Where shall we live?
We all ponder the dilemma at some point – or at least after being forced to liberate from the comfy confines of mom and dad’s house. It wasn’t all that long ago that most folks probably settled within 50 miles of their birthplace and left only for the occasional vacation or business trip, but times have changed. Some people still cling to the old ways, but with the devolution of culture and government in certain parts of America, it’s advantageous to consider moving until you find the right spot.
More and more longtime residents of California are doing or have done this very thing, myself included. Once regarded as a near perfect place to reside, the west coast mecca has fallen into disrepair – and disrepute – in recent decades, the conservative and traditional Americans there being held hostage by a dominant liberal political class and their uninhibited willingness to use power to impose dictates on the state’s shrinking productive class.
Chances are you’ve heard a story about someone from California who took the chance to get out. Attracted by better job opportunities, lower cost of living and friendlier tolerance of alternative (to the ruling majority’s) views, millions of Golden Staters have relocated to states adjacent – or even all the way across the country. There’s a reason why it’s many times more expensive to rent a U-Haul truck to move out of Cali than it is to obtain one to head west.
Why has this all happened? Who can elucidate? One time Californian Bridget Phetasy tried her hand at explaining the phenomenon. In a piece titled “I wanted to leave California before it was cool”, Bridget Phetasy wrote at The Spectator:
“I wanted to leave California before it was cool. Back in 2015 I was getting a distinctly pre-apocalyptic vibe. Crime and tent cities were getting worse. Many of my middle-class friends and relatives had been part of the first wave of the California exodus. They had young families and could see the writing on the wall: there is no path upward in California if you’re middle class. There is obscenely rich and there is poor.
“The cost of living is already outrageous, so when the prices of goods and energy go up, it pushes people already on the edge into poverty or homelessness or out of the state. According to the California Association of Realtors’ Traditional Housing Affordability Index, ‘During the second quarter of this year, only 16 percent of California households could afford to purchase the $883,370 median-priced single-family home.’ That is insane.
“But it isn’t just the middle class who are leaving. In the past two years, the rich have fled too. A perfect storm of remote work, high taxes, overregulation and draconian Covid policies made it sensible for the highest earners (as well as some huge businesses) to vote with their feet and leave the state.”
Yes, it is/was remarkable to witness. As others of similar age who left California have shared with me, there’s a consensus that growing up there during the 70’s and 80’s was like living in America’s glory days. I often tell my kids that being a teenager out west when Ronald Reagan was president was the best possible setting for personal freedom and virtually unlimited opportunity. We had the “Showtime” Lakers. And Disneyland. And the beach. Even the movies and television of the time reflected it. California was THE spot to be. I recall my midwestern relatives being very jealous of me!
Back then we also had Republican governors and legislatures – or at least the possibilities of having them. The San Fernando Valley – a.k.a. “The Valley” – was probably as conservative as Orange County down south, but didn’t get its due thanks to proximity to downtown L.A. and the ultra-rich enclaves of wealthy liberals in the Hollywood hills.
I attended very “diverse” public schools without even realizing it. Thanks to a mandatory and then voluntary busing scheme proffered by the Los Angeles Unified School District, I recall having many black, Hispanic, Arabic, south Asian and Asian kids in my classes. All religions, too. We didn’t comprehend that we were supposed to be resentful of each other – we were kids. My best friend in elementary school was from Korea and his extended family didn’t speak English.
Illegal immigration was a problem back then, too, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it is now. Right about when we started seeing billboards in Spanish in the early nineties was when I acknowledged it was time to consider going somewhere else. The culture was changing rapidly, too, as the Rodney King trial, verdict and riots took place while I was in law school. Then the OJ Simpson murder incident and infamous freeway chase took place just as myself and my new bride were studying for the bar.
I left California for good in the spring of 1995, so I guess you could say I foresaw the state’s downward turn twenty years before Phetasy did. But I also recognized many of the same warning signs that she did. I’d worked as a file clerk at an ambulance chasing personal injury law firm for a brief time before starting law school and witnessed the vast difference between the have’s and have nots. I also put in some time at the L.A. City Attorney’s Office where myself and my fellow interns worked on cases of citizens suing the L.A. Police after the King riots. It was a mess.
Upon relocating to Virginia, when I informed folks of where I was from, many, many of them asked me, “Why would you ever leave?” I still get the question today, though not nearly as frequently nor is it as difficult to convince them of the truth. “This is a better place to live”, I would reply.
Year-round sunny weather wasn’t sufficient justification to stay in a state where there was very little chance – even back then -- to make a decent living or buy a house on a reasonable plot of land. In the nearly three decades since, it’s become crystal clear that my decision was sound. Watching as California disintegrated into a “woke” dystopia has been incredibly sad, but also strangely satisfying in the sense that I was smart enough to go somewhere else.
I still have family there and enjoy visiting for weddings and get-togethers and to revisit my youthful stomping grounds. But I wouldn’t want to go back to live, not for all of Hunter Biden’s gold in China.
We often see images of the latest California crime spree on the evening news, or brown power outs or out-of-control wildfires, all set against a backdrop that many people consider paradise. Vast inward migration of Americans from “other places” in the latter half of the 20th century didn’t ruin the state. California’s politicians, as typified by slick haired Governor Gavin Newsom, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, impeachment leader Adam Schiff, Vice President Kamala Harris and a gaggle of other Democrats, are all the explanation the “from there” contingent needs these days.
Sadly, it’s become “cool” for the media to bash on California. Why? The reasons are many:
First and foremost, California today stands as the shiniest example of what happens when liberals take over a locality. When Bill Clinton won California in 1992 and haggish leftist Barbara Boxer took the open U.S. Senate seat that same year, I recognized that the politics of the state were changing. It wasn’t too long afterwards that Democrats gained majorities in the statehouse and then veto-proof margins a decade or so later. It’s never been the same since.
The Republican Party is practically non-existent in California now and even today’s Democrats have given up pretending to be moderate. The result? We end up with a looney elitist leftist like Gavin Newsom as governor and the legislature passes bills making California a “sanctuary state” for parents who want their kids to have sex-change operations. Sick.
The second reason why the media finds it productive to bash California is, lots of famous people still live there. Big name celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, star athletes like LeBron James, and the tech barons can afford the state’s astronomical housing prices and also to hire security details isolating them from the reality of the “average” person in California. The media is drawn to the glittering class like flies to… well, you know.
Having non-Californians bashing these politically blind losers as out-of-touch is fun, but it also makes a point. And these are the same people who lecture that we should vote for Democrats as a matter of common sense?
Third, related to the previous item, California provides a real contrast in worldviews and living situations. Some of the wealthiest people in the country/world make their home within its borders. At the same time, some of the poorest souls on earth – tens of thousands of homeless persons -- are stuck there. Sometimes the fabulously rich live within a stone’s throw of the penniless, drug addicted and destitute. How can this be?
Fourth, California has become the testing grounds and living laboratory for every weirdo anti-traditional American idea under the sun. The Golden State was among the first to fully embrace liberty-crushing COVID lockdowns. From what I heard from friends and relatives still there, the enforcement was much more stringent than where I live. Citizens spied on citizens. Crowded urban areas felt like ghost towns. The place looked like Wuhan on a good day.
Lastly, California is a laughing stock because there’s a certain “Hey, look at that!” quality to watching something being destroyed in real time – or in this particular instance, destroying itself. Take the news media’s fixation on Hurricane Ian for example. Practically every channel had some sort of weather-related coverage. Unfortunately, people are drawn to calamity. And that’s exactly what California has become – a slow, rolling tragedy with tens of millions of victims.
How can you possibly turn away?
Contrasting the California of my youth with today’s rapidly deteriorating version is both sad and hard to accept. But the Golden State’s fate wasn’t set in stone overnight. It was the voters’ apathetic attitude that led to millions of illegal aliens, homeless people and criminals taking over cities, and an out-of-touch elite that permitted the culture and institutions to implode on themselves. All we can do now is shake our heads.
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