Published: mic (March 31, 2013)
The Internet is aroar right now. Why? Because even though it’s Easter, Google decided to honor Cesar Chavez instead of Jesus Christ in its banner today.
A quote from Henry Cabot Lodge comes to mind:
“The facility of saying something is counterbalanced by the difficulty of saying anything worth hearing.”
Unfortunately, we live in an era in which the trivial becomes controversial with depressing regularity. “Easter” and “Cesar Chavez” are already among the top search engine trends, FoxNews Radio pundits from Glenn Beck to Todd Starnes are waxing apoplectic at the thought of a “leftist” being honored over their Lord and Savior, and Twitter is bursting with the outrage of God-fearing websurfers publicizing their resolve to switch to Bing, declaring that “Google goes left,” and telling the company to “take your Chavez doodle and your insulting snub to all Christians and go away.” Now that the furor is (inevitably) starting to be picked up as a major story by mainstream media outlets, an issue that by all rights should have remained in the realm of the meaningless has metamorphosed into the “newsworthy.” As such, the following deconstruction has been rendered regrettably necessary:
1. The facts about Google:
First and foremost, the company hasn’t had an Easter Doodle since 2000. What’s more, today is Cesar Chavez’s birthday, an occasion that not only warrants recognition in its own right (see Point 3), but was actually declared a holiday in a presidential proclamation by Barack Obama back in 2011. Finally, a careful review of Google’s past banners shows that they have often “snubbed” major religious groups by posting unrelated doodles on their most sacred holidays, from celebrating its own eleventh birthday on Yom Kippur 2009 (Full disclosure: I’m Jewish and didn’t even notice) to focusing on the Olympics (as well as the birthdays of Julia Child, Amelia Earhart, and Gustav Klimt) during Ramadan 2012.
2. The facts about being “snubbed”:
As you may have noticed, the word “snubbed” has been used ironically here up to this point (hence the quotes). That is because the offense taken by those Christians who feel “snubbed” by Google’s decision is, simply put, logically inexplicable. As Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary helpfully explains, to snub one has “to check or stop with a cutting retort” or “to treat with contempt or neglect.” Since Google obviously didn’t actually say anything to insult Christians with their banner (thus ruling out the first definition), one is left with the conclusion that these individuals feel they have been “treated with contempt or neglect.” Yet as explained before, Google has always been erratic at best about recognizing religious holidays. This not only invalidates the idea that they were attempting to insult Christianity by showing “contempt” or “neglect” through the absence of any reference to Easter, but puts the onus on Google’s critics to explan how exactly any offense could be considered to have taken place.
Since it would be impossible for Google to honor every single sacred holiday from each of the creeds held by its billions of users, why do they feel that certain religions not only deserve recognition, but are entitled to it — and to such an extent that its practitioners have a right to feel “snubbed” when due homage isn’t paid? Do they feel that all businesses should be compelled to pay these respects, or simply the larger ones like Google? Does this privilege extend to Christianity alone, or does it extend to all major world religions? What about atheists and secularists?
3. The facts about Cesar Chavez:
Born exactly 86 years ago today, Chavez was a labor and civil rights activist best known for his work to improve the plight of American farm workers, whose hardships were (and still are) often ignored due to the disproportionate number of Hispanics and Asians in the agricultural labor sector. After co-founding the United Farm Workers union with fellow activist Dolores Huerta, Chavez organized numerous strikes and boycotts that were designed to pressure business and political institutions into providing higher wages and better working conditions. Like Martin Luther King, he practiced a form of assertive non-violent protest rooted firmly in the American protest tradition of intellectuals like Henry David Thoreau. What’s more (and also like King), Chavez avoided narrow ideological and partisan labels, instead focusing his political energies on advocating the interests of the people he represented by forging alliances with any influential faction that sympathized with his cause (usually liberals like Robert Kennedy). Given the dire working conditions on our farms today and the fact that racism still influences our agricultural policies (see this white-washed Super Bowl ad from earlier this year or the Republican congressman who referred to California farm workers as “wetbacks”) his message certainly remains relevant … and if nothing else, Chavez deserves far better than to have his legacy simplistically reduced to the epithet of “socialism” by those who mistake red-baiting for intelligent discourse.
Of course, I don’t want to end this article on such a strident note. Fortunately, the 16th Century Spanish theologian Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada — better known as St. Teresa of Avila — offers me the best way to close this article. Consider it my Easter gift to my Abrahamic coreligionists:
“Our souls may lose their peace and even disturb other people’s, if we are always criticizing trivial actions — which often are not real defects at all, but we construe them wrongly through our ignorance of their motives.”