In which Jennifer Rubin somehow manages to realize that the decline of California is her fault, and the fault of millions of others like her:
When my parents announced they were uprooting the Glazer family from a cozy suburb of Philadelphia, as 5 million people did from eastern and midwestern towns between 1950 and 1980, the news was met with a mixture of awe (“California…” they would breathlessly whisper) and bewilderment (“But what is there?”). The very act of migrating by plane was itself somewhat grand. In the years before airline deregulation, one dressed up to fly, as if sailing on an ocean liner, and at prices not all that much lower than an ocean voyage’s. And yet those we were leaving behind acted as though we were traveling by caravan, leaving civilization and going into the wilderness.
In a real sense, even in 1968, California was the wilderness. If the cost of air travel was prohibitive for a family of modest means, they usually drove, and from the flatness of the Midwest they found themselves left speechless by the vision of the Rocky Mountains, rugged coastlines, wide beaches, and empty space they knew only from the movies. Like emigrants leaving the old country in the 19th century, they often arrived friendless and unaccustomed to the habits of their new environment. Public transportation was in scarce supply; instead there were gleaming freeways with five lanes on each side. Tie and jacket? More and more restaurants didn’t care. Informality pervaded dress and speech at a time when, back east, adults still commonly addressed acquaintances as Mister and Missus….
Forty-two years after I arrived in California, the very notion of an affordable, happy-go-lucky, optimistic, and “golden” state seems otherworldly. Its financial condition resembles Greece’s. Self-dealing and political scandals involving public-sector unions have become commonplace not only in Sacramento but also in cities from Mexico to Oregon.
The lack of self-awareness here borders on the astounding. Phrased in less sentimental terms, Rubin is simply decribing how millions of newcomers to California moved there, were unaccustomed to the habits of their new environment, and therefore changed them. They supported more immigration from even further afar because, after all, they were immigrants too and obviously it couldn’t possibly be the case that they could be a problem. And now they don’t like the changes that they caused. How very surprising.
It’s all a bit ironic from my perspective, given that my grandparents were native Californians. They left right around the time that the current set of “Californians” who are now lamenting the decline of California arrived.