In the next few installments I will be talking about two cities in inland Southern California that have some things in common but have headed in very different directions, and what that means. These stories are about a part of the country with little seeming resemblance to big East Coast cities, but the one I am starting with today has some bearing on what is going on now in Baltimore.
Inland is a more important word than Southern at the start of that preceding passage. (People from California can skip this next paragraph, but it may be useful context for others.)
People outside the state typically imagine the dividing line in California as something like the old Mason-Dixon line, separating its territory north-versus-south. That is: the Bay Area vs. “the Southland,” the tech industry vs. “The Industry,” redwoods vs. palm trees, Stanford and UC Berkeley vs. USC and UCLA. In fact the really important line more or less parallels the Coast Range of mountains and divides the state west-versus-east, coast versus interior. On the western, coastal side are the biggest cities, the most famous companies and universities, the richest people, and most of the national mindshare of what “California” means. Plus the concentrations of Democratic voters, as shown by blue in the map at right. On California’s eastern, inland side are all of its deserts, most of its farmland, and a disproportionate share of its problems, from pollution to poverty to the worst consequences of the current disastrous drought. And most of its Republican districts. The importance of the coastal/inland dividing line also applies in Oregon and Washington, and—with an east/west switch—in China too.
(Welcome back, Californians!) The two cities I’ll be talking about in coming days are Riverside and San Bernardino, both of which are the county seats and principal cities in their respective counties, which also have their names.