Southern California

After reading this post at Hulabaloo about the radical right-wing's cultural center of gravity, I was moved to leave the following comment. (The quoted sentence is from a previous comment to the post.)
"Whenever I visit my cousins in Chula Vista, the paranoia, verging on outright fear, is palpable." That's why I haven't visited my cousins in Chula Vista for 20 years. I grew up there, went away, then taught at SDSU for five years before escaping to NY. SoCal is the cultural & political birthplace of modern right-wing extremism, so these developments aren't surprising. There is an ugly combination of smug self-satisfaction & class anxiety, of Jesus-gnosticism & racism, of body-worship & anti-intellectualism, of wealth-worship & stark raving economic huxterism, that defines the soul of the modern Republican Party. Texas only wishes it could be as fucked-up as San Diego.
I guess the consolation is that all that low-lying coastal plane will be inundated when Al Gore's forecasts, based on actual science rather than right-wing hallucinations,  prove correct & ocean levels rise by three to six meters. The Pacific Ocean will be lapping at the foothills of the Cuyamaca Mountains. Archaeologists in scuba gear will explore the inundated HQ of the California Republican Party looking for clues to what went so terribly wrong. Maybe they will find spores of a fungus that eats the brain. Or maybe just evidence of a nasty cultural dead end. Glad I got out of there in time.

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature Emeritus at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.

4 thoughts on “Southern California”

  1. Joe, we lived in San Diego for two years when I was around eight. Now I understand why my main memories of that time are of my parents talking about how crazy John Birch Society was and how they were the only ones in the neighborhood who would be voting for John F Kennedy that year.

  2. Val’s currently reading a very well written architecture book called Los Angeles: The Four Ecologies. One dot they finally connected in my mind is the historical basis for the vast discrepancy in culture, mindset and architecture that exists between Northern and Southern California. Basically, Southern Californians came all the way across the country by land, bringing (and culminating) their conservative Midwest values right up to the coast. Northern Californians, by contrast, came by ship all the way around the tip of South America. That’s partly why San Francisco has such a hip, East-coast feel. I took a business day trip up to SF last Friday and was struck by how much smarter the advertising all around me was – it had subtle layers, not just breasts plastered up on a billboard (ala LA). It occurs to me that, on whole, Northern California is not only less conservative but more intellectual than its neighbors to the South.

  3. Yeah, I’d agree with all that, Robert. And those mid-westerners in LA, Orange County & SD created the modern Republican Party’s peculiar amalgam of sanctimonious religious certainty, fear of outsiders, & worship of unfettered capitalism. Indeed, the latter is more important than the Sermon on the Mount to these Christianists. You can’t really call them Christians.

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