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Skeptic's Journal
A Reality Check for West Marin
By Jeanette Pontacq

Most interesting in the recent election was the corporate media immediately inventing the vision of Red States against Blue States. Horse Petooties! Even West Marin, that supposed bastion of liberal/progressive ideas in action, gave Bush some approval. Are 14% or so of local residents just invisible? If there are 10,000 people in West Marin, then even 14% of residents voting for Bush means that 1,400 of our neighbors did so. These are people some of us know, or at least should know.

And another thing: the media wants you to believe in this Great Divide between the Red and the Blue because it makes good copy (pundits get to scream about it and draw fools to watch), but if you break down voting by county rather than state, one sees the colors all mixed together.

First lesson: Never believe a corporate media which made the Scott Peterson trial into a world-wide passion play...negating every other human concern for air time. Second lesson: Rather than demonize others for what has happened, it is probably more efficient to take a look at our own culpability and how we could do better.

One more thing... it is most likely that a right-wing agenda will be the paradigm in the United States, not just for the next four years, but for much longer. We need to face that, then stop the Left's incestuous conversation with itself and meet the rest of the country. These "others" are not the enemy and pretending they are is counter-productive. Few people are really just stereotypes... neither on the Left or the Right and all the reality in between.

So while you chew on that, let's talk about how all of us out here straddling the San Andreas Fault can practice tolerance and reach out to learn about those "others." Perhaps if we solve that issue, we can export the lessons to the rest of America.

First, we need to question who we are, collectively, in West Marin now. Although it's a mixed bag now, most locals reading this particular newspaper love to think that West Marin is a collective of 1) right-thinking environmentalists, progressive sorts, who practice the First Amendment, 2) love diversity, 3) honor and fully pay for the work done by others, and 4) micro-manage social justice here and around the world. Depending upon one's socioeconomic rating, one tends to see the rest of us as pretty similar to one's own self-definition. This, unfortunately, is not usually an accurate view of reality. But then, this is West Marin.

One of the first realities to face is that there are quite a few more of us than only a decade ago... and there were more a decade ago than the decades before that...and so on. Property values have gone through the roof, making even a pre-fab cottage on a small lot without a view command a listing at $850,000. It is now not unusual, even on winter weekdays, for long-time locals to not know at least half of the people they pass on the streets of Point Reyes Station, for example. Parking is a problem and about to get worse. Because we are still unincorporated, and thus without our own elected representatives, West Marin is still part of the Marin Board of Supervisors' Private Fiefdom System (PFS).

Nonetheless, West Marin is a gorgeous and seductive place for locals and visitors alike. Great weather, beautiful views, laid-back lifestyle, and protected from the crazier growth and paving over in East Marin.

So, golly gee, isn't West Marin fabulous and wonderful and perfect? Well, yes, for many, many of us. BUT Tomales Bay, once considered a pristine bay, has been re-designated as polluted. Bolinas Lagoon is filling in from so much population pressure. Weekends bring a huge influx of tourists/visitors that make most locals stay home. And political patronage and "special issues" allows some to get building permits and zoning changes while others cannot (PFS).

The last decade has also seen a heavy influx of Just Plain Rich People (JPRP): from Muir Beach to Stinson to Bolinas to Point Reyes to Inverness and even Tomales. Let's not forget Marshall either! This is natural in a gorgeous area with high-priced real estate. But it does change the mix of locals drastically. Then remember that only a small number of locals, mostly here a long time, actually speak out and make things happen. Most residents do not get involved, period. It is not at all democratic by any definition.

Further, the greater community of West Marin is mostly native Anglo, but with a growing number of Latinos, both legal and illegal (about 200 exist out here illegally), who make the lives of the rest of us actually work. The Latinos are honest, hard working, focused and mostly "on a different planet" from the rest of the community. There are TWO communities, each only seen by the other as disembodied ghosts passing by.

So what is diversity? In other words, we may be somewhat diverse in look, but our community is not one, but splintered. In the future, I intend to write on the real composition of who lives in West Marin and try to erase the myths that have grown up about Who We Are. So stay tuned.


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