Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Route 66 – Reverse Migration

We are indebted to a variety of authors of “fiction becomes history” for their coverage of the gigantic migration during the perilous combination of natural disaster (drought and “dust bowl”) and economic melt down (The Great Depression) during the early twentieth century. From their portrayal, we saw visions of cars stacked high with household goods, suitcases, and kids making their way west on “America’s Road” to that golden paradise—California. Along the way, they brushed off the residual dust from Oklahoma and the panhandle of Texas, in search of a better way of life.

These were largely simple people with a simple solution: if home becomes uninhabitable, move! These people were all too familiar with defeat and doubt and willingly endured the rigors of the road to seek salvation in the Promised Land. They lacked funds, education, and polish but brought an abundance of grit and character to their new home. They immediately were assigned status as a “sub-class” and given the sobriquet, “Okies.”

While the indigenous residents laughed at them and their rural ways, they stubbornly climbed the ladder to ultimate success. Eventually, they formed the rock-ribbed base of a special category of Californians typified by hard work, ingenuity, persistence, native skills and faith. They had faith in the American system, its laws, its people, its opportunity and most important, its God. Numbed with poverty, they carried frugality into their daily lives. In those extremely difficult years they parlayed their plight into ownership and management in their new home. They exercised an attitude reminiscent of the early pioneers who founded the Golden State.

In the ensuing decades, other forces came to bear in the richness of that natural wonder which is California. Political forces, as those heroes of the twenties, thirties, and forties died out and newer demographics took over, brought more government and less individual initiative into the forefront. The march to ever more dependence on government continued through the subsequent decades and we finally arrived at the current bankrupt situation which we see today. Californians shed the reality of their past for the nebulous promises for the future. Promises based upon a corrupt leadership, personal agendas, and self-promotion.

The result was a combination of a burgeoning economy, remarkable, if faddish, business success, and a soaring housing market with an increasing social dependency, oppressive taxation, regressive regulatory power for business, and environmental controls gone mad which created a climate of distaste for many citizens. That result then became manifest in the current exodus from California which has turned US 66 into a “two-way” street. It was at one time a one way route to success and happiness. It has now (figuratively) become the avenue of escape from taxation, regulation, socialism and general kookiness.

At the onset, this emigration was triggered by unrealistic housing prices which offered an unprecedented opportunity for profit taking on residential property. The individuals took advantage of booming prices, carried their profit to neighboring states in the hope of parlaying their gains into private fortunes. They were abetted by eager lenders who aided their goal of acquiring multiple “low cost” properties in these areas which had problems of their own that were less obvious.

For example, Las Vegas was a prime destination but came with the downside of a diminishing water supply which threatened to dim the lights and thirst of “sin city.” Phoenix had already burgeoned past realistic proportions and had individual municipal problems. Each of these areas had “monkey jar” traps of their own. (This occurs when the greedy monkey reaches through a limited access hole in a clear jar to obtain desirable food from inside. Once the nut, or what have you, is enclosed in his clenched fist, he can no longer retrieve the fist and is then trapped.) With a declining market brought on by untenable lending practices, the home prices fell and the possibility of a “flip for profit” disappeared and they found their collateral insufficient to satisfy their intentions.

They also saw their profits from home sales on the coast dissipated by the consequence of lending practices designed to fund home ownership for persons who had not earned the right.. About the only thing which differentiates the east flow of today and the early Okies is that our current group is driving Hummers and not rattle-trap Fords.

Instead of bringing cartons, boxes and suitcases tied to the tops of their SUV’s, they are carrying the misapplied political ideas which wrecked their former state in the first place. The change in geography did not alter their mistaken ideas so; they failed to discard their foolish notions at the state line. Instead of carrying iron skillets, Aunt Jenny’s picture, the old piano, and provisions, they are laden with diversity, political correctness, social awareness and the Marxist schemes which put them in distress in the first place. From Texas to Washington, reports are constant of California newcomers who bring the socialist mantra as their primary baggage. Unlike the Okies, there is no assimilation in their kit. What is present is “feel good” instead of “work hard.”

Old Route 66 is still with us but is now identified as I-55, I-44, and I-40 with occasional stretches still in tact and retaining its original identity. It was a noble road for a noble time. From the starting point at Buckingham Fountain on Chicago’s lake front to its terminus near the pier in Santa Monica (originally it was in Pasadena) it carried traffic through eight states and generated every emotional extreme in the human vocabulary. The main theme however, was mobility. It was in its time the definition of American independence. I think the nation was better served when it was “one way” to “Cali-forny.”

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

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