A TRANSFORMATIVE
SOCIETY
Chapter 40

“The Golden State” was surely an apt motto for early Californians to adopt. The land’s beauty and climate drew widespread praise long before modern chambers of commerce began their incessant boosterism. The enthusiastic accounts of explorers, hide-and-tallow traders, visiting sailors, and gold hunters all suggested a new utopia. In some ways, today’s diverse society is the mirror image of that early influx of visitors to a far-off province. Millions of newcomers continue to come under California’s persuasive spell. Even its serious overcrowding, high rates of crime, unsightly smog, and dangerous earthquakes, floods, landslides, and fires have not extinguished the state’s appeal.

Radical change has been an unstoppable part of California’s march toward the present. Yet the challenges of modernity are incessant. San Franciscans have managed to preserve their city’s cable cars and palatial hotels; but its image as a carefree and gracious metropolis has been stained by a rising crime rate, prohibitively high housing costs, and environmental decay. That city’s political power has been challenged by the steady growth of Los Angeles to the south. L.A. too is no longer a nirvana of waving palm trees and well-tended citrus groves. Unfortunately, this new global crossroads has become a sprawling, untamed metropolis. In Oakland, San Diego, and San Jose as well, crime, neglected neighborhoods, corruption, and police brutality have changed California’s image.

By the 1970s, a series of lurid events began to plague the state. These included the mass murders committed in 1969 by cult leader Charles Manson and his deranged female groupies. Five years later, there occurred the sensational kidnapping of Patricia Hearst, heiress of the Hearst newspaper dynasty. During the episode, Hearst had strangely sided with her captors, allegedly even

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