Posted: March 9th, 2022
California Dreams and Realities
California Dreaming'” versus 21st Century California Realities
Unless a person has been born and raised in California, his or her “image” of state will differ, very greatly, from realities of California, once one finally sets foot physically in this world famous, far western place. From abroad especially, the traditional vision (or image) of the California ‘good life’ spring mainly from Hollywood and motion picture and television images; reputation for year-round sunshine (this is wrong); “laid-back” moods (this also wrong); and myths that in sunny California everything is acceptable, everyone accepted. Yes, part of vision is accurate. For instance, California weather is warmer, more temperate, than most places on earth. Also, California is an international trendsetter, and cutting-edge place to be, which attracted me as international student. For instance, as Maasik and Solomon state:
California is not only the most populous state in the union; it is also the most culturally evocative. Everything that happens in America, they say, happens in California first. A special case of the American dream, California — thanks to the efforts of the television and film industries — is often the place where dreams begin. And, in a nation of immigrants, California stands as America’s premier immigrant state, attracting residents from all over the country and around the world.
Speaking again from an international student perspective, what is “cool” for clothes; entertainments, etc., often said to start in California (or sometimes Florida or New York) but seldom anywhere between the west and east. However, based on my own experience, and on the essays and images in the textbook, I would still have to say California myths and images differ from reality.
To see images and imagine descriptions from the textbook and elsewhere, of California’s history, and to read of Native American abuses; immigrations from Mexico; China, and elsewhere; Gold Rush history, etc.; etc., is to learn something different of California than just TV, movie, or flattering tourist brochures would show us. The vision of “melting pot” develops historically from those kinds of pleasant, enticing images. However, happy melting pot of California not as happy as one might think. Much melting away of Native Americans, for example, was done long ago, so other groups could melt better into California, so some groups now still melting themselves over others, not blending nicely with them.
Also, much hard work in California is, historically, done by Mexican immigrations (rural; service; and agriculture) and/or Chinese immigrations (building railroad; food market; cleaning services; sewing clothing, etc.). Those people of immigrations often are treated unfairly in California, especially in early days. So, as our book points out, the image of the melting pot developed historically, especially of Mexican; Chinese, and other immigrations. But not all these groups were liked, or treated with equally.
Rawls states, in his essay “California, a Place, a People, a Dream”: “The promise of the California Dream raises the expectation of the millions who come to California, hoping that their lives here will be better than what they left behind.” But as Yeh Ling-Ling also said (“The Welcome Mat is Bare”), too much immigration now and before is draining the state’s resources. Also it is draining the nation of resources. As Ling-Ling states “Almost every week, we hear about thousands of our workers losing their jobs.” So California is land of opportunity, but now more limited opportunity, since immigrations have been too plentiful. Because so many want to live in California, quality of life here is now worse for everyone. This is not just fault of immigration, but so many immigrations are one key factor. Immigrations keep coming, not just to study here for a time, but to live permanently, and Californian infrastructures are no more easily supporting all immigrations, or even people who have been here a long time. So now everybody suffers.
For myself, my past images of California include glamour and wide open space, sun, friendly smile, and everyone always getting suntan and relaxing. My current image is almost the opposite: gridlock (David Carle, “Sprawling Gridlock,” pp, 411-415); high prices; lack of parking place; pay parking everywhere; crowding; rushing, hurrying, pushing, etc. I do not see hardly any relaxing and laying back going on around me, maybe on the beach or at parks, playing sports or watching sport event, party, or movie, but not relaxing every day. Also, California stereotype is everyone here is friendly, and no one is hurrying or being rude, but this absolutely not true, and not just because of being international student. Unfortunately, every day, I see everybody being rude to everybody else: white; Asian; black; Hispanic, etc., not all the time, but often enough.
I thought first this maybe it harder for international student than American, but American friend agree California life is just rushing; highway driving; crowding; paying too much money, waiting long line for everything, etc. For me, I came because of big international populations, and because the California higher education is still best in America for international students. We have nothing similar in my country, so I and other international students appreciate our opportunities here.
At first I was thinking I will experience California now, and perhaps stay after my college graduation. Now I am thinking maybe I will change this original plan, since California, although nice in many ways (very pretty beaches; good foods; good entertainments; good friends), does not match the “paradise” I expected. Actually, California often remind me, in pace of life, of other crowded places I have been to, like Seoul; Tokyo; Hong Kong, etc., and cities in Europe, in intensity, expense, housing problem, and space. What brought me here, though, is my quest for the best education, and I feel I am receiving that. So in that most important way, I am personally grateful to California’s higher education system, government, and citizens that make possible my education here. Education was my main goal, and it has not been disappointing me.
However, now that California has entered into the 21st century, images of this state must somehow be reconciled with the many political and economic challenges California and people here now face: budget; immigration; employment; health; education; energy; gas and oil price for transportation and heating; house price; ethnic discriminations, etc. Perhaps state just got too big, but no solution for this apparent now. People who always live here and have job and family will not want to live elsewhere, even when elsewhere offers them less expensiveness and less crowding.
Maybe California should become more friendly to business (but this also bad for the environment), like other states (e.g., Nevada; Arizona), but also should put more taxes on businesses, and on rich residents. Another way is to better control illegal immigration, but this is easier said than done, since many financially comfortable but not extremely rich Californians actually prefer illegal helping for reasons of economic costs. So they might complain about it, but then they go ahead and hire cheap foreign gardner, cook, nanny, etc., and feel very fortunate to have these illegal people working for them, because they couldn’t afford so much of this kind of help otherwise.
Essay question also asked how California can keep its golden image, given the challenges of overpopulation, economic recession, the environment, and political climate. First, unfortunately, I honestly do not believe California even has anymore its once golden image. I am sorry to say this. Earlier it had that image, but now everyone, even abroad, has become much more aware of California’s overcrowding; complex politics; economic and environmental problems, etc. A few years ago everyone in my country used to say, with a dreamy look and voice,: “I dream to someday go to California,” but now they tend to say instead, if they still desire a western America living or long vacation experience, “Nevada, Arizona, Utah all pretty nice instead and less expensive, so I will just stay short time visiting the most important sights of California.”
The problem of how to “fix” California (if this even possible) seems to me, now extremely complex. I have a few ideas about it, although probably not too practical ones. One idea I have is make house buying more affordable to normal people, not just rich people in California. California people should not have to win lottery to buy nice housing. Another idea I have is to improve K-12 education, especially children of poor immigrants so they can grow up and run California well and competently in the future. California’s huge Hispanic population need best K-12 education and college attendance now, not worst and not later! By that I mean Advanced Placements; pressures; extra studies; incentive from parent, tutor; community; scholarship opportunity; peer pressures, etc. Hispanic ethnic group, much like African-American and Native American ethnic groups, is very looked down on in California and U.S.A. In general, and discriminated in education. But they are the biggest California minority group. Moreover, many of them are poor, so they have the worst schools and live in bad neighborhoods. Hispanic parent work so hard at low paying job (maid; agricultural; day laborer, etc.) just to feed and shelter them, and parent don’t have anymore time or energy for insisting about homeworks and graders. But this, I feel, will downfall California eventually if something to help their Hispanic education levels does not happen. Now Hispanic adults even are working in Disneyland and McDonald’s but that person needed for doctor and engineer careers instead. Disneyland job will be fine for young kid, but after that, which Hispanic people will be able to work in computer jobs in Silicon Valley; maintain infrastructures; participate in state government, and in California industry and health, accounting, and legal professions? There are just too many Hispanics here for them not to enter these professions in much bigger groups! California must work hard with the children of all: rich poor and middle class people equally – now, not later. No more time is available to discriminate, or everyone paying very high price! Therefore, California must encourage more Hispanic scholars like Ruben Navarette (“Well I Guess they Need their Minority”). True, maybe Harvard needs Ruben for its minority quota, but California needs for all Hispanic youth being like Ruben, not more low achieving “cholos” (Navarette).
All in all, California is great state with strength but overpopulation and many other problems. It will take time, creativity, and everyone’s working together to solve these problems. I hope it can be done.
Maasik, Sonia, and Jack Solomon. California Dreams and Realities: Readings
For Critical Thinkers and Writers. 3rd Ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s,
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