Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cesar Chavez: The rhetoric contributions of the working farmer.

     Two of the readings that I was required to look through for my Rhetoric of Literature class was were in the texts Rhetoric and Human Consciousness, and American Earth. The particular sections of the books I read  in Rhetoric were Chapter 10 "Identification, Dialectic, and Dramatism," and in American Earth was Cesar Chavez's Wrath of Grapes Boycott Speech. In American Earth, I read on pages 690-695 of the text that described Chavez as "the greatest Latino social activist in American history." After reading his speech on the struggles of the migrant farm workers in the California regions that he fought and protested rights for, I can definitely understand why he is an embodiment of democratic right and social activism for a justifying cause. I also realized that many of his ideas apply to what I read in chapter ten of Rhetoric about Marx's politics on socialism, and the other philosophers that focused on dialect.
     Cesar Chavez's speech for the American farm workers rights during the Wrath of Grape Boycott gives an example of the social activist and farmer's passion and determination to make the lives of his fellow workers better than they were at the time. In his speech in American Earth Chavez says, "We farm workers are closest to food production. We were the first to reorganize the serious health hazards of agriculture pesticides to both consumers and ourselves"(690). So he was not only one of the first people to organize boycotts for low paid farm workers, but he also was so deeply concerned for the health of his workers and customers that he took the liberty on battling the use of harmful pesticides that were on the verge of ruining the farm practice and causing unnecessary sickness/death to those it affected. I personally admire that about Chavez, along with Rachel Carson who was also determined to let the world know about the toxic consequences of pesticide use. In the text, there's also mentioning of Chavez's actions that were a stepping stone for others to act upon regarding outlawing pesticides. Chavez says, "we also won a critical battle for all Americans. Our first contracts banned the use of DDT, DDE, Dieldrin on crops, years before the federal government acted"(691). The migrant farmer's action convinced and pushed the government of the United States to take serious action on making laws to protect their citizen from the poisons that may have been found in their fruits or vegetables. Again, Chavez made an important impact for beyond simple farming. The main crop that he focused on speaking about and protecting from poisonous pesticides was the grapes. As it says in American Earth, "of the twenty-seven legally restricted toxic poisons currently used on grapes, at least five are potentially as dangerous or more hazardous to consumers and grape workers than deadly Aldicarb and Orthene"(692). Cesar Chavez was knowledgeable about pesticides, their affect on the crops, land, and used his information to gather as much supporters as he could to bring rights to workers and protect the health of all who purchased the food that was grown by them. Chavez's method is similar to the type of "conventional forms" of speech organizing that I noticed on Rhetoric and Human Consciousness that I think deals with the problem and solution, and a call to action. This was an important tool of rhetoric for Chavez to use for his cause. I also think that Chavez also was inspired by Karl Marx's socialist beliefs in organizing support and actions for workers. Cesar Chavez also preached a sense of unity and family when organizing his protest for getting rights for farm workers. In the American Earth text speech he says to his fellow farmers, "I am reaching out to you for help because consumers and farm workers must stand together as one family if we are to be heard"(694). This powerful quote in his speech about standing together as one to help each other for what is right for them and all workers in general is something I admire about Chavez because I agree with him, and represents rhetoric being used to not only to increase numbers but strive for change in the farming business. Cesar Chavez was a true speaker, and an important advocate for improving healthy farm food along with rights to American farm workers.

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