The Golden State
I make no apologies for my love of my adopted state of California.
When I moved to Los Angeles from New York City in 1985, I hated it. I hated it with a passion. There were no subways. The pizza sucked. The buses were a joke.
I conspired to get out of here as soon as I could. My plan was to get admitted to Columbia or NYU, stay with my uncle Rene, and get my ass back to the City.
However, a few things impeded my devious plan.
One, NYU and Columbia are damned expensive. I had the grades, but not good enough for full-ride scholarships, which was the only way I could afford it.
Two, my father was dead set against me moving back across the country. We’re Cuban, after all, and I was the prized baby of the family. And my father, in the frail state of health that he was in, well, I couldn’t go against him.
Third, by the time I was ready for university, I was officially a California resident. Which meant that if I made it into UCLA, I could get in-state tuition, which in 1987 was nothing.
Fourth, I got into UCLA.
And fifth, I finally learned how to drive and got my first car.
It was the fifth part which really sealed the deal. Suddenly, I was again a free agent. I had my own personal subway. I attended art shows, and book readings, and the beach, without depending on others for rides. I roamed near and far, finding the type of ethnic restaurants that the Michelin Guide haughtily overlooks. I went to parties and I met people. I was what I wasn’t in New York City when I left: and adult.
Fast forward 33 years, and I’m such an Angeleno that the 16 year old LL wouldn’t recognize me.
So, when the Catastrophe occurred in 2016, my first thought was this: SECESSION.
Fuck the US. Fuck Idaho and Iowa. Fuck Alabama and Arkansas. And, certainly, fuck Wisconsin and Michigan. If they were so afraid, so fearful that they would vote for literally the most unqualified person to ever run for the presidency, well, fuck them. Let them stew in their own pathology. We’re California. We have the world’s sixth largest economy. We can forge ahead on our own.
That lasted for a few months. It was my psyche’s reaction to the unbearable. We are separate. We are not with these great unwashed. We can create a new world on our own.
Now, if push comes to shove, the Union is not a suicide pact. California is not Arkansas. We have no reason to hitch ourselves to a dying corpse.
But the reports of America’s demise have been exaggerated.
There is resistance, yes, in Alabama, which elected moderate Democrat Doug Jones to defeat child rapist Roy Moore. We hoped, but didn’t expect it would really happen. That one data point alone convinced me that America, though down for the count, was not out.
Then today I read a piece about my state, from a San Cruz Sentinel writer in The New York Times, which had me pumping my fist.
A few quotes.
California has many problems. My county, Los Angeles County, has the largest homeless population in the country. We could have easily thrown up our hands and said that there was no solution to the problem.
But we didn’t. We passed a ballot initiative which will raise hundreds of millions of dollars to tackle and eradicate homelessness in this county. This is an initiative which, if we were still the Jarvis-Prop 13 obsessed reactionaries of the 70s, would never have been possible. But we marry progressive ideals with practical solutions.
California can do all this because we are responsible for 20% of all economic activity in the US. We are, in fact, a country within a country. Trump and his regime meddle with us at their own peril. If Trump and his minions want to engender a crisis, we can make the country scream.
But we’re not using this power to distance ourselves from the nation. We are, instead, using it to confront the problems the nation faces, and offer alternate solutions. As the article states, we’re a corrective to Trump’s dark vision. We are no longer the “State of Emergency” of the mid-2000s. We are a progressive, prosperous, forward-looking juggernaut. We have Trumpists; every state in this Union does. But they have so little voice that it’s laughable. The state in which the John Birch Society was born laughs at it. Even Orange County voted for Hillary Clinton.
So, as a Californian, I have this message for those of you in Idaho, and Iowa, and Kentucky: We will not forget you. We won’t remake you in our image, but we will offer an example of what progressivism and pragmatism can offer. We will point out that there is an alternative to fear, to insularity, to anxiety. We will show that you should not fear the stranger, but welcome her, because she will work to rejuvenate you.
We will offer the blueprint. It’s up to you to build it.
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