I’m a fan.
Anyone who advocates for those who might be exploited because they are considered weak or vulnerable; anyone who stands up to authority — be it in the form of a badge and a gun or a legislative pen and team of lawyers — or anyone who demands and preserves the dignity that is inherent to being human can count me among its supporters.
I’m a fanboy.
In the last few years we have seen the federal government under Republican President Donald Trump aggressively vilify immigrants, undocumented or otherwise. We have witnessed their embrace of divisive, racist and bigoted policies. They have championed extremists who see the world in black and white and as us versus them rather than we.
We have watched a country that was made great by the diversity and tolerance of cultures and religion wilt under the cancer that is bigotry.
With varying degrees of success those attitudes have taken root at state and local levels.
For the most part in California the tide of hate and ignorance has been stymied by the work of a diverse and enlightened legislature, judiciary, populace and heroic activists.
There are pockets, of course, where the uglier side of human nature has taken root and flourishes with varied success.
Even before the Trump administration there were opponents of the LGBTQ community, for example. The rights of gays and lesbians and transgender people were not seen as equal to those of “everyone else.”
Long before the MAGA crowd exhorted the worst in us by screaming “Build that wall!” at political rallies, the debate over immigration reform was marked by the denigration of people with Latin America roots.
In a county such as San Diego, given its proximity to the border and its long history of military influence because of its naval and Marine bases, the culture of fear based on the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks has made it easy for a subtle, almost kinder-and-gentler authoritarianism to settle into our daily lives.
We think nothing of the fact that police agencies track our license plates or that federal agents conduct sweeps in Latino communities in the hope of finding a day laborer who has overstayed his visa or entered the country without authorization decades ago and lived an otherwise exemplary life.
When we hear reports of a black person being abused by police or dying in a questionable manner, many among us shrug and carry on with our lives.
Better them than me.
But among those people who do give a damn about abuses and bigotry and the overreach of government are the people who advocate for the abused and bullied among us. People like those who work at the American Civil Liberties Union which in San Diego is led by Chula Vista resident Norma Chavez-Petersen.
That’s why she was my pick for the 2018 Community Impact award and why I consider myself a fanboy.