turn a tool into a habit, the habit brings an accompanying change of behavior. It is hard not to foresee companies cutting back on business travel, using the rising quality and falling cost of virtual presence as partial justification.

And let’s be honest – how many of us who engage in regular business travel will mourn? The prospect of spending long hours sealed in a pressurized aluminum tube filled with uncomfortable seats and countless germs, manned by indifferent crews and flown through increasingly turbulent skies (thank you, climate change), all dappled with the overhanging fears of terrorism cannot but fill one with unalloyed dread.

I could be wrong: air travel may not be the industrial equivalent of a 737-MAX on autopilot (sorry, I know, low blow.) But Boeing’s most prominent customers must be staying awake nights wondering if they are going to run out of sky, or if they need to start changing the way they fly.