Friday, March 14, 2014

Who Is This Blogger Joe Ortiz, and Who Really Cares? by Martha Gonzalez

Once he started blogging he knew this day would come, one where he had to let his audience know not only who he is (credentials, etc.), but how he would describe himself. This is because most folks who have read Ortiz’ articles and blogs can’t figure out what he really stand for. Is Joe Ortiz a Liberal, moderate, conservative, evangelical, anarchist, patriot, egotistical buffoon, elitist snob, racist, or a servant of and for the people?

“Ortiz quotes a lot from the Bible, but he sounds much more like a Liberal, to me,” said one reader.

“Naw, Ortiz is a right-wing Conservative popping off with his religious stuff, always talking about Jesus,” said another.

"Are you kidding me? He's a left-wing radical trying to overthrow our nation and turn it over to minorities," spews another.

“I’m not really sure but, one thing I do know is you can’t pigeon-hole him nor put him in any traditional box,” claims another.

Well, once upon a time, back in the early 40's, a young Mexican American kid grew up in the barrios of Coachella Valley, little knowing he was going to impact society more than he could have imagined. He grew up in that dry, hot and arid desert community in Southern California, the second oldest in a family of four brothers and four sisters, raised primarily by a single mother (he was 10 years old when she divorced his father), who picked grapes and dates in the fields of that farming community, and also washed dishes and worked as a fry-cook throughout grammar school and part of high school to help the family pay its bills.

In those days, very few Mexican kids graduated from high school and very few (if any) could afford to go to college. Coming from a predominately Latino working-class environment, Joe Ortiz went to high school his entire freshman year, part of his sophomore (he was hit by a car and was hospitalized for two months and rehabbed at home for another two), was kicked out of high school midway through his junior year, and attended only the first of two months of his senior class, opting to work as a cook for several months before enlisting in the Air Force in 1960, where he hoped to at least get a GED certificate.

“I could not believe his story when I first met Joe,” said Sabra Besly, the principal of Coachella Valley High School back in 1987.

“Joe came to visit me to see if he could do some make up work in order to get his high school diploma,” added Besly. “Here was a guy who in the last three decades had succeeded in the electronic medium of radio and television, in the political arena and in the social service and educational fields like few people ever, and he was more concerned about getting his high school diploma.”

Ortiz did get his high school diploma on June 12, 1987, at the school's graduating ceremony where he was invited by Besly to give the commencement address to the Coachella Valley High School Class of 1987. Right after his speech, Besly presented Ortiz with the first and only “Honorary High School Diploma” in the school’s history.

“My life’s purpose was shaped mostly during my not so remarkable school years, where most of my friends and teachers said that I was probably viewed as one of the least likely to succeed stories coming out of CV High,” said Ortiz. “I was told by many that I would never amount to anything, and my reaction, which I kept to myself, was, ‘Oh yea, we’ll see about that’!”

From the time Ortiz got out of the Air Force (where he served as an military policeman until 1964), he dived right into work in various fields, including credit and collections specialist, a behavioral skills instructor at Riverside City College, job developer for the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation, job agent for the State Department of Employment, one year as a Parole Agent for the State of California, an adult education teacher and counselor for the Los Angeles Unified School District, a public information specialist at the biggest anti-poverty agency on the west coast, a press deputy for a Los Angeles City Councilman, and Vice President of Counseling and Placement for South Bay College. Throughout those various jobs, he attended night school at various southland colleges off and on for about twenty years and eventually earned state credentials to teach Public Relations, Public Affairs Broadcasting and Human Relations for Business classes at the adult school level. But his life-changing moment came when he was hired by KABC-AM in Los Angeles in 1971 becoming the first Mexican American to ever host a talk show at an English-language, commercial radio station.

“That was a watershed moment in my life, which catapulted me to a level I never thought imaginable,” said Ortiz, an award-winning journalist who went on to work as a talk show host on various radio and television stations in Los Angeles, and as a news reporter and news columnist for over 25 years. The second (and probably the most important) moment of his life was when he experienced a spiritual awakening in 1975.

“Prior to that moment, most of my life’s activities included working in the civil rights movement and as an advocate for better opportunities for minorities,” said Ortiz. “But my religious training and Bible studies, from 1975 to the present, have given me much clearer insights to life than ever before.”

Since his ‘born again’ experience in 1975, Ortiz worked as an evangelist for about seven years in the 80’s and has written three books on theology, which mainly question and challenge the “Pre-Tribulation Rapture and Left Behind” doctrines promoted by many right wing evangelicals, and he still writes for many periodicals both locally and on a national scale, in addition to several blog sites.

“Yes, I am still a strong advocate for the poor and minorities, especially Mexicans and Mexican Americans, which obviously confuses my conservative Christian friends,” states Ortiz; “but yet I also believe in living and writing about the moral standards held by most conservatives (such as Right to Life, traditional marriages between man and woman, and moral conduct in all areas of life as is clearly stated in the Bible.”

Ortiz is always questioned by many in his audience as to how can he support law-breakers like illegal immigrants and still make claim to adhere to the moral codes found in the Bible.

“That’s the irony of this political conundrum,” laughs Ortiz, “while many focus on crossing the border without legal documentation (which is a $250 dollar misdemeanor), the Bible clearly states that we should treat aliens as if they were natural born citizens of this country. ”

Therein lay the confusion most people have about Joe Ortiz and his varying articles he writes and blogs.

“I am a staunch advocate of helping, feeding and supporting the infirm, homeless, down trodden and the aliens of the world,” says Ortiz.

“Many people think this form of advocacy is a Liberal, un-American cause; however, Jesus Himself says that helping the poor is what true religion is all about and, yet, I can still support and vigorously promote the need for stronger moral values in the political, economic and social arenas of our country.”

“Logic dictates we come up with a viable solution to this (immigration) problem, instead of using it as an excuse to vent racial animus towards people who simply want to work to care for their family.’


Martha B. Gonzalez is a freelance writer who is also a Registered Nurse who works in the Cardiac Thoracic Unit of a major hospital in Southern California. She can be contacted at gonzalezmrn@yahoo.com