Saturday, May 28, 2016

Something to Know - 28 May

Lalo Alcaraz

Hector Tobar used to write for the LA Times, until they down-sized and got rid of a lot of good writers.  He teaches up in Oregon now, but maintains a good perspective of Los Angeles, especially from the Latin American point of view.   He points out that many of the migrating immigrants first come to California, and get prepped and frustrated, then move to other states to live their "dream", or something like that.   I think you might enjoy this article.

California's Midlife Crisis

Los Angeles — MY hometown looks sleek and Scandinavian in car commercials. In a perpetual loop of old cable television movie reruns, our freeways are wide and open and uncluttered, our palm trees remain untainted by graffiti, and the friendly, sun-tanned officers of the Los Angeles Police Department never have a misplaced hair in their crew cuts.

The real Los Angeles is gray and beaten down, an older man trying to fit into a younger body. We Angelenos are reminded of this when we drive down roads that have been repaved and retrofitted for a half-century or longer. To enter my local freeway, I cross a bridge built in 1940, past a crumbling concrete railing that has been struck so often by speeding Edsels, Ramblers and Explorers that it looks like a relic from a World War II battle.

The median age in metropolitan Los Angeles is 35, so we're on the cusp of middle age. Once famous for our mellow and licentious vibe, we've become an irascible lot. We see order breaking down at that most sacred of Los Angeles meeting points: the four-way stop. It's more common than ever to see some harried commuter slip past without waiting his turn. It makes me want to scream.

No wonder we're feeling the pressure. By some estimates, California now includes the three most densely populated metro areas in the United States: Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose.

It is in this vexed state that California is preparing to vote in a June election, the first time a presidential primary here has received so much attention since Robert F. Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy fought it out in 1968.

We're looking for a savior to rescue us from our midlife crisis. Already, our existential angst has led us to some bad decisions. We gave the world the political career of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the bodybuilding graduate of Muscle Beach. He was Ronald Reagan on steroids — in part, literally — and the more conservative among us voted him into office so that he'd "kick butt" on budgets. These days, he shills for a video game.

"See that actor pretending to be a general," I tell my kids when a Mobile Strike commercial comes on, the Terminator dressed in epaulets. "He was governor of California!"

The median age in the Golden State is also 35, but nearly half the state's likely voters are 55 or older. Many have thus lived long enough to see several cycles of boom and bust: from deindustrialization to dot-coms, from white flight to black flight, from the Great Real Estate Bust of 2008 to the hipsterati gentrification scourge of the present day.

Sadly, even the booms don't bring us much joy any more. As I write, unemployment is way down and property values are up, yet across the social spectrum everyone is stressed out. Immigrant laborers live with low wages and the possibility of being deported. The middle class feels pushed out by impossible housing costs. And the rich are mad at the rest of us simply because we're so many, and we keep getting in their way.

This election season, we have new political suitors trying to tap into our stress-induced anger.

Donald J. Trump is promising to chauffeur us in luxury to a simpler, whiter time — one focus group recently compared Mr. Trump to a Porsche. Bernie Sanders, with his tousled white hair and socialist message, reminds us of California's tie-dyed past. I can imagine him driving me to Big Sur in a Volkswagen bus.

In the semi-gentrified barrio near my home, there's a local artist trying to drum up Latino support for Senator Sanders. He's making "Viva Bernie" signs, silk-screened, just like in the '60s.

Recent polls have Latinos starting to drift toward the Bern in the Democratic primary. They've voted for an old white guy before. In the last election for governor, Latinos voted by a nearly three to one margin for Jerry Brown — he'd been governor in the '70s and '80s, they figured he could run things decently and rescue public education from a budgetary cliff.

This November, Latinos will be looking for someone to beat back the xenophobic entertainer who now has a lock on the Republican nomination. For that reason, they'll vote for Hillary Clinton in droves if she's the nominee.

Latinos are now a plurality in California. But even many of them feel the Golden State is just too much. Young Latino families have started moving away, founding new barrios and soccer leagues in North Carolina and Georgia, joining a new exodus. Since about 1995, net migration into California has reversed.

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These days, we're exporting blue-capped Dodger fans to other cities: I see them on television at Dodger away games in Denver, Washington and other places, a boisterous bunch who are often louder than fans for the home team. Angelenos now go to New York City to relax. We get to get out of our cars when we're there. The whole Manhattan vibe is more orderly, less frenzied.

I even get the impression that the rest of the country now finds Californians more obnoxious than New Yorkers. In Oregon, where I teach, people blame us for an increase in bicycle accidents.

Back home in our empty nest, as the Golden State drifts toward its golden years, we know that just staying safe and keeping things semi-together is achievement enough. With age has come wisdom, and we've reached a kind of acceptance with things that made us angry. Once or twice in our youth some of us rioted, and some voted for initiatives against immigrants and gay marriage.

As stressed out as we Californians are, we won't be doing anything that self-destructive this election year.

Héctor Tobar, the author of "Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free," teaches writing at the University of Oregon and is a contributing opinion writer.


Donald Trump aids and abets violence.

- An American Story

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