A tale of two valleys. California’s widening class rift and of being caught in the middle.

She is a beautiful state. This I cannot deny.

She offers everything. A generally temperate climate, vast mountains, vast beaches, vast landscapes of that remarkable in-between. She has been the beacon call of Americans for decades. I was born and raised here.

But I believe she is losing her luster.

California_Terrain_Map
courtesy Terrain Map

You will note that her north-south axis is precariously perched over the largest ocean in the world. Her currents are cool. Her balance is skewed and it looks like she will topple into the water without a support beam to prop her up, especially as her population approaches 40 million crazed souls.

Judging by her thin construction, you might not suspect she is rapidly becoming the first Third World State of the United States.

All those coastal areas on the left are home to an elite brand of wealthy and cultured intelligentsia. They flock to the waterside where they make their ocean-bound presence known through a materialistic veil; here, they enjoy the status signalling that is afforded such a wonderful location.

And everything a few centimeters to the right of the coastal areas…?

Uh, you don’t want to be there. That is where the disenfranchised blue collar, uneducated, prole hordes live. That is where they eat at chain restaurants and where they live in cheap houses that are still a tenuous stretch they can barely afford despite having milked out the last of a drained bank loan that let them realize the hollow dream of home ownership, a real siren whore of entitlement if ever there was one. This is where people live who spend their disposable incomes on big Ford trucks and faux American luxury, like Buick or Chrysler. These people don’t go to the theater or dine at exclusive restaurants that will set you back a couple hundred bucks for a party of two pretentious individuals.

And now the Measure of America report has been released. It illustrates the vast rich/poor chasm that splits this state by the bottomless middle class void of a poor valley that runs down its geographical spine. A state, split between the geographically minuscule but economically bloated coastal areas, and the geographically stupendous but economically latent inland areas. California, a geologically narrow state which harbors two classes of Americana within its abrupt confines.

From the Measure of America report, two graphics showing both ends of the American spectrum which happen to coexist in this state, just hundreds of miles from each other. Roughly categorized as a nebulous “Human Development Index,” the blended measurement standardizes life expectancy, income and education statistics and parlays a single ranked data measure. The MoA report shows California’s nation-leading adjacent extremes:

From the High in Silicon Valley…
moa ca high

…to the Low in the agricultural Central Valley.
moa ca low

Furthermore, the divide parallels overall class indicators seen across the span of American culture. The coastal areas are Asian and White, the inland areas, Hispanic and Black.

I am a “straddler” within this dynamic.

I work and co-exist with many of the coastal elites, but I live with the inland proles, and my soul is a hybrid of both. I appreciate the finer things in life with a jaded eye and my cynicism prevents me from falling prey to elitist delusions, but on the other hand, I share the thrift and simplicity and bare-boned lifestyle of the inlanders.

California’s chasm will continue to grow as coastal housing becomes astronomically expensive and schooling continues to predominate as a status symbol while the less refined elements of our state population continue to congregate around Hometown Buffet while subsisting on football and mindless action movies for entertainment.

California is your future, America. We’ve always led the way, for better and for worse.