April 21, 2016
the exit is that way
I feel oddly emotional about this piece on Jerry Brown and California. Pride in my home isn’t a typical sentiment for me, but I feel it now.
I recently read this poem called ‘diaspora blues’, and the lines – “too foreign for home // too foreign for here” – express exactly how I feel regarding being Chinese-American. But in my corner of the West Coast, I can embrace my ‘diaspora blues’ freely. I can bond with my peers over childhoods misspent on translating for our parents. I can choose to explore my ancestry to the extent that I desire, or not at all. I can practice cultural pluralism and build bridges between cultures, not walls around them.
Paradoxically, because of this, I don’t feel too ‘foreign’ for California. I feel at home, and thus I also feel its victories and failures more deeply.
This makes Trump’s politics and his supporters frustrating on a different level - they are destroying the sanctuary we’ve built for ourselves in California. I don’t want California to adopt Arizona’s ID policies, and I don’t want my parents to be afraid to speak Chinese on BART. We’re already seeing the consequences of Trump-style paranoia for my Iranian-American peers and for the two families who were terrorized for not speaking English. It’s not merely inconvenient to inhabit the same space as Trump’s supporters; it’s terrifying.
A few years ago, the rest of the US would mock us for our left coast values and claim that those values had left us hanging high and dry, with no money, no water and no jobs. They said that our taxes and environmental policies would discourage companies from settling here, but the reality is that you can’t throw a rock without hitting a company in the Bay Area. California is not on its economic deathbed; it has the seventh highest GDP in the world. It looks like embracing immigration, a sense of duty to the environment, and a modicum of socialism didn’t ruin us after all.
However, I like that Jerry Brown remains cynical in his State of the State address, that he is “fixated on the downturn sure to come.”
We should never be too satisfied with ourselves, after all. That’s a dangerous road to go down.