Contraction and Expansion

June 22, 2021, Lake Havasu City- In the Spring of 2000, a group of senior citizens, residents of a small enclave on the south side of Salome, AZ, converged on a meeting of the La Paz County Board of Supervisors. They wanted to see an ordinance enacted, which would curb the behaviour of the town’s younger residents. Among these seniors was a former resident of San Francisco, whose complaint was with young people who were raising livestock, within town limits. He began, and ended, with “Back in San Francisco, this would never be allowed!” The chair of the Board of Supervisors, in rural La Paz County, cut the man off, merely thanking him for his perspective. The seniors with more universal concerns, about partying and noise, got a fuller hearing.

I am in this city of retirees and service providers to visit for a bit with some friends who have felt isolated for quite some time-and not just because of COVID19. Lake Havasu is at least an hour, in any direction, from any city of comparable, or larger, size: Bullhead City lies an hour to the north; Kingman, the same, to the northeast; Various California retirement havens are an hour away, to the west, and Parker, the seat of La Paz County, is about an hour to the south.

Into the isolation of the Colorado River Valley, in western Arizona, are coming sizable numbers of those leaving California. As is the case elsewhere, people with cash in hand are buying up houses, and vacant lots, “by the boatload”, as it were. Snap-up culture, a peculiarly American phenomenon, sparked initially by fear and loathing of one’s lot-and sustained, later on, by arrogance and greed, is generating a sizable migration out of the Golden State (as well as New York and Chicago)-sometimes pulling the rug out from under people of more modest means, who have come within an inch of securing a home. When this happens here in the U.S., it fosters some grumbling and temporary ill will towards the migrants. When it happens in other countries, the migrants, or second-home purchasers may face reactions from locals that are far less genteel.

I see this from two sides: Mankind has always been on the move. Large populations initially moved north, east and probably west from Africa, very early on. Millennia later, there began several large migrations, in all directions, from the Altai, the Gobi and the steppes of what is now, Kazakhstan, sending Avars, Huns, Mongols, Turks to Europe and southwest Asia; many of who are now known as Indigenous Americans headed, out of the same region, to North America, and thence to its southern neighbour. Northwestward, to the European Arctic region, went those now known as the Sami-formerly the Lapps. What US President James Knox Polk called “Manifest Destiny” has been in our genetic memory for a good long time.

On the other hand, with few exceptions since the original peopling of this planet, there have always been “locals” there to either greet the newcomers, or to resist them. Which is which depends largely on the need, or lack thereof, for new blood to revitalize a community AND on the attitudes of the newcomers. People who charge into a new setting, buy up the property, propagate the worst of what they claim to have left behind, and push the locals around, should not be surprised at the glares and sidelong glances they get from their new neighbours, as these mutter among themselves. Those who, on the other hand, settle gently into their adopted community, with a humble posture of learning, will over time be adopted as bona fide residents. There are plenty of both sorts, among the current groups of migrants, as there have been in such groups, throughout history.

I wish the better angels of their natures to be in the vanguard.

2 thoughts on “Contraction and Expansion

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