Feature 09.02.2021 6 minutes

Why We Stay

Sunset at Mission SanJuan Capistrano

Keeping faith and hope alive in deep blue territory.

Good people live in California, and plan on staying as long as they’re able. Some of us were born here, and some moved here when that was still the thing to do. Those of us committed to staying in California are not naïve—we know what’s going on and what’s likely to happen. We know our state is controlled by a one-party regime and our current policymakers are delusional or worse. Substantial success on a statewide scale is next to impossible (even with a successful recall). We can only hope to slow the decline. We know we could probably live more comfortably—financially and socially, at least—in another state. So why do people who recognize all these problems and more choose to stay here?

For a lot of us, and at least for now, it’s really not that difficult to stay. Those who were able pulled their kids out of the public school system long ago. The crazy people (both mentally and ideologically) are around, and you’ll run into them from time to time, but we’re not surrounded by them. Many people are experiencing real financial strain, but oftentimes living in California simply means foregoing a McMansion and being satisfied with a smaller home and less property.

And what we still like about living in California is hard to take away from us. There is the weather, and the natural beauty of our beaches, mountains, and deserts. More importantly, our faith and our communities are still here to support us. It would be irresponsible for us to leave our families and friends behind. In even the most difficult totalitarian regimes, strong communities and those with strong faiths have been difficult to stamp out. Some of our friends may be leaving us, but it’s their choice—not a forced exile by the regime.

There are enough sane people left in California to allow us to thrive within our communities. Depending on where you live, those who stay can discover or create a community of like-minded people. Though we can’t eliminate it altogether, if we work hard we can avoid being surrounded by the insanity all the time.

We have a sense of duty to the place and situation we have found ourselves in. We don’t have a loyalty to the regime, but we do have one to our homeland. We will fight to save what we can. Maybe—maybe—there is nothing to salvage on a state or county-wide policy level, but there will always be individuals we can bring into the havens of our communities.

People need us. We are not so ready to uproot everything that we have built here. Most of us have family here–parents, siblings, relatives. We all have good friends. We can’t bring ourselves to cut ourselves off from everyone we’ve known and cared for in our region. It wouldn’t be right.

Mission Country

California has become a pagan land, governed by the superstitions and fancies of a ruling class that hates the ideals our nation was founded on. But that doesn’t mean we should flee. It means that California has become mission territory for us. We are once again strangers in a strange land. Though widespread success may be doubtful in the foreseeable future, there are always opportunities for individual conversions. Eventually, future resistance to the regime will be based on those of us who stayed.

It is possible to live as virtuous individuals within a tyrannical regime. In fact, virtue means little unless tested by difficult circumstances. This is likely what we are preparing ourselves for.

California may no longer be the land of opportunity for businesses, but there are now plenty of opportunities for greatness. Saints aren’t made by being like everyone else, and men don’t become heroes by merely retreating to friendly territory. It’s time for us to learn to live outside the mainstream and be willing to face the consequences. Even though it will be hard, it will make us stronger.

What would we be teaching our children if we left the state? Would our children really be stronger if they were farther away from problems? By staying we are teaching our children to face the difficulties that will inevitably confront them in their lives.

If you’re doing your job right as a parent—and it’s still quite possible to do that in California—your instruction will affect your children’s formation much more than the outside culture. Just like fear, your courage can be contagious.

Living in California means we must take ownership of our children’s formation. We must be vigilant against the culture and technologies that want to consume our children. Really, though, weren’t we going have to do that anyway? It is a rare case when parents can expect the prevalent culture in any given area to form their children well.

Families staying in California will have to learn greater discipline so that they can go out into the culture and survive it. But living here also allows us to teach our children to recognize the lies and propaganda of the regime, and the misery that living in these lies creates. Well-formed people living in such an environment are refined and strengthened by their experiences.

Living under a hostile regime strengthens our families as well. When a family must present a united front to battle against a state armed against them, there is little room for infighting. Our children will know that they are part of a resistance with larger goals and implications than their immediate wants.

The Company We Keep

Without our like-minded friends to spend time with, life would be a lot more difficult here. The communities we form provide refreshment and strength after a typical day of working and living under the California regime.

We don’t even need to live in a red state to be surrounded by like-minded people. Of course, this isn’t something most of us can control at work, school, or among our neighbors. But you can have a significant effect by being intentional about who you choose to spend your time with when you do have the choice. You can choose who you have dinner with, what families you allow your kids to know, where you go to church.

It can be easy to fall into the trap of despair when everything seems doomed. Being surrounded by bad news about California can make us feel alone. It takes us away from the real people living close to us who can give us hope. Isolation and disintegration allow us to be more easily controlled. By bringing like-minded people into our communities, we help prepare them so that they will not be alone and consumed when the persecution comes.

This attitude is nothing new. Throughout history, many people with the option to flee oppressive regimes have chosen to stay. Families and communities in these regimes have succeeded in keeping their traditions, beliefs, and principles alive, despite all odds. By standing their ground, they keep their honor too. California is where we’ll make our stand. This is where we’ll stay.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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An interview with California State Senator Melissa Melendez on bipartisan discontent with one-party rule in California.

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After the Recall

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