This is my 301st Village Matters column. I started these in 2004 at the request of former Indy editor Stu Saffer when Arnold Hano decided to stop writing “The Village Character” column. At first I was reluctant. Hano is a professional and famous writer, I am just a dilettante landscape architect. But Hano put me at ease. “People ask me how I write the way I do. Well, I don’t try to write in any particular way, I just write the way I write. You will just write the way you write. It won’t be like me; it will be like you and that will be just fine.”
I will always be grateful for this opportunity because it forced me, every two weeks, to document what I was thinking about. Now I have 13 years of a formal diary, tailored for the public and edited, but still personal. As a child I aspired to write children’s books, but I was worried that when I became adult enough to write such books I would have forgotten what it was like to be a kid. So I faithfully kept my diary until sometime in the middle of high school, when interest waned in the children’s book project. After that, my years are marked in my mind with the big milestones, graduations, moves, first jobs, relationships starting and ending, buying a house, starting my office, certain landmark projects…years flow into years and it’s hard to know exactly when something happened in relation to something else. So the structure provided by those column deadlines has helped to validate and provide extra meaning to those years.
Some of the columns make me remember how long some of our most recent crises have been brewing. In column # 79, in 2007, sparked by seeing our local dayworkers center become the object of Minuteman demonstrations, I wrote:
“The level of tension and controversy is raised all around us on the immigration issue. Our society seems to be becoming more and more exclusionary and inflexible about our borders and unwilling to accept people from south of the border who come here to work. The hostility level has been raised against people who are generally hardworking, helpful–and powerless. At some point, out of desperation, will they react with hostility and resentment? Perhaps one of the reasons there hasn’t been a Mexican revolution since the early 1900s is that the most ambitious and discontented members of that society have had an outlet. They have been able to come to the United States, fulfill some of their dreams and help to raise their relatives back home a little further out of poverty.
“Instead of developing a reasonable guest worker program and realistic immigration policy, we are building our own Berlin Wall trying to keep these workers contained in Mexico. In the process we are alienating a nation of people who should be our strongest allies. Our natural environment along the border and the wildlife will suffer. We will spend millions on construction. And terrorists and drug dealers will still find a way to enter our country. In addition to the oil crisis we will have a food crisis, because our ability to produce our own food depends on reliable labor.”
Now our immigration policy has created world-wide impacts and there is more conflict, misery, and threat to our country and the world’s well-being than we could have imagined just two weeks ago, due to the executive orders coming from our new president’s hand.
We are not powerless in this continually building crisis as the Women’s March demonstrated. The Laguna Beach companion event at Main Beach showed our solidarity for human rights. I was happy I could be there, knowing that our community has stood for a humane approach to resolving conflicting issues. The city defended the Minuteman-inspired lawsuit against the dayworker’s center, and won. Community volunteers cook for the homeless every day, run the food pantry, and help at the clinic. There is an exemplary list of Laguna individuals and groups dedicated to making our world better. But it’s not enough in the face the far-reaching overlay of dictums overwhelming our efforts.
The march is not over. Last weekend there was mass writing to Congress as follow-up and more steps will be taken to keep our leaders focused on building a caring world instead of generating conflicts and endangering world peace. We are realizing that nothing could be more important now.
Time to be meaningful. Time to keep a worse crisis from unfolding. Time to hold hands strongly.
Landscape architect Ann Christoph is a former council member.