Grumpy Old Men

Felton Covered Bridge has not changed much in the last half century or so. The new roof looks very much like the roof that was replaced. The extensive repair of damage caused by the flood in 1982 is difficult to discern from original materials and technique. A picture that my Pa took of my siblings and I in the southwestern window of the Bridge when I was just a little tyke, and too short to see over the sill, demonstrates that the particular window looks the same now as it did half a century ago. In fact, much of Felton looks somewhat as it did back then, or is at least somewhat recognizable.

Other towns have not been so fortunate, or unfortunate, according to perspective. Some of us perceive change as an asset or improvement. Others perceive it as a loss of original assets. Both perceptions are both variable and accurate; as well as variably accurate. In other words, some change is good, but other change is bad; and we each assess it by our own distinct standards.

My colleague in the Los Angeles region appreciates how Los Angeles and some adjacent towns have developed since we were kids. West Hollywood, which was quite shabby when it incorporated in 1984, has since developed into quite a ritzy community. Watts, which we still remember as a neighborhood to avoid, is now getting to be hip and trendy again, and one of the better regions in which to invest. The skyline of downtown Los Angeles is spectacular, and comparable to older big cities of the East.

Unfortunately, so many of these improvements have made the region less ‘livable’ for those who do not earn more than average income. Those who earn what had been average income can no longer afford to live there. Homelessness has consequently become overly common, as it has in Santa Cruz County.

My colleague, I and the rest of our generation have been around for half a century. That is quite a while. Things change significantly in that much time. There have been many changes that we are displeased with; but there are many that worked out quite nicely. People who are young now will experience the same during their next half century or so.

When I consider what my ancestors, and particularly my colleague’s ancestors, contended with in their first half century, as well as afterward, I realize that I should not complain. They experienced change that I can not comprehend, both good and bad. Although I can remember when less than half a million people lived in San Jose, my great grandparents remembered when San Jose was a relatively small town of about 20,000 residents, and all the unpleasantries associated with such extreme urban development afterward. Although my colleague down South still encounters mild racism on rare occasion, his father, who is of African descent, began his career as an attorney during the middle of the Civil Rights Movement, and even as he served as a Judge for Los Angeles County, endured racism and discrimination that younger people can not comprehend. Obviously, earlier generations endured much worse.

Society continues to evolve. Although it is unlikely that homelessness will be remedied any more efficiently than primitive racism has been, the presently extreme rate of homelessness must change. Society can not continue in such disgrace.

Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Junior Day – January 17, 2022

Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Junior Day is often abbreviated as MLK Day. It likely has the most substantial name of all the important Holidays of American Culture, but was given one of the briefest of abbreviations. It is no wonder; but is it fair.

Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Junior earned all of his credentials. He attained his Baccalaureate at Morehouse College. He attained his Baccalaureate in Divinity at Crozer Theological Seminary. He attained his Doctorate at Boston University. He was the son of Martin Luther King Senior, a revered Pastor, Missionary and Civil Rights Activist.

Nonetheless, to many of his time, he was merely ‘black’.

Many described him more disparagingly than that. They needed others to blame for social dysfunction. They needed others to oppress. They needed others to fear.

Many people still believe that they need this. If they are unable to blame, oppress and fear those who are racially different, they rely on others who are differently different.

How pitiable. No one should maintain such extreme self disdain that they rely on others for self validation. No one should need to be unjustifiably disparaging to anyone else.

Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Junior said, “You know, a lot of people don’t love themselves. And they go through life with deep and haunting emotional conflicts. So the length of life means that you must love yourself. And you know what loving yourself also means? It means that you’ve got to accept yourself.”, and furthermore, “Hate is just as injurious to the hater as it is to the hated. Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Many of our inner conflicts are rooted in hate. This is why psychiatrists say, “Love or perish.” Hate is too great a burden to bear.”.

Discrimination of Discrimination

Civilization has always been been influenced by various forms of discrimination. Even in modern America, where we like to believe that most types of discrimination have been dispelled, we are regularly reminded that some of the worst remain. Some forms of discrimination get recycled and reassigned, as if they will be more tolerable if applied to more appropriate victims.

Society can be rather discriminating about who it discriminates against.

People of African descent have always been discriminated against in America. Racists who justify such discrimination might consider them collectively to be more innately prone to thievery, as well as violence, vandalism, addiction, exploitation of social services, and any other social transgression that imaginative racists can conceive. It is what justifies racism and discrimination.

Historically, people of Asian descent, particularly Chinese descent, were collectively considered by racists to be more innately prone to addiction (to opium), as well as thievery and squalorly lifestyles. For a disgraceful period of American history, people of Japanese descent were incarcerated merely because they were racially related to enemies of America during World War II.

Many racists still consider Indigenous People of North America to collectively be more innately prone to alcoholism, as well as the many other transgressions that people of African and Asian descent are similarly blamed for. It is a common and typical pattern of racism and discrimination. Behavior that should be attributed to environment is instead attributed to genetics, or race.

It is easy enough to find pictures or other documentation of people conforming to the stereotypes of their respective racial designation. ‘Nature versus Nurture’ need not be mentioned if the objective is to justify racism and discrimination; although disproportionate conformation typically is mentioned. Justification of racism and discrimination rarely involves the use of any logic.

Now that racial discrimination is very slowly becoming less socially acceptable among common American society, some of those who might otherwise be racist are directing more unfounded hostility to other groups, such as those who are wealthier or more impoverished, including the homeless. Because this sort of discrimination is not racist, society is slightly more tolerant of it.

However, modern American society is realizing that unfounded discrimination against some of the homeless is merely a different flavor of the same recycled racial discrimination that is now so stigmatized. The irrational hostility and lack of logic eventually make it obvious. We have seen it all before, continue to see it, and sometimes see it in initially unrecognizable incarnations.

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.

Crime Report

Law enforcement agencies, such as our Santa Cruz County Sheriffs’ Office, tend to report crime accurately. Those who write such reports are trained on how to do so, so do not embellish with speculation or bias. Because their reports are available to everyone in the Community, they are likely to be confronted with even the slightest of inaccuracies, or anything that can be remotely perceived as an inaccuracy. It can not be an easy process.

Many law enforcement agencies, such as ours, share some of their information about crime on social media. They sometimes ask the Community for information that might be useful for a particular investigation or locating a missing person. Sometimes, they just want to alert the Community to an escalation of a particular type of crime in a particular neighborhood. Sometimes, they merely want to share a bit of what they do to protect and serve.

Unfortunately, as useful as social media and networking is, it is where all the work that goes into accuracy without speculation or bias is ignored, as anyone with any random gripe can respond with disturbingly vitriolic and typically irrelevant accusations, judgments, criticism, threats and name calling. The creativity of such comments is as impressive as the ridiculousness. The unhappiest and most hateful of people have very active imaginations.

Of course, the homeless and societally oppressed are almost always the victims of their creative imaginations.

When the Ox sculpture in Felton Covered Bridge Park was vandalized, the homeless were immediately blamed. In fact, Felton League was implicated specifically, without explanation. What was even sillier was that after witnessing the crime, one of our associates went to find someone with a telephone to call for a sheriff deputy, while another pursued the vandals until deputies arrived. The vandals, who were not homeless, were arrested.

Yes, there are a few doozies out there.

One of the all time oddest was more than a year and half ago, when the Sheriffs’ Office described on their Facebook page how they had apprehended the man who started the Bear Fire by burning down his home. Someone, who likely has serious issue with the classic ‘chicken or the egg dilemma of causality’, actually replied to that very same post by blaming the fire on the homeless!

Memorial Day Irony

Back in about 2013, it was much more socially acceptable to discriminate against the homeless, anyone who looked homeless, or just about anyone who could be implicated as an affiliate of the homeless, whether or not such implication was accurate. Anyone getting off a bus with a backpack might have learned how quickly sheriff deputies responded to ‘multiple reports’ of someone suspicious. How contrary to our formerly idyllic culture!

The animosity of a mere few for the homeless and their affiliates is what justified the removal of all the barbecues and one of the picnic tables from Felton Covered Bridge Park, and is why barbecuing is now illegal there. Those who do not drink alcohol were often accused of inebriation or worse. There were false accusations that some homeless lived in tents in the riparian zone of the San Lorenzo River within Felton Covered Bridge Park.

2013 was a long time ago. Not many remember the major hostility of a minor group at that time. To the contrary, we remember the remarkable and consistent generosity and civility of our Community. After all, it is our Community that has always provided so much of whatever we need, and for many of us, provided employment and homes. The Community is why homelessness is much less of a problem than it was six years ago in 2013.

Tomorrow will be Memorial Day. Yesterday was the annual Memorial Day celebration; Felton Remembers Parade and Covered Bridge Festival. Not many remember what should be memorialize on Memorial Day, but it was an excellent celebration nonetheless. Beer was sold from that navy blue tent amongst all those other tents. Freshly cooked and grilled food was sold next to the parking lot, out of view to the left of this picture. Beer, tents, grilled food and irony.