California, they say, is a state of mind.
It is why it doesn’t matter what Governor Gavin Newsom — or any other governor before or after him — tells you what the State of the State is.
All that counts is what you see with one little caveat: Don’t turn a blind eye on everything around you that isn’t “bad.”
Depending upon who you talk to, California has supposedly been in a state of decline since the mid-1960s when there were 16 million of us. Today we are several thousand away from being 40 million strong. Either we are gluttons for punishment or else there is something here beyond the 24/7 rat-a-tat headlines, self-proclaimed blogging sages, and those breathlessly waiting for the “Big One” so they can tell the world their version of god finally decided it was time for California to have its comeuppance.
Authors such as the late Joan Didion in her “Slouching Toward Bethlehem” essays examined the underbelly of the California Dream.
They were healthy reality checks because there is always pain — or bad — that accompanies good. We have this disconnect that utopia can be obtained or at least some level of nirvana without suffering to get there. There is a lot of death in the world. However, there is no more death than there is life. Death doesn’t exist without life. Numerically death can’t exceed life in the secular sense.
Death is the price of living. What counts is what takes place before the bill comes due.
If this is a tad heavy sounding, so be it.
You cannot put life into perspective without weighing the good with the bad. It is also the only honest way to judge California.
No piece of geography in the United States or possibly on the planet has brought so much of nature into one space: Rugged coastlines. Soaring snow-covered mountains. Fertile valleys including the world’s largest. Sandy sun kissed beaches. Vast deserts gleaming with life. Volcanoes and glaciers. Stunning bays and alpine lakes. And a Mediterranean climate to tie it all together.
The unique landscape is still young in geologic terms. California is where you will find the world’s tallest living thing (redwoods), the world’s biggest living things (giant sequoias), and the world’s oldest living things (bristlecone pines).
It is where you can literally snow ski in the morning in 40-degree temperatures and then water ski in 90-degree weather in the afternoon. Within two hours from anywhere in the 209 you can reach the ocean, mountains or a world-class city.
The basic building blocks of California in terms of the hand nature dealt this part of the planet is what has inspired generations not just to dream big but to work to turn dreams into reality.
There is no sugar coating our problems, perceived and otherwise.
Gas is heading toward $6 a gallon. Someone is always stealing our water. The homeless are invasive. The politics du jour may seem crazy. The slavery to wokeness is making many of us into sleepwalkers.
That is the short list. But even so it probably provides a cross-section of what makes some think California is going to Texas, I mean hell, in a handbasket.
Please do not take that as an insult to Texas. But after a while, leaders in other states who act as if they are vultures eager to feast over the remains of the United States equivalent of Sea Biscuit are getting a bit too obnoxious to stomach. To each their own, but perhaps they might ask why so many people sped through Texas on Route 66 to head to California than decided to get off the road and stay.
Texas is lovely and all, but when it comes to the states more eyes of the world are on California and for good reasons.
California is the ultimate “melting pot” state in the country that virtually coined the phrase. Those who believe that isn’t a good thing forget what has made America strong and endure. It has also opened us to other cultures without leaving our shores not to mention a repertoire of cuisines.
Make jokes about California’s fruits and nuts all you want but the variety that comes from our fields and orchards is unparalleled in the annals of mankind. Besides, given that two thirds of the fruits and nuts that make it to America’s plates come from the Golden State the rest of the country likes our fruits and nuts even more than we do.
Let’s get back to the Clift’s Notes of California’s ailments.
You’re never guess what gas is doing elsewhere. It’s rising toward $5 a gallon.
As for our constant fight over water, whether it is not enough or too much all at once, California is leading the way in water management and technology although sometimes the politics leaves you wondering. But then you dig deeper and see it is an issue everywhere with politics just as thick if not deeper than it is here.
We are better positioned for water quality and wise water use for two reasons. Slam it all you want but California is where the modern environmental movement really put down its roots. We also live in a desert-style climate based on average rainfall in most places in the state. We don’t get rain throughout the year in copious amounts.
The homeless are everywhere. Why they are in greater numbers in California is because not only do we have more people but it is less brutal winter-wise to be here for the homeless just like it is for everyone else. Those observations aside, regardless of how ineffective it seems at times when it comes to our addressing homeless issues at least we don’t adopt the attitude of putting them on a bus and shipping them off to the next town or next state.
Even though we might be tempted to do so, passing the buck isn’t engrained in the DNA of Californians.
In 1967 California was akin to living in a smoke-filled room with all sorts of ill pollutants in the air. Visibility on what would have been clear days on nature’s watch was down to two to three miles.
Now 55 years later we have doubled our population and more than halved the pollution. We led the way for catalytic convertors, higher gas mileage and reformulated gas. Yes, many of the things we have used to improve air quality cost at the pump but it has paid better dividends in clean air and better health.
It is why the world that looked with envy at the three-track post-secondary public education system we built, the modern freeway system we created, the unmatched waster transfer system put in place, the modern aerospace and tech industries the state gave birth to and then rushed to copy it have done the same when it comes to air quality initiatives.
True, we have more work to do.
Besides, give Texas another 10 million residents or so when prevailing winds no longer solve problems by dispersing their pollution to the four winds and we’ll see who has adapted the ways of California.
That brings us to crazy politics.
Keep in mind the modern environmental movement in California took root on the state level with a Republican governor in office by the name of Ronald Reagan and a virtually even split legislature with Democrats controlling both hoses with slim majorities most of the time. As added fodder it was a Californian by the name of Richard Nixon who became president that brought the nation the Environmental Protection Agency.
Granted, some of the bureaucracy has gone run amok and often channels a tortoise wading in quicksand but when it comes to labels and wokeness, maybe the issue isn’t California being all that more extreme than the rest of the nation but the fact for the most part we’ve all have seemed to stop working together and instead indulge in delusional and shortsighted thinking in demanding that our way be the rule because it is the only way.
So, what is the State of the State in California?
It clearly is a work in progress. And due to our sheer size population-wise and the vastness and variety of our geography and economy we have more pluses and challenges all in one place by far than in any other state in the union.
Just keep in mind the good. It is why there are almost 40 million of us and counting who call themselves Californians.