“Los Angeles gives one the feeling of the future more strongly than any city I know of. A bad future, too, like something out of Fritz Lang’s feeble imagination.” —Henry Miller
“I wrote Fahrenheit 451 not to predict the future, but to prevent it.” —Ray Bradbury
California Gold: 150 Years Later
In 1998, I decided to move to the West, in search of California gold—a win at the time, since I gained a large pay raise and easy participation in healthy outdoor activities in so doing. I remained in Los Angeles and its environs until 2016, before moving back to Texas for good. The first half of my time in L.A. could be symbolized by nine fat cows, although the proper token for the last half of my time there would have to be nine skinny cows devouring the first nine.
Living in Los Angeles
One of the more interesting personal experiences that came about, as a result of my move to Los Angeles, was making the acquaintance of one of my free-speech heroes, Ray Bradbury, who turned out to be quite an accessible person—and one who had a soft spot for teachers. Mr. Bradbury proved eager to meet with and talk to students, as well as to correspond with an educator who shared his deep and abiding concerns regarding the freedom of expression.
Interacting with Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury took an interest in helping special-needs students improve their story writing. After receiving their short stories in the mail, Mr. Bradbury not only wrote the students back with encouraging comments, but he even met personally with them, subsequent to his regular book-signing routine, after having reserved them front-row seats for his library appearance in West Covina. Mr. Bradbury listened to the students and praised them for their goodness and their thoughtfulness, while signing their books.
Bradbury, the author of Fahrenheit 451 , had this to say to the students: “Always write for yourself, first and foremost, because if you don’t like it, how is anyone else going to like it? And always fight for the right to express yourself, for that is who you are; and if you can’t be yourself, who else is going to express those ideas that are uniquely yours to express? Who else is going to be you? And who do you get to be, if not yourself?”
Upon learning the students had heard Fahrenheit 451 read aloud, Mr. Bradbury told the students that, when he wrote it in 1953, he was not attempting to predict the future, but to prevent it. I asked Mr. Bradbury if he thought there might ever be book-burnings in America. “There is no need to burn any books,” he replied, “If you want to prevent people from learning what’s in the books, you just have to get people to stop reading them.” I told Mr. Bradbury that, on several occasions, I had asked fellow teachers, in L.A., if they had seen a particular report on Fox News, only to have them reply that they would “never watch Fox News!” Mr. Bradbury responded by saying, “Well, there you have it, then. That’s what I’m talking about. Self-censorship.”
Fahrenheit 451 & Self-Censorship in Today’s Dystopian California
What sets Fahrenheit 451 apart from other dystopian literature is that it is primarily about self-censorship. The future Bradbury imagined, back in 1953, was one in which technology-addicted people are lulled into complacency by the technology-driven entertainments with which they constantly interact. The result is people cocooned in safe spaces, unable to face, with any degree of tolerance, the harsh truths of reality without being triggered into full-blown meltdowns.
When Montag (whose job has been to burn books for a living) discovers, and tries to share, book-learned truths which threaten people’s feelings of safety—due to a lack of political correctness—he ends up provoking his wife into turning him in. As a result, Montag’s books—indeed his entire house and all his belongings—are burned. And Montag becomes a hunted thought criminal.
It is Professor Faber, Montag’s bookish mentor, who enlightens: “So now do you see why books are hated and feared? They show the pores in the face of life. The comfortable people want only wax moon faces, poreless, hairless, expressionless.” This disheartening willingness of Bradbury’s politically-correct characters towards self-censorship for the sake of comfort puts a chilling effect into play. Entire areas of discussion are rendered off-limits. And if a safe space is violated, the free-thinker who committed the violation becomes targeted for annihilation—which is not unlike California today, where speculative art meets real life, as the Berkeley-indoctrinated enemies of free speech violently attack free-thinkers, such as Milo Yiannopoulos and his supporters.
From Winning to Losing
Bradbury had seen the trend lines up close, so he tried to protect the California culture he loved—the L.A. of creative freedom that nurtured his writing career throughout his life. Bradbury made it his duty to warn his readers, to attempt to prevent people from being made into mindless creatures so ready to accept anything they hear or read, uncritically, as being factual.
Were Bradbury, who died in 2012, alive today, he would be heartbroken by the extent to which free speech is being prohibited. Victimization of the individual by agents of government oppression has been an ongoing theme throughout Bradbury’s work, from his short stories “The Pedestrian” and “Usher II” to Fahrenheit 451 and beyond. Freedom of expression is now verboten on most of California’s university campuses, and violence threatens all who oppose the ban, now that Californians find themselves increasingly in favor of speech codes and safe spaces.
A Bright Spot, Amid California’s Growing Darkness: Writing to Enlighten
I had always desired to write, and, of course, Ray Bradbury egged me on—just as he had the students. “Write,” he had said. “Just be sure that you are being true to yourself. Listen to, and obey, your Muse.” So, I started blogging, and, eventually, on August 5, 2014, I saw my first article published by Eagle Rising. I was encouraged to submit my article about a pro-Israel rally in L.A., since the Democrat-aligned media had ignored the event. My editor, Onan Coca, chose to name the article “Evil Anti-Semites Attack in Los Angeles!”
One day, Onan contacted me with a sense of urgency, advising me to turn on Fox News. I did so and was astonished to find that Larry Kudlow was discussing a piece I had posted on July 28, 2015, entitled “Is President Kennedy Now a Conservative Republican?”. The article became immensely popular and was reposted on countless web sites, its main idea often being referred to as “Dowling’s Dilemma.” (My editor, Onan Coca, saw fit to repost the article on April 11, 2016, after over 40,000 shares of the original posting onto social media.)
Taxes & the War on Business in California
I remember having conversations with colleagues in the L.A. schools, in which I suggested that, for teachers to receive a sustainable pay raise, the state should cut taxes to stimulate economic growth, in order to spur an increase in tax collections. Most California educators with whom I spoke, however, were clueless when it came to economics and the need for tax cuts. In California, a bigger and more expensive tax-and-spend government is always the solution, and no problem-solving-with-the-most-freedom-possible is ever proposed anymore—economically or otherwise.
After nine years of working for the L.A. schools without a pay increase, the teachers’ union finally negotiated one, to be phased in during the 2015-2016 school year—the same year I would ultimately decide to return to Texas. While there were multiple reasons for leaving California, some personal and others professional, it did not help that taxes continued to rise far beyond the help being offered by an 8% pay increase.
On April Fools Day of 2015, gasoline prices went up by a dollar per gallon—overnight! Of course, the Democrat-aligned media blamed the oil companies, knowing most Californians would gladly believe whatever socialist propaganda was fed them. The Myth of the Evil, Capitalist Oil Company is popular among the people of California, who refuse to see corporations and the people who work for them as complex, caring, and human.
The real reason for the spike in gas prices was SB 1156, a California tax law to spur into action the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. The wording of the tax bill reads like this: “Effective January 1, 2015, a carbon tax of ____ dollars ($____) per ton of carbon-dioxide-equivalent emissions shall be levied in this state. The tax shall be imposed on suppliers of fossil fuels.” Alarmingly, the law does not set an exact dollar amount, leaving it for money-hungry bureaucrats at the State Air Resources Board, ultimately, to determine. It took only a few months, before the impact on pricing showed up at the pump. But anyone who pointed out the facts of what had actually transpired was shouted down. Even my fellow teachers would engage in judgmental and prejudicial commentary, whenever the facts were brought up, saying things like “That’s not true” or “What are you, some right-wing nut job?”
Bigoted and unenlightened teachers would just refuse to hear or read the truth, even if the source was a California government web site. Many educated teachers do exist in California, but, since it is often dangerous to speak up for the truth, most enlightened individuals choose to keep quiet. The threat is that one’s car might be keyed, one’s reputation might be impugned, or one’s person might be violated. I was starting to feel the way Guy Montag must have felt—at odds with coworkers, whose pleasure it was to censor others. Unlike Montag, I had never actually been a “book burner” myself; yet, in L.A. schools, I was beginning to feel that I was surrounded by them.
The Final Tipping Point: California’s Overweening Empowerment of Criminals
Learning of California’s un-Constitutional plan to expand gun confiscations demonstrated the need for a timely escape from L.A., due to safety concerns with regard to protecting innocent life at home. It became apparent, due to the reporting of AWR Hawkins at Breitbart News , just before the start of 2016, that the right to self-defense would become increasingly imperiled in California. This would be bad, even for non-gun-owners who normally experienced a Free Rider Effect by living in neighborhoods where gun ownership was common. Those neighborhoods, customarily shunned by lawbreakers in order to avoid the risk of being shot, were about to suffer increases in home invasions, as gun owners began to flee California. Life was about to become more precarious, for gun owner and non-gun owner alike.
L.A. Police Chief Beck enthusiastically embraced the new California Gun Confiscation Guidelines, and, by March, the City of Angels was reporting that the murder rate had already risen 27.5% in 2016, compared to the same time period one year earlier. Although other personal reasons had come into play for moving, the debasement of the Second Amendment, followed by the predictable rise in crime, left no question that it was time to make a graceful exit from the state, ultimately and irrevocably tipping the balance in favor of that outcome.
Just being a Constitutional Conservative, who believes in freedom and individual rights, makes it a dangerous proposition to teach in a state that continues to slide towards totalitarianism. The more out of step a teacher becomes with his peers, the harder it becomes for him to hide his beliefs and biases. California, collectively speaking, is no longer a freedom-loving state. The mob rules, and the political dissenter must hush or risk violence, at work or at home.
The Tea Party
By the end of 2012, the aforementioned tipping point was well within sight, since the State of California had taken in 35.4% of all the nation’s welfare recipients, according to CNS News. With the immense amount of debt the state has taken on, the overtaxation of businesses (which is driving many of them out of the state altogether, taking with them the tax base for teacher pay), presents a huge economic risk. The State of California is less like a House of Cards and more like a game of Jenga. A skilled player of Jenga can prolong the inevitable collapse of a structure by slowly and skillfully removing pieces and adding those pieces to the top of the selfsame structure, to build it higher. (To see how Jenga is played, click here)
Seeing how California’s economy resembled a game of Jenga, and believing the state’s solution of overtaxation to be immoral in the burdens it unfairly imposes, one of the actions I took while living in L.A. was to join the local Tea Party, an educational group devoted to these core principles: 1) Constitutionally-Limited Government, 2) Free Markets, and 3) Fiscal Responsibility. Eventually, I would speak for the Colorado River Tea Party Patriots in Bullhead City, Arizona, as well as for my local group in the San Fernando Valley. The leader of the San Fernando Valley Patriots, Karen Kenney—now nationally known for her testimony before Congress concerning the IRS’s targeting of Tea Party groups was gracious enough to schedule me to speak on several occasions, on the topic of the founding principles upon which the Constitution was based. Dr. Kenney’s leadership is important in keeping the ideals of the American founding alive in Southern California.
The Rise of Islamo-Fascism & Anti-Semitism
Also worth mentioning is the fact that anti-Semitism is on the increase in California, driven by the huge influx of doctrinaire Muslims into the population there. According to their Koran and Hadith, Muslims are commanded to harm and to murder Jews and Christians. Muslims differ in their level of observance, of course, and thus are not all dangerous, but the fact remains that a net increase in the Muslim population has the effect of also increasing the number of Jihadists. Texas, on the other hand, provides a more secure setting in which to live Jewishly. The Sharia Muslims and anti-religionists in California demonstrate a level of bigotry seldom seen in Texas, where people exercise more tolerance.
The Golden Rule, which is the basis of Judeo-Christian civilization, is rarely invoked in California nowadays. Rather than seeking to create a level playing field, California chooses to nurture a politics of division that pits people against one another. In California, a political world has been created where the truth no longer matters, and an increasing element of danger is on the rise for those who utilize their free speech rights. California’s Secretary of State was Kamala Harris at the time I moved back to Texas. Harris was actually threatening to jail “climate deniers”—accusing them of “fraud” in a clear abrogation of free speech rights. Can you imagine living in a place where you might be arrested for stating your opinion on the weather? Those running the government in California do not believe in freedom anymore, and, sadly, more disempowerment of the individual still awaits those living in the state.
Muslim student groups are persecuting Jews on campuses from UC San Diego to UC Davis, disrupting Jewish activities Brown-Shirt-style, and, in some cases, physically hurting them. And other anti-Semitic activities are occurring. For example, Kate Steinle’s picture has been taken down and trashed repeatedly across campuses, even at UC Berkeley. Or should we be surprised by Berkeley’s current Brown-Shirt culture, in light of the recent riots against free speech there.
Voting with My Feet
In the end, I voted with my feet for more academic freedom, a more ethical worldview, and an appreciation of truth, rather than the indoctrination and mendacity which was—and is—so prevalent among California educators. Gone is the culture of bullying and the potential for violence I was so often faced with in California, only because I did not agree with a majority that no longer supports individual rights. And, although there were many good people and positive experiences I was blessed with, while living in L.A., I shall never forget the bitter lessons I learned there, nor the fool’s gold I discovered.
The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by EagleRising.com