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Can We All Get Along?
I have been here in this valley for more than 50 years, and I’ve always been puzzled by the people who live here, but recently I’ve been just plain bewildered.
Rodney King reminded me about it earlier this year when he asked, “Can’t we all get along?” because it’s apparent that in this place that’s impossible. Why should it be impossible, you ask? Well, I’ve come, somewhat reluctantly, to the conclusion that it’s simply because some of us don’t want to.
First of all, many of the people who live here do so largely because they’ve not been able to get along anywhere else. You would be hard pressed to find a bigger collection of misfits and malcontents. That’s probably why they hole up on the biggest piece of land they can find and then whine and complain about the government, which they resent, their neighbors, many of whom they despise, the tourists and summer people who make many livelihoods possible but who are nevertheless regarded as a lower form of life and, when all else fails the weather, which is either too hot, too cold, too wet or too dry. They also don’t want anyone else to move here, now that they have their own piece of turf. Mostly, though, they don’t like the other people who already live here, and they take every opportunity to make sure it stays that way.
We seem to delight in all this discontent. Satisfaction bores us. Why get along with someone when you can get years of pleasure from holding a grudge? I hear people say the most savage things about people who slighted them in some small way ten or even fifteen or twenty years ago.
Our recent travails with the fire department are a perfect illustration. This can, and no doubt will be, the source of animosities that will outlive the principals and will pit family against family for many years, in the finest tradition of American mountain ignorance, irrational and puerile behavior. It’s just another excellent opportunity for us to demonstrate that we’d rather fight than get along and that we belong here, isolated from ordinary society, where we can do only limited damage to ourselves and each other. As if we needed another illustration.
It took years to build a fire station and people are still complaining about how it was built. And, although it was paid for with your taxes, the people who control it appear to be determined to turn it into their private domain and the “Community Room” now serves a community of about five people. They like it that way. It demonstrates their power and irritates people. That seems to be a much sought-after goal around here. It took more than a year just to put up a bulletin board outside the Post Office, just because people bickered about it, and as for the sewer system, well, it wouldn’t be wise to hold your breath while waiting for a decision on the hows and whats of that project.
Certainly there are a few of us who say, hardly aloud, that we should let bygones be bygones and that we should try to get along. This is said most often by retired people who have spent much of their lives in conciliation and compromise, but they are a distinct minority. Most of us seem to truly enjoy an atmosphere of antagonism, dissension and conflict. We seek it out. We enjoy creating it. We revel in the power, obviously denied us elsewhere, and derive pleasure from hurting others, getting even, and seeking revenge.
A good place to live is more than rocks and trees and a blue sky. It’s good people who make it a good place to live and at the moment this isn’t a good place to live because some of the people who live here have poisoned it with their own venom. If Rodney King is looking for a place where people can get along, he’s better off in Los Angeles.
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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