As the first Chaldean Christian to hold public office in the United States, I can say that the current crises we face in both El Cajon and throughout the Middle East are not new challenges to our people. For generations we have been plagued by persecution, by non-inclusiveness and by an identity crisis that resonates today.

After reading the letter to the editor by Ghassan Hanna, I am disappointed to say that we may face yet another challenge: willful ignorance.

I have seen the minimal amounts of progress that have been purposely stymied by the city of El Cajon and its officials. This piece by Hanna has the audacity to question the motives by Mark Arabo and the Neighborhood Market Association’s attempt to implement undoubtedly positive measures within the city including term limits, district elections and median income caps for city officials.

This is not a matter of opportunism, establishing a name or doing anything nefarious of the sort. These measures are to make El Cajon better.

READ MORE: The Corner-Store King: How Mark Arabo Shook Up El Cajon

They’re to clean up the culture of racism in El Cajon, to put a stop to the irresponsible excessiveness by the city’s officials while its citizens remain the poorest in the county. This is to make the officials of El Cajon accountable to the city they have tried so hard to suppress. It is nothing short of a shame to see Hanna serving as yet another accessory of this cruel campaign made by El Cajon to silence its Chaldean, African American and Mexican populations.

We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?

I call on all individuals of reason to support any propositions that would put a halt to the disgracefulness that has manifested itself at the highest and unseen levels of power in the city. Mayor Bill Wells, developer Darrel Priest and the rest of the “good old boys” that make up this power structure, mark my words: Be ready for change.

There have been no black City Council members in El Cajon’s history. Councilwoman Star Bales, who voted against having a Chaldean-American month, was cherry-picked due to her past standing as disgraced Mayor Mark Lewis’ campaign manager. She was picked for an unprecedented three-year term despite calls for an election. El Cajon is the poorest city in the county, yet the city manager makes over $210,000 a year. They have done nothing to support diversity, LGBT rights or transparency.

These are just a few of the glaring holes that indicate El Cajon is a city led by corruption at its highest levels of authority.

Additionally, to see Arabo labeled as an “opportunist” for what he has done to support the Iraqi Christian community may be the most ridiculous aspect of this letter.

Arabo was the first person in the U.S. to bring any sort of awareness to the genocide occurring in Iraq and Syria. He passed the first and one of the only pieces of legislation to support Iraqi Christians on a statewide, national and international level. As a private citizen, rather then lowering himself to the pettiness of his detractors, he has remained steadfast in his efforts to create a better life for Iraqi Christians, and a better life for the people of El Cajon.

I ask that we all join in his efforts to clean up El Cajon, and unite behind his work in ending the Christian genocide. I ask anyone who diminishes his work to instead focus his or her energy on doing something productive, like passing the legislation he helped to craft with Rep. Juan Vargas, HR 1568. Or use your pen to ask the city of El Cajon to promote greater City Council inclusiveness for some of the most diverse groups of people in the county.

I am an old man, and I may not have much time left, but I’ll be damned to see my life’s work promoting our people be hindered any more by willful ignorance in members of the city of El Cajon, and those who appease the hidden racism that they promote.

I have been in San Diego since 1959. There were only four Chaldean Christian families at the time. Today, we are more than 50,000 and yet we continue to lack the unification to get behind a voice. In all my years, I have seen nobody come close to what Arabo has done for the Chaldean community here and throughout the nation. I ask you to stand behind him. I ask you to call for a better El Cajon. And I hope to see these changes before my time comes.

Wadie Deddeh is a former state senator. Deddeh’s letter has been edited for style and clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.

    This article relates to: East County, Letters, Opinion

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    Bill Wells
    Bill Wells

    As a political leader I expect to be judged; but by my actions, not wild, unfounded accusations.  Some scream “racist” when the argument, or the tide of public opinion is not going their way.  This is a practiced political tactic that is not only intellectually vapid and lazy, but it is also dangerous. When racism is real, it is ugly and dangerous and should be stamped out.  Using the charge for political advantage, with no evidence or reality attached, is shameful and potentially damaging to the entire community.  I believe that people want and demand more of us. 

    Sunny Day
    Sunny Day

    @Bill Wells To your actions - here, again, is what you said to a reporter from the voice of San Diego: 

    “They’ve ruffled some feathers,” Wells said of the Iraqi Christian community. “What I’m hearing from my constituents is they’re uncomfortable with the way El Cajon is changing. When they see this new ethnic group coming in and trying to take over, they have problems voting that in."   

    To say that such comments smack of xenophobia and racism is not a wild, unfounded accusation -  its a pretty accurate observation.  Your remarks were dangerous, because they were divisive, pitting the "new ethnic group"  against "your constituents", using words like "taking over" and "voting THAT in"...  It would be intellectually vapid and lazy to let such remarks slide. Your remarks were shameful and damaging to your community. And while you kind-of, sort-of apologized for these remarks, apparently not really, since you are again attacking those who criticized them. 

    If, in the future, you don't want people to accuse you of racism, I would avoid making remarks that sound racist. This is a self created problem...  We want and demand more of you. 

    Johnny Jacob
    Johnny Jacob

    Mr. Wadea Deddeh in his article attempted to polish the questionable credentials of Mr. Mark Arabo, but failed miserably. Deddeh’s article was full of fallacious information, deceptions, and demeaning accusations of racism against the citizens of El Cajon as well as members of El Cajon City Council.

    Dr. Ghassan Hanna, did a tremendous job in rebuffing Deddeh’s deluded report, however, I would like to add few comments on Deddeh’s report. I strongly believe that making an unsubstantiated racial argument against City Council of El Cajon was a very demeaning path, and so was Deddeh's unjustified attack on Ms. Star Bales. Ms. Bales voted her conscious and not her ethnic biases. She acted as an American citizen and not just as a Chaldean American and that is why she voted against the proposal of a Chaldean month. And as for the salary of City Manager being $210,000 a year, Deddeh failed to mention the salaries of the rest of the city council members, including Mayor Wells. I am sure the readers would be surprised to learn that members of El Cajon city council makes much, much less than what Deddeh makes as an old retired Senator.

    Wadea Deddeh, with all due respect, you did not help Arabo a bit, but rather did an excellent job in damaging your own credibility.

    Ghassan Hanna
    Ghassan Hanna

    It’s interesting to read this piece by Deddeh that I came across couple of hours ago. I am glad Deddeh is interested in El Cajon city politics and more surprisingly in the lot of Iraqi Christians. Unlike the late Senator John Nimrod of Illinois (served 1973-1983) who tirelessly worked on advancing Iraqi Christian causes till his very death in 2009, Deddeh is hardly known among Chaldean/Assyrian political activists in the United States let alone Iraq.  The most engaging issue for Chaldeans/Assyrians of the United States was the 1999 decision by the Census Bureau to tabulate Iraqi Christians under a single ethnic category. As a prominent member of the advisory committee the Census Bureau relied on making that decision, I could attest to the fact that Deddeh's name was never mentioned before me to indicate his interest in any Chaldean issues. To check my credentials, please, refer to this link:

    To add salt to injury, Deddeh is known to support Arabo’s sectarian agenda of dividing Iraqi Christians along their Assyrian and Chaldean church affiliations, when both names refer to the very same ethnic group. Worse, Deddeh seems to be proud of the lobbying efforts by Arabo in Washington, DC to increase the immigration visas allotted to Iraqi Christians, an agenda that does the very work of the Islamic State (ISIS) in cleansing Iraq of its Christian population. Such agenda is rejected by all Christian churches as well as the Assyrian/Chaldean political parties active in Iraq.

    It’s regretful to read the fallacies contained in Deddeh’s letter. To claim Arabo as “the first person in the U.S. to bring any sort of awareness to the genocide occurring in Iraq and Syria” is an insult to the efforts of many Iraqi Christians active in that field long before  Arabo’s discovery in June 2014 of the plight of Iraqi  Christians. Arabo, an American born kid speaks neither Chaldean nor Arabic. Further, Deddeh makes another outrageous claim about Arabo as “He passed the first and one of the only pieces of legislation to support Iraqi Christians on a statewide, national and international level”. It would have been interesting to know the name of that legislation the leader of the liquor stores Market Association managed to pass. Unlike the bombastic claims of Deddeh and Arabo, there’s an army of hardworking Chaldeans/Assyrians advocating for many years for the rights of Iraqi Christians and making others aware of their sufferings. Deddeh needs to educate himself about their efforts so he won’t be accused of practicing what he loathes.. “willful ignorance”.

    As to El Cajon City politics, my letter was clear in its intent and agenda and would have preferred Deddeh had refrained from engaging in political demagogy about who’s more concerned about the betterment of city services. Unlike Deddeh and his young benefactor’s divisive policies, Mayor Wells accepted my invitation to meet in person with the rank-and-file of Chaldeans of El Cajon to discuss their concerns. The meeting will be held next Sunday June 21 at 3:00 pm at the Ronald Reagan Community Center (next to El Cajon Public Library). The meeting is open to all residents of El Cajon.

    Thank you.

    Dr. Ghassan Hanna


    Chaldeans Online

    msginsd subscriber

    "This piece by Hanna has the audacity to question the motives by Mark Arabo and the Neighborhood Market Association’s attempt to implement undoubtedly positive measures within the city including term limits, district elections and median income caps for city officials."

    Maybe Arabo and the NMA should start with something simple like preventing their member stores from selling alcohol to minors and expired food.