SHOOTING IN THE DARK
I imagine most columnists feel that way sometimes. Who’s reading? Is anybody reading?! Are the people who can make a difference right away reading? Am I persuading them at all or do they just hate and ignore what I write?
It may surprise you to know that I rarely hear from the haters. I think they call or write to my editor instead, lucky him. The less digitally-inclined of them sometimes write me actual letters (though my email is at the bottom of every column), and every couple of months I pick up the pile of not-a-fan mail. I say that because of the words and drawings scrawled on the envelopes. Not love notes. I still haven’t opened the latest batch because I haven’t dug out the rubber gloves and hazmat suit yet. If I find white power I will assume it is not a gift of cocaine.
It still always delights me that a week doesn’t pass without my hearing from one or more readers who are very supportive and from whom I’ve never heard before. Often they write that they’ve been reading the columns for years.
It is, of course, a privilege to be given space in print in this great city’s leading newspaper. Since high school I’ve been writing for publication, and educating myself since pre-teens about politics and music, the two things that interest me most.
Well, yeah, right. Here’s the thing, in Santa Monica. While I do seem to get a lot of support for speaking out as to what and who’s ruining this city (not ruined yet but well along the path with no brakes being applied), are those hundreds of people that I hear from — it? Are they the only ones who agree with me? Are they my bubble? Do the other 90,000 think everything is just peachy and what we really need is more development, bigger taller buildings with little or no parking, more gridlock, more crime, a bigger homeless population, higher taxes, less law enforcement, and spending our money twice as fast? Maybe.
It’s impossible to tell. I’ve never felt I speak for the majority of Santa Monicans, because the majority don’t have the time or inclination to become informed on these matters. A certain number of those just don’t care.
Here’s my sense: that I speak for a great many, if not a majority, of the residents who want to proudly call Santa Monica home and not just a way station on their life’s journey. They care about its unique, cherished history and its future. They could be young or old, they could be 40-year residents or just arrived, but they care, deeply. This is their home, they love it, they know about it, and they plan to stay.
Too many of them have given up on their City government changing course, and have moved out. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates for the last three years show Santa Monica’s population decreasing, if only slightly. We always used to use the rounded figure of 94,000, now it’s closer to 91,000. You can dispute the figures, but — it is the U.S. Census Bureau, and while Trump is trying to politicize them too with his citizenship question, they’re still a reliable, nonpartisan institution.
So, for whom is all this construction and development you see around you? Decreasing population, 9 percent vacancy rate (that’s very high) — who’s benefiting from all this?
QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK:
I don’t mean to be annoying but isn’t “have a happy Memorial Day!” off the mark? Even insensitive? I know most people think only of a long weekend, backyard barbecues and way too many margaritas. All swell and good. This past weekend, when the occasion came up, I found myself wishing folks “a great Memorial Day weekend” — open to interpretation.
Veterans Day in November honors all who served in our military but Memorial Day honors those who made the greatest sacrifice. They died, for their country, often suffering terribly and far away from home. Their families and friends forever torn. There are still brothers and sisters waiting for an MIA body to come back from Nam. And now you have yet another Republican draft dodger president rattling the sword of war, and his party blocks all bills to take care of the veterans they’ve already created. What have we become, to allow this in our names?
To add to it all, you had the incident here Sunday where a man, probably mentally ill, attacked the Arlington West display of flags on the beach, just north of the Pier, that volunteers have been painstakingly erecting and taking down every Sunday for the last 15 years. One of the volunteers was injured and required stitches. Something like this doesn’t come out of thin air. It’s a reflection of where we are as a nation and as a city.
The Arlington West people are a very interesting group. Veterans for Peace, “exposing the true costs of war and militarism since 1985.” Check out their website (http://www.arlingtonwestsantamonica.org/)
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
“Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime.” — Ernest Hemingway
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 33 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at firstname.lastname@example.org