Don’t Criticize Arabo, Get Behind Him

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Wadie Deddeh
Photo by Dustin Michelson
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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.

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.