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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Valencia-landia

I’ve been quite aware for a number of years that there is sometimes a huge difference between my definition of liberal and that of other self-professed liberals. I saw a few minutes of the new TV series Portlandia which is a tiresomely endless mocking of the politically correct, free Tibet version of liberals. In my experience in Seattle, Portland’s bigger sibling to the north, real liberal politics rarely entered into the discussion with most of the tattooed hippies who obsess about things like whether or not a chicken was free range.  Most of the yoga-instructor vegans I met in Seattle didn’t know the first thing about economic policy and had no interest in learning. Portalndia sends up this crowd and I’m sure American conservatives love every second of it.

The thing is, the cities that are chock full of these kinds of people, cities like Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Madison, Boulder, et cetera are the best places to live in America.  I would take a room full of hippies over one moronic teabagger any day of the week. The truth is this: any place worth living in the United States is heavily populated by liberals. Seattle decided long ago to side-step the national conservative agenda and go its own way building good public transportation and providing excellent public housing.  Give me a city that aggressively fights suburban sprawl to any place that lets builders do whatever the hell they want.

For the most part, European liberalism begins where American liberalism hits it zenith. Valencia is more progressive than Portland but without the hippies leading the fight. Here it is just expected of people to demand things like health care, public transportation, bike paths, gay rights, and clean air. There is practically no controversy over any of these things except the occasional editorial from a Catholic bishop from time to time warning of the downfall of society because people stopped going to churches filled with pedophiles years ago. The church would love to return to those halcyon days of the Franco regime when people were practically forced at gunpoint to attend church. If the Catholic Church has led the way on anything even remotely beneficial to mankind I’d love to hear about it.

Valencia is not even near the most progressive city in Europe yet it should be a model for US cities. It provides a sustainable lifestyle for its citizenry with things like great public transportation. An automobile is completely a luxury here and not at all necessary. Most of the food we eat comes from as little as one or two kilometers away. About a four minute bike ride from my front door you will run out of city and straight into agricultural land.  Suburban sprawl is almost zero. The new high-speed rail line to Madrid is predicted to increase rail traffic to five times the current rate which should save 27 lives a year from auto accidents along this corridor. How much is that worth to a society? 

The conservative model is simply to let private enterprise takes its unhindered course. Ask for an example of what kind of society they hope to build and you never get a straight answer. What conservatives seem to want is a return to the 1950's but without blacks this time. I can point you directly to what sort of place I would like America to be and it looks a lot like Valencia. Liberal hubs like Seattle and Portland aren't far behind. What's it like where you live?

2 comments:

  1. My town, St. Augustine, FL is Valencia in miniature and we can thank 19th Century tycoon Henry Flagler for that. The railroad magnate had the vision to protect the charm of this city by constructing hotels, public buildings and roadways in the town center that encouraged pedestrian engagement. St. Augustine is now a town where the automobile is more of a novelty than the norm. Pedestrian only boulevards, horse-drawn carriages and wide side walks make it the most walkable town I've ever lived in. Three-day a week farmers markets, local shops to buy my bread, seafood and produce only add to St. Augustine's unique distinction of being as close to a "European" town as you'll find in America. I love the place!!

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  2. That sounds great, Andy. It's like Walden Pond meets Gilligan's Island. I think that our physical surroundings are one of the most important things to maintain health and happiness. Walking and biking everywhere is such a joy and I couldn't live any other way. If I had to drive a car everywhere, every day I would climb up on a tower with a deer rifle and I wouldn't come down until I was a household name.

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