A BAY AREA READER who for professional reasons wishes to remain anonymous says that the pictures that I show below aren’t fully representative of the San Francisco protests, and sends the following links to IndyMedia photos (though to me they don’t seem to make the protests look better, as he seems to think they do):
Also, in response to a photo posted below, he sends this cautionary observation:
A little comment on the “U.S. out of Middle East and San Francisco” photo you posted: it’s more representative than you might think. There’s a definite feeling of alienation in the S.F. Bay Area. The folks on the right like to attack the region’s patriotism, intelligence, morals, politics and anything else that comes up. “Californian” is an epithet in the rest of the country, or so we’re led to believe by Conservatives. (It’s true in my experience.) In the meantime we know (it’s a legal fact) that the energy crunch was a conspiracy of the Veep’s buddies and the Whitehouse refused to help. It will be common sense that the Dept of the Interior is turning off the water on L.A. for political reasons (when it goes into effect). We know we aren’t part of the “Red Country” that won the last election and we believe we’re being victimized because we voted Blue.
Let’s see: 1/8th to 1/6th of the country lives in a geographically contigious territory. The population feels alientated and hated by the rest of the country (and gets slandered daily). Said region is one of the largest economies in the world (between 5th and 8th) and has numerous secessionist movements within it (e.g. in LA and Jefferson). And you’re encouraging a psychological divide. That’s just fucking great. Consider whether national unity should really be assumed. Then don’t try so hard to divide the house against itself. k?
Now, there’s something to be said for this point — though I can’t help but note that I was issuing similar warnings about much larger parts of the United States during the Clinton years, when things like gun control were inspiring similar alienation there, without it having much resonance. And trust me — the secession thing has been tried. It’s a bad idea.
But it’s easy to overdo regional bashing. Southerners know this, of course, because we’ve been on the receiving end for a long time, but that doesn’t make it right.
Then again, perhaps the folks in California should take this opportunity to examine how their arrogance may have engendered resentments elsewhere, and to ask themselves “why do they hate us?” Or at least make fun.
UPDATE: Reader David Nishimura responds:
It is absolutely true to form that those in the SF Bay Area who feel alienated from the rest of the country should blame the rest of the country and not themselves. I grew up in the Bay Area, and I can think of no other part of this country where outsiders were regarded with such open scorn. Anyone living more than an hour or two from the Pacific was considered a redneck; Southerners were considered racist trash by definition, and even the most PC were happy to mock a Deep South accent.
When I moved to New York City for graduate school, I was repeatedly asked, by everyone from my college friends to the telephone company clerk, “Why are you leaving?” It was simply unfathomable to a broad cross-section of Californians that anyone would actually choose to live somewhere else for any reason. Interestingly enough, when driving cross-country then, and again a few years later, I talked to people wherever I stopped who would ask where I was from. When I responded “New York” or “Manhattan”, the non-Californians were uniformly polite and understanding, even if they had no desire to live anywhere else themselves. Typical was a roadside rock-shop employee in New Mexico, who explained he could never give up the wide open spaces, but that he’d like to visit New York, since there was so much there to see.
Your Bay Area correspondent also suffers from another characteristic regional myopia, in being unable to see that his California is not monolithically left-liberal. And I really shouldn’t even bothert rying to address his paranoid rants about water policy in the Southland and energy policy statewide (though I’ll note that environmentalists have been calling for a stricter water policy for
decades, and that while Enron & friends did take advantage of California’s energy problems, it was only possible thanks to the state’s own fundamentally flawed skin-of-the-teeth energy policy).
Reader Scott Breffle has a similar response:
I’ve lived in San Francisco for 5 years, but grew up in Southern California (Orange County), and have spent several years living on the East Coast. My point is basically that the Bay Area lives in a political and cultural bubble, and it is on strong need of some fresh air. Your reader proves the point himself when he translates the “alienation” of the Bay Area into the whole state. Has this reader been to Orange Country or San Diego recently?
Or how about the burgeoning Central Valley? Even parts of LA?! There are great swaths of California that are decidedly more conservative that the Bay Area. As someone who travels south often, I don’t sense this great “alienation”, except for here in San Francisco. I’m all for thinking outside the box, but the Bay Area’s supposedly progressive bent, by not incorporating anything that changed in the world since perhaps 1978, seems increasingly stale and unreflective.
I received quite a lot of email along these lines, interestingly all from Californians.