I’m just a voice in the crowd. I can’t say I never thought I was more than that but then I’ve never been happier or freer than I am at this moment.
At this point in my life I can do what I want when I want and say what I want the way I want. And if it doesn’t work out, I know there’s a place somewhere else out there for me and my wife to be perfectly happy.
So this is my last stand, L.A.’s last stand. It’s now or never because L.A. is in grave danger of chasing away the last vestiges of its middle class and becoming a city of rich sheltered in privately-guarded enclaves and poor living in squalor.
There are thousands of others out there — people I’ve met over the years and especially those that I’m meeting now — who have taken just about as much as they’re going to take from a government that kowtows to the rich and powerful and seduces special classes with money and flattery.
Many more have left over the years. They called it white flight back in the 1980s but it’s become a rainbow flight in the last decade. You got to be rich or poor or just plain crazy enough to have stayed and fought for all these years. I know for a fact that there’s a lot more crazies like that all across L.A. than the people in power realize.
Imagine what would happen if all those who cared about the dream of a greater L.A. came down and stood in front of City Hall.
Imagine what would happen if every one of them brought a bag of garbage and put it on the steps of that gold-plated palace to a failed government, a City Hall that constantly raises fees and taxes even as it fails to solve the city’s problems.
I’ve only lived here 30 years but I can tell you they haven’t done anything to make the schools better or the traffic less congested or the neighborhoods healthy and free of gangs. The only thing that’s changed is the Police Department and that only came about because of the massive public outcry and the vigilance of the press.
If L.A. is ever going to change, it’s got to be now. That’s where I stand whether it matters to anyone else or not. I stood for what I believed at the time as well as I could from the day I came here. My beliefs have changed a lot over the years. But my core belief is the same as it was long ago: I believe L.A. has the chance to become the freest and most democratic city on Earth, the place the whole world talks about as an inspiration, as the realization of mankind’s hopes.
It’s going to take a revolution, a quiet revolution of the silenced majority, to achieve that.
Power is there for the taking. Even those who have the seats of power know just how powerless they are. They grab what they can and live above the fray of ordinary people when the truth is they are the most defeated of all. If the people rise up as one, they will follow as surely as those who have remained indifferent, pretending nothing was wrong.
To some I’m preaching the gospel. To others it is heresy. I’ve been free of a job for less than two months but I’ve been out in the community on both sides of the hill and connected with more people than I have in years.
I’m amazed at the knowledge and sophistication I’ve seen among hundreds of people who have worked long and hard for decades to make L.A. a better place.
They come from every race and religion, men and women. They’re Republicans and Democrats and independents. Rich and poor. They’re what L.A. is to me. I put up the song “The House I Live In” when I started this blog because it really is about what America means to me, what L.A. most of all means to me, a place where people are free and equal and because they are free and equal they act like human beings.
Sure bad things will always happen. Death and taxes are the only certainties. But that doesn’t mean we all can’t get along a lot better than we do right now. People who are free and equal can talk things out and work things out and make sure everybody’s a winner enough of the time.
Tomorrow is Memorial Day, the day we as a nation honor the men and women who died in military service of this country. For most of us, it’s just the long weekend that welcomes in the summer. Perhaps we should all take a few minutes to think about what it means to actually die for your country. And to contemplate the corollary for a moment, what could be achieved if we actually lived our beliefs and put them into action.