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.
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?
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.
@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.
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.
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: http://www.chaldeansonline.org/nabu/census.html
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.
Dr. Ghassan Hanna
"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.