There are two kinds of reporting: that which is unbiased (supposed to be, anyway) and supported by evidence; and that which is experience-based and narrative. I would like to develop a style that combines the two: Experience. Narration. Evidence. Let me begin here as I was inspired by two moments from podcasts this week. I literally was stunned at what I heard and I couldn’t be happier! Change is afoot.
I am a woman of the dot-com era. A born and bred Californian. Even better, born and bred near the epicenter of what is now known the world over as Silicon Valley. A piece of my big heart belongs, unabashedly, to the Golden State. I bleed Lake Tahoe blue. Look it up, it’ll take your breath away.
Years ago, however, I started to become disillusioned. I don’t know what the professional surveyors say, but in my own mind, “Silicon Valley” extends from Pacheco Pass (a connecting road from Gilroy to I-5, which will take you to SoCal, if you so desire.), all the way to anywhere in Northern California. That is because people commute from all of those areas to get to the Valley (not to be confused with Southern California’s Valley). Yes, that means they might be driving three hours EACH way. And people do that daily. Six hours commuting, however many hours working. Check out this article from late last year in the Silicon Valley Business Journal: https://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news/2017/10/06/bay-area-cost-of-living-modern-wealth-index-income.html
That is a true statement, people. MILLIONS of dollars to be comfortable! Roads are in need of repair; schools don’t have enough money: how’s this for experience: My son’s Kindergarten class – rated a 9 at the time on GreatSchools.org and located in a beautiful area – had one teacher for 35 students! It was half-day Kindergarten, and if parents couldn’t volunteer to assist with reading, guess what? Active Reading lessons didn’t happen that day! Can you imagine? Homelessness is off the charts, and not just in the city:
A Chronicle analysis of biennial homeless counts taken early this year across California shows the sharpest increases occurred not in San Francisco and other urban centers but in out-of-the-way places such as the thickly forested Sierra Nevada and the dusty flatlands and low hills of the northern Sacramento Valley.
Statewide, The Chronicle’s examination shows, homelessness rose by 15 percent from 2015 to this year. In heavily populated centers such as Los Angeles and the Bay Area, where tent cities have long been part of the landscape, even double-digit increases like that might not suggest that something has fundamentally changed. But in rural areas, the increases have come as a shock (https://www.sfchronicle.com/news/article/California-s-homelessness-crisis-moves-to-the-12182026.php).
It was years before anyone was paying attention that I expressed concern about the direction my state was headed. Unfortunately, California residents have suffered from living in a gorgeous bubble. When my husband and I told our families we were moving out-of-state to provide a better upbringing for our children, some of them responded with snarky comments about the lack of diversity of where we were going (note: we picked our current school for its tremendous diversity. We went from 80%+ white student-body in our CA neighborhood to 45%+ white student-body, and the mix isn’t just one other ethnicity – it is multiple ethnicities). But our family and friends weren’t hearing it. Nope. They got their facts about where we were headed from the World Wide Web and that was clearly a more reputable source than, to borrow a trendy and overused phrase from media talking heads, our boots on the ground. Our physical reconnaissance. Mine and my husband’s years of research into where we could comfortably raise a family because I will tell you one thing, we did not go easily. It is hard for Californians to give up California. What might be a major reason for that? Another reason everyone said we shouldn’t leave: the weather! True. Except for the fire risks. And not enough rain. And then too much rain all at once. And then the mudslides. And I truly hate to say it, but I cannot deny it – there is an earthquake lurking out there, just waiting to rear its ugly head. But I agree, the weather is great and frankly, I grew tired of all the blue skies and having to decide which flip-flops to wear with what. I wanted a real coat!
The problem with Californians is our consumed sense of self: we believe that we are more open-minded, more inclusive, and much brighter than everyone else in this country. And the heart of that mindset beats in Silicon Valley – where the line between the haves and the have-nots is growing to epic proportions. The two podcasts I referred to at the beginning are NPR’s 1A with Joshua Johnson. Last week (March 6, 2018), he spoke with comedian and social activist Sarah Silverman. I just about burst into tears when she said at moment 10:45, in response to some previous material of hers “…I think looking back on it made me really understand the conceit of Liberal Bubble, because I feel like that was conceived in such a Liberal bubble — this well-meaning, racism exists, let’s show it through comedy, um, totally tone-deaf, blind ignorance.” EXACTLY! One of my closest friends and I recently, for the first time in our decades-long friendship, had a multiple week time-out because…I’m not even sure why. We are on the same side, for crying out loud! Yet, we couldn’t hear what the other person was saying. And I know that means if he and I couldn’t hear each other, it is no wonder this nation is a mess.
The second podcast is Longform Podcast, Episode 286, aired yesterday March 21, 2018. Aaron Lammer spoke with Nitasha Tiku, a senior writer at Wired. If you’re interested in what’s happening in the Bay Area Technology scene and how that intertwines with the current social culture of Northern California; cost of living; homelessness, etc. she had some very truthful observations and I cannot believe I am hearing this now when I have been yelling to the stars about it – seemingly to myself – for so long. Californians, at least many of us, may need to go through the five stages of grief: denial and isolation; anger; bargaining; depression; and finally acceptance of who we are. It seems this is a wave that is just beginning, so maybe there is hope for my beloved state, after all.
Do you have thoughts or experiences on this topic that you would like to share? Post in the comments and I will respond!