Essay by Dave Gowdey
Growth – October 1998 – Colorado Central Magazine
Urban immigration is another name for cutural genocide
THIS YEAR, for the first time since Arizona was settled, hunting will not be allowed in the Walnut Canyon area around Flagstaff. The wealthy new inhabitants of the area, from Southern California mostly, don’t favor hunting.
At the same time, Flagstaff has now seen its second production of Richard Wagner’s Ring series of operas by the Arizona Opera Company. The main street of town was temporarily renamed Valkyrie Street in honor of this event.
To borrow a line from Bob Dylan, “the times they are a changin’.”
One hundred and fifty years ago my relatives invaded the West, dispossessed the local inhabitants, and ran roughshod over their culture. Proud peoples with centuries of tradition were burned off of their land, herded into rural ghettos, and reduced to beggary. In a less violent, but no less sure, manner the same thing is happening again. Perhaps there is Karma.
In fact, it’s happening in other parts of the world as well. In Scotland, the locals call them “White Settlers” — affluent urbanites from London who are buying up many of the beautiful areas of rural Scotland, putting up summer cottages, and fencing them off from the locals. As market forces push rural property prices up, the local inhabitants are having trouble paying their ever-increasing property taxes. Being Scots, they have reacted in a rather direct manner to this modern English invasion. The year I finished my graduate studies in Aberdeen, 26 summer homes were burned to the ground.
Here in the West, the process is called Aspenization after the economic slaughter of the innocents that happened in Aspen in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Wealthy outsiders, mostly from Southern California, fell in love with the small mining-turned-ski town and began buying up all the property.
They pushed property prices so high, that lawyers and doctors making almost $100,000 a year are now receiving government assistance so that they can afford housing in Aspen. Locals, working for tourist economy wages, have no hope of being able to afford housing in Aspen any longer. They commute from rural ghettoes to clean the toilets and mow the lawns of the rich and famous. A few Realtors got fabulously wealthy, but as usual the majority of the towns folk got screwed.
As Southern Californians continue to flee the urban monstrosity they have created, and refugees stream from Chicago and Detroit, this cultural destruction of the West proceeds at an ever increasing pace. Jackson Hole, Bozeman, Taos, Flagstaff, Boulder, Ketchum, Prescott, Telluride, Moab, Santa Fé — the list of towns that have been Aspenized or are facing Aspenization continues to grow. Urbanites who read this list may chuckle to themselves. One person’s Aspenization is another’s civilization. But the fact is that what is going on is another campaign of cultural genocide against the rural West. The rape of the West, part II.
AlTHOUGH WE ARE BOTH Americans, I have as much in common with a resident of L.A., or Orange County, or Chicago, as I do with a Frenchman. The ethics and values of these urban refugees baffle me. I can not understand why they build golf courses in the middle of beautiful mountain meadows so they can build expensive houses on the fairways. I can not understand why they increasingly demand that public schools teach their children morality, while they oppose increased funding for education. I can not understand their instinctive belief that the poor should be punished for lacking the moral fiber to rise above poverty.
I am puzzled why they remain unconcerned when their policemen shoot and harass poor blacks and Hispanics, but are outraged that we shoot coyotes.
And I am dumbfounded that they bring their hoodlum children to our school system hoping that our rural values will change them, yet they threaten to sue the teacher that disciplines little Jimmy.
Finally, I can not fathom why they move to an idyllic small town and then demand that more concrete and asphalt be poured over the countryside to provide the amenities they enjoyed in L.A.
Yet unless the citizens of the rural West decide to prohibit the construction of housing targeted at affluent immigrants, this wave of urban refugees will continue to spill over the West like sewage from a backed up toilet. These people will continue to abolish hunting, and rodeos, and God knows what else, and replace them with fat ladies singing the Luftwaffe Serenade by that antisemite Wagner.
I sometimes wonder if some Sioux, Cheyenne, Navajo, and Apache braves weren’t saying these same things around a campfire a century ago. I bet they were. Crazy Horse must be laughing himself silly.
Dave Gowdey is a native of northern Arizona. He is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News based in Paonia, Colorado.