“We Sinners of Orange County”: The Text of Gustavo's Speech at Fairview Community Church!

This past Saturday, I was honored at Fairview Community Church in Costa Mesa with their Beacon of Light award, along with longtime OC Human Relations Commission leader Rusty Kennedy and CIVIC (Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement). Seen in attendance: SanTana mayoral candidate Benjamin Vazquez, and AFL-CIO executive vice president Tefere Gebre. There was a great buffet prepared by the church, with the delectable carnitas and chicken prepared by Rev. Sarah Halverson-Cano's husband. And I won the bidding on a penguin painting—BOOM.

Orange County Labor Federation head Julio Perez introduced me, taking issue with me calling him a “teddy bear” back in the day; when I pointed out I did it during a Sexiest People list, he erupted in laughter. We were each given the opportunity to give a short speech at the pulpit, and here is mine. Enjoy!

Gracias for this honor. I gladly accept this award as a sinner, in a church full of sinners.

We are heretics in the eyes of the old Orange County for daring to be people with consciences. For comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. For believing in a better future for all of us, not just the lords. For forsaking the avarice and affluenza of so many people here, who snicker at us as radicals and liberals.

In other words, we are sinful to OC because we follow in the steps of Jesus Christ. To them, I say: Camel through the eye, cabrones!

I know it seems bizarre given the ads that run in my paper, OC Weekly, but I am a man of faith. I was raised Catholic, where we believe that salvation comes through good deeds. It is what has guided my reporting from the start—to try and better Orange County, one story at a time. We Catholics also believe in saints, humans whom get granted the grace of God in fighting for the damned. I think it was Cesar Chavez who said something along the lines of that saints aren’t like angels; saints are stubborn, imperfect and do the dirty work few others dare to do.

I love that definition. I’m no holy, but to document the lives of those who walked among us, from Amin David to Joel Dvorman, Dottie Mulkin to the familifes of Mendez, et al vs. Westminster, has been an honor. And it’s my hope that my articles inspire folks to follow in their path and be as saintly as possible in our thankless, righteous fight for good.

I accept this award then, on behalf of all of us sinner-saints in Orange County. For far too long, this place has been hell to minorities, progressives, and anyone with a heart. But together, we’re getting us back to the Garden by exorcizing the haters with love, hard work, and—at least in the Weekly’s case—a bunch of bad words and pot ads. Whatever it takes, right? Gracias, and God bless.

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