Discrimination Never Gets Old

Indigenous People of North America were perceived to be primitive barbarians by the first Europeans who encountered them. Some of European descent wanted to civilize them. Some just wanted them out of their way. Few had much regard for their culture. By the time modern American culture evolved enough to appreciate what was here before, the damage had been done.

People from Africa who were sold as slaves through almost two and a half centuries of American history were similarly considered to be primitive barbarians. Much of society justified their exploitation, but then wanted them segregated after their emancipation. American culture should have evolved beyond discrimination against those of African descent by now, but it has not.

Although technically not enslaved, American immigrants from China were exploited for their willingness to perform very demanding and often very dangerous manual labor for minimal pay. Yet, they were systematically discriminated against. Many were compelled to reside in neighborhoods on floodplains of cities they inhabited, merely because no one else wanted to be there.

There are too many examples of social discrimination in American history to list. The worst of them are difficult to comprehend. We like to think that, although American society engaged in such abhorrent conduct in the distant past, such discrimination could not be repeated. Yet, Americans of Japanese descent were released from internment camps just seventy-five years ago.

There are always new victims. At a time when ethnic discrimination is less socially acceptable than it had formerly been, it has become easier to persecute, vilify and discriminate against the homeless. Regardless of the original justification for such behavior, the patterns are the same. We are fortunate in Felton that these patterns are not as common as they are elsewhere, and that we recognize the perpetrators for what they are.

Misconceptions – Bus Fare

There’s no place like home. Most of us genuinely and justifiably believe that our respective hometowns are very special. There is no doubt that they really are. We can get a bit overindulgent with such belief though. We tend to assume that social problems of all sorts are worse within our own Communities than they are in other Communities that we do not identify so much with.

No place is perfect. Most towns of significant population in America must contend with some degree of poverty, unemployment and homelessness nowadays. Even more contend with some degree of crime. Addiction has become an epidemic. Mental illness continues to proliferate. Conservatives blame liberals. Liberals blame conservatives. Lions and tigers and bears, OH MY!

To make matters worse, some believe that other Communities, both near and far, send the less fortunate of their respective societies here. Such Communities supposedly compel those who benefit from their generosity and willingness to assume the expenses of travel, to board airplanes, trains and buses to Felton. Communities within minimal proximity purportedly use Uber.

So, . . . where are they? Where are all those who arrived at the train station or airport here in Felton from somewhere else? Where are the airport and train station? Of those who ride local buses or use Uber, who got just one of their fares paid by another municipality who wanted them to leave? We are acquainted with all of the less fortunate here. These are simple questions.

When we help someone from here get to somewhere else, it is only because of some sort of opportunity at the destination, such as employment or a domestic situation. If the less fortunate of other Communities come here, it is likely for the same reasons. They are now likely employed and living in homes.

Political View

Why do local politician get blamed for homelessness here? Did one of them evict someone from a formerly functional domestic situation, . . . or several someones? Did a local politician cause people to become unemployed and consequently unable to afford their respective mortgages or rent? Did just one politician somehow contribute to anyone else’s personal social dysfunction?

Well, like I said earlier, blame is easy.

Now that the rate of homelessness here continues to decline, will local politicians get the credit? Will anyone thank them for the locally declining unemployment rate? Should there be at least some scrap of acknowledgment of the effort devoted to improvement of local homeless shelters? Will we merely take all of it for granted, and find something else to blame local politician for?

Apparently, gratitude is not as easy as blame is.

Politicians have enough to be concerned about without being blamed for other people’s problems, and being expected to fix them. All they can really do is develop strategies and promote the development of opportunities for others to improve their situations. Implementation of such strategies must be a team effort that includes other governmental officials and the Community.

Yes, the Community. How many of us are willing to rent a vacant studio to someone who has been homeless, perhaps for less than market rates? How many of us would help an unemployed neighbor with overdue bills? Fortunately for our Community, most of us would silently do what we could when necessary. But of course, most of us do not blame politicians for homelessness.

The same minority who blames politicians for homelessness also does the least about it. Their irrational intolerance of homelessness is, individually, their personal problem, which should not be assumed as a problem of those who work for the entire Community.

Misconceptions – Graffiti

Cave paintings might be considered to be some of the oldest examples of what we now know as graffiti. Alternatively, such ancient forms of self expression might have evolved into the sorts of artworks produced by Lester Johnson, Frida Kahlo, Mary Cassatt and Henri Matisse. Perhaps it all developed from the same primitive origins of more than sixty-four thousand years ago.

That is inconsequential now. Works of renowned artists are exhibited in museums. Graffiti defaces infrastructure until it gets painted over, or merely defaced and obscured by more graffiti. Except for several galleries of very compelling local art, and occasional touring exhibits, there are no formal art museums in Felton. However, there is more graffiti than only a few years ago.

Haters often blame the homeless for graffiti, merely because some of the homeless camp in some of the same places where graffiti is prominently displayed. In other words, the homeless did it because they were there. According to that logic, the haters must be responsible too, since they were also there. Otherwise, they would not have seen enough graffiti to blame others for it.

What makes anyone think that homeless people have any interest in the sort of elaborate graffiti that has been appearing around town for the past few years anyway? Homeless people have many more important issues to be concerned with. Drawing attention to their camp sites is not exactly a priority. Nor is spending limited funds on something as unnecessary as spray paint.

Besides, while graffiti has become more common than it has ever been, homelessness has become significantly less common. There are presently only a few homeless people in Felton. Most are not sufficiently agile to get into the situations where most of the graffiti has been displayed.

For some, blame is easier than logic.

Liberalism Is A Mental Disorder

Michael Savage wrote the book. It is supposed to be well worth reading. I have never done so. Nor do I intend to. I know I would not enjoy it. My prejudice is not based on what I believe the book to be about. It is derived more from the expectation of an objectionably straightforward presentation of accurate but unpleasant information that really should be common knowledge.

Yuck!

Conservatism is not perfect either. If extremist liberals could compose more than a few coherent sentences, one might write a book about it. Neither conservatism nor liberalism is the worst of the many social complications that those who identify with one but most definitely not the vilified other should be concerned about though. Extremism is what enhances the worst of both.

Homelessness and all the problems associated with it are social problems. They affect all of society. They are neither liberal nor conservative. Yet, extremists so readily blame politicians for causing such problems or allowing them to continue, as if they do so intentionally. Conservative extremist blame liberal politicians just like liberal extremists blame conservative politicians.

How many of those who blame others for homelessness actually do anything about it? Do any of them help the homeless procure domestic situations? Do any of them help the unemployed procure employment? Do they donate food or clothing to those who are in need of such resources? It seems that most are pleased to continue to complain about what others are not doing.

Fortunately, there are many within our Community who are very supportive in regard to helping the homeless, unemployed and needy. We do not hear much from them because they are not so unconstructively outspoken. They do not so blatantly blame others for problems that they are not willing to help out with.

2020

This should be a good year for us. It seems that every year of the past several has been a bit better than the previous. It is getting to sound redundant. In our small Community, the rates of homelessness and unemployment are decreasing. There are fewer becoming homeless than there are homeless procuring domestic situations. More are procuring employment than losing it.

We should be grateful. Although this has been the trend nationally, it is not the trend everywhere. Rates of homelessness have increased significantly in many Communities, particularly the more populous cities and towns of California. Homelessness in Los Angeles is beyond deplorable. Increasing employment does not help much while the cost of living exceeds typical incomes.

We do what we can with what we have to work with here, and slowly but surely, it is effective.

In February, some of us will be harvesting and selling madrone and oak firewood from a parcel that would benefit from major vegetation management. Burls of the younger madrones can be harvested and sold as well. The trees will be removed so that fruit trees can be installed next winter. It is not the most lucrative of work, but will more than pay for the pickup used to do it.

It is a start. There are a few more tanoaks to harvest in Brookdale after that, and then mixed oaks and some madrones outside of Scott’s Valley. For those involved, it will be gratifying to get back to work, even if it is only temporary before returning to work within former or other preferred professions. It will be even more gratifying if those who lack homes earn enough for rent.

It is still too early to discuss some of the other potential opportunities for employment this year; but there will be more.

GREEN

GREEN, Greening Residential Environments Empowering Neighborhoods, will be planting at least fifty-two street trees in Los Angeles in less than three weeks, on January 18. Sadly, none of us will attend this year.

Only one of us attended the first tree planting project by GREEN twenty-two years ago. One may not seem like an impressive number, but it was half of the two who started what has become an annual tradition. Back then, we were committed only to plant thirty trees, and then planted about twice that many by the time the project was completed.

Now that GREEN has organized an impressive crew of local volunteers, it is not so important for any of us to go all the way to Los Angeles to help. Besides, we can be more helpful here, by growing some of the trees that GREEN will eventually plant.

After all, the first large groups of trees, as well as a few individual trees, came from here. In fact, on West 21st Street, between South La Brea Avenue and (coincidentally) South Sycamore Avenue, there might be as many as four sycamores that were grown from suckers that were removed from the massive sycamore in Felton Covered Bridge Park.

It would be nice to grow more sycamores because they are remarkably complaisant as street trees where parkstrips are wide enough. They do not get as big in such exposed situations as they do here. They are easily grown from cutting, and can be passively field grown on a vacant parcel in Brookdale, to be dug and relocated bare root to Los Angeles.

Deodar cedars would be nice for a section of Masselin Avenue in the Miracle Mile District. We happen to have access to a significant herd of feral seedlings here that need to be removed. The problem with them is that they can not be so passively field grown, so must instead be canned and irrigated. Bulky canned trees are not as easily delivered to Los Angeles as bare root trees.

There is plenty of space available for such a crop. There is plenty of water, growing media and cans. Even labor is not lacking. The difficulty will be getting all the assets together. Most of us do not get very far from Felton. The best space available for such projects in past Zayante or outside of Scott’s Valley. Available space that is closer lacks water for irrigation.

We will figure something out. We typically do. The young cedars will not occupy so much space during their first year, so can probably stay in Felton. More space will likely become available by the time we need it. If the finished crop does not fit into one pickup like more than sixty manna gums fit into one station wagon, we can simply rent a moving van. We will make it work.

Note: Metro Rail was not built into the medians of San Vicente Boulevard as described in the article ‘Birthday Trees’, so many of the original trees remain.