Stranger in a strange land

I moved to Los Angeles last spring, just at the end of my first trimester with my third child.  I was relieved to find an obstetrician I liked, but I was a little taken aback when I discovered where I was expected to deliver this child.

I was going to give birth in a hospital named after Ronald Reagan.

I was aghast.  Ronald Reagan, of all people.

“You know, a lot of people here revere him,” an acquaintance gently informed me.  Seriously?  All I could think of whenever Reagan’s name came up was the hoards of mentally ill people he condemned to a life on the streets when he kicked them out of hospitals.  But, apparently, growing up in California gives one a different perspective, one I couldn’t ever hope to understand.

I was acutely aware of being a stranger in a strange land.

The last year and a half has only underscored that fact.  I feel awkward much of the time, a woman out of her culture.  The billboards, the earthquakes, the designer sunglasses, and the pedicures all leave me slightly shaken at the end of a long day.  It is all so strange, even now.  Not better, not worse, but very, very different than Massachusetts, where I grew up, or Philadelphia, my last hometown.

Never have I felt more out of place in Los Angeles than this past week.  I emerged from my house Wednesday morning, expecting to see people gathered on street corners, huddled together in mourning for Senator Kennedy.  Yet, despite the news coverage, no one seemed particularly bothered.

I brought my son to camp, and people seemed to be going about their daily business.  No one was weeping, children weren’t waving little American flags, women weren’t tearing their clothes.

I mourn Senator Kennedy.  Yes, he made a mistake in his youth, a tragic mistake.  But he devoted his life to serving the people of Massachusetts and the people of the United States.  Yes, he was a rich, privileged man, but so was George W., and Senator Kennedy cared a hell of a lot more about the common man than did our esteemed former President.  Yes, he let a woman die due to drunkenness or negligence or a concussion.  But he spent his life expiating that sin, unlike –say, George W. – who killed a lot more people with his pointless war.  And Senator Kennedy tried to make the world a better place.

Bottom line.  Ted Kennedy tried to make the world a better place.  If that’s all they can say about me on my gravestone, it’ll be more than enough.

To those who are mystified why we are so sad, so bereft at the loss of this man, it must seem as mystifying as the adulation of Ronald Reagan is to me.  But I know there are some of you out there reading who understand.

16 responses to “Stranger in a strange land

  1. Other than the official flags at half-staff, there’s not a lot of overt mourning here in CT, either. Just too much of Chris Dodd, authorized “friend,” trying to boost his own image.

  2. She Started It

    I get you. I’m sad, too.

  3. i do understand. it was not for no reason that he was called the lion of the senate.

    he was a great, great senator.

  4. Nothing in NJ either. My parents and I were bereft and looking around at confused faces- I would have given anything to be at Faneuil (sp?) hall.

  5. I understand. Shakesville had a great piece up about Kennedy the other day, that spoke both about the bad things and the good things. But it basically boiled down to what you just said: on the one hand he used his privilege in ways he shouldn’t have, and on the other, he worked tirelessly on behalf of those without his privilege. He did a lot of great things, and we should not forget that in light of the not-so-great (and vice versa).

    As for Reagan . . . there are a lot of us who feel the way that you do. LA is (as far as I tell, having lived here, or near here, my whole life) is not a place of moderates. There are a lot of crazy conservatives and a lot of crazy liberals. I fall into the latter category. I’m guessing you’ve met a fair number of folks who fall into the former. But there are those of us (born and raised here, even!) who feel like you do. 🙂

  6. I, too, am saddened by the news of Senator Kennedy’s passing. He was a great man and a national treasure and I cannot think of anyone offhand that can fill his shoes.

    As for the observations of us Angelenos (and I am a native, as is my husband), don’t you know that we do not give in to public displays of grief unless there is a camera rolling or a reality show is being taped? Also, we are not a clothes-ripping culture over here– that Juicy Couture and it’s ilk is expensive and some of these women’s wardrobes cost more than their rent or mortgages!! A little sarcasm there, but a grain of truth nonetheless.

  7. oh yes. at one point we lived somewhere we would have sent our daughter to a school named after Ronald Reagan. Good think I’ve already moved. 😉

  8. “But he spent his life expiating that sin, unlike –say, George W. – who killed a lot more people with his pointless war.” I said these very same words (OK, not expiating) to a friend this morning. I wish he could have lived long enough to see health reform.

  9. Well, I am so impressed with some of the human stories and social legislation he passed. We all make mistakes, that is for sure. But, three days of coverage on NPR? Are there no other stories? Like the murder of Michael Jackson, perhaps? (just kidding by the way, I am so glad not to hear any more MJ news).

  10. I understand. I missed the news in the morning and found out that evening while talking to my sister — “isn’t just so sad?” she said, with great sincerity. I agreed. A loss to our nation.

    As for Ronald Regan, I totally agree. The hospital named after him, however, is quite stellar. And indeed the Angeleno is quite different.

    PS – I loved your description of hiking in LA 😉

  11. Emily, I have lived in the SF Bay Area for 22 years now, after all my life on the East Coast, and I STILL feel like a Stranger in a Strange Land. I still think of NY as home–and all the East; in summer I miss the Cape. My motto is “Stuck in California with the New York blues again.” My advice: go meet the New Yorkers; there are a zillion of them in LA, including my daughter.

  12. Even death is political.

  13. I may be Canadian, but I get what you’re saying here.

  14. I found visiting people in the suburbs more of a culture shock than China. I understand.

  15. Count me among those who understand…

  16. Robert Rummel Hudson (blogger) wrote a fantastic piece about this, listing the many many bills and such that T. Kennedy either wrote or was a part of. It’s stunning and sobering. Another fabulous blogger Planet of the Blind has written quite eloquently about it as well. Thank you for your own wise words, as well.

    The death of Kennedy and what appears to be an ignorance of it here in CA and this week’s fires have underscored the strangeness of this beautiful state we live in, right?