In Defense of a City
As I do every day, I perused the headlines at MSNBC.com - I like to get an idea of what's going on in the world and the app on my iPhone gives a nice list of the day's headlines. Of course most times it's all bad news as something awful happens somewhere on this planet all the time. Today one item grabbed my attention.
In the list for the major headlines was the name of a city in California I'm quite familiar with: Stockton. It's a city of over a quarter million folks in the Central Valley. It sits between the two main highway arteries of the state: Highway 99 and Interstate 5. The headline ran: "Stockton, Calif., takes 'first steps towards bankruptcy'" - bad news to be sure.
The article explained that this city is experiencing horrendous financial hard times and thinks bankruptcy may be its only solution. What really made me sad however, was that the article writer spent a great deal of words describing how horrible a community Stockton is. At least if you are not familiar with it you would come away with that impression. The very beginning paragraph says:
The city of Stockton in California's crop-abundant Central Valley has the second-highest foreclosure rate in the nation and one of the highest crime and unemployment rates. It was named America's most miserable city in a national magazine — twice.
Cities are like most people though, don't you think? We're not all one dimensional. I know someone who would have been very upset to read this article. My mom.
My mom grew up in Stockton. She passed away in 2006 in a Stockton hospital. Back when she was a kid in the 1930s, the area was both a busy port city and an agricultural hub. Remember the 1960's tv show "Big Valley" that starred Barbara Stanwyck? It was set in the San Joaquin Valley [Central Valley] with Stockton named as the town nearest that fictional ranch. Mom was always proud that "her" town was featured in a tv show.
I can remember when Stockton got its first indoor mall. That dates me, I know. Mom took my sister and me and we shopped at Sears. Some of my mother's relatives lived in Stockton and we visited many times.
Yes, I can admit that the community has had a rough go of it economically. It is indeed riddled with poverty and crime. When I was a young adult it had the shame of being called the "armpit" of California. But never around my mother. She remained proud of her town.
Yes it is sad that Stockton, California now has the dismal distinction of being a city on the brink of bankruptcy. It is sad that it has crippling foreclosure rates, unemployment rates and crime. But it's important to remember that it is also "home" to people. The sun does shine on its streets, too.
So I'm going to be a lone voice in defense of a city...to honor my mom.
Linda C Smith, Artist and Writer