Land of the Douche?
By Bill Gerdes
I hesitate to pick on any city in the Inland Empire. San Bernardino? Too easy and too poverty stricken. Redlands? Lot’s of weird old-Redlands-money people who think they’re posh, but too nice a place for restaurants, bars and other sundry cultural items to mock. Riverside? O.C. wannabe status hurts some, but Victoria Avenue, the Mission Inn and Le Sex Shoppe on Market wind up redeeming Riverside somehow. And Corona? That’s home to the Weekly amongst other crowning achievements. Temecula though? Temecula just may be Douche Bag Central in the Inland Empire.
Or Tea Bag or Tea Party if you prefer. For many reasons, Temecula, a city that desperately yearns to escape the Inland Empire has somehow come to embody its most noxious and unpleasant traits all the while becoming a nexus for Tea Party activity, religious intolerance and social elitism in California. As the real estate bubble collapses, it’s at its gassiest, wackiest and media-attention-gathering in Temecula Valley.
The Origin Story
The Temecula of today is a result of the housing boom of the late ’90s and early ’00s. The city grew immeasurably during the last 20 years, almost becoming a mini Las Vegas. Southern Californians flocked to a city that offered affordable yet prestigious housing; above all, it offered a safe haven, a replica of the Golden State of the ’70s and ’80s. It would all be perfect: good schools, good churches, good and affordable gated communities and good people. And for a while it was.
Then le deluge.
According to the North County Times approximately 337,000 people purchased a home in Riverside County between 2004 and 2007. Most of them are now under water.
Few of us like to drown. When we do we’re tempted to flail about, to place blame, to look for saviors, to be intolerant of other ideas and beliefs. In short, to act like Temecula. But is it fair to brand an entire city as douche-bags when it may just be the loud, stupid minority grabbing all of the attention? Is the city really The Land of the Douche?
Exhibit A: The E-Verify Issue
The Prosecution: Taking a tip from the City of Lancaster and the State of Arizona, Temecula officially got into the scapegoat game when it passed its very own E-Verify ordinance on July 13, legally requiring employers to use the federal E-Verify system set up by the federal government. Businesses that don’t comply with the law could face sanctions, including losing their license. On the face of it, a not-so-unreasonable request one might think.
However it is. The good denizens of the Southwest Corridor seem to want to have their burrito and eat it too. Surely they’ll still trot off to their local upscale foodie-mart to buy organic strawberries picked by illegal farm workers in the Central Valley. And surely they’ll continue to frequent the vast number of Mexican restaurants in the area. And even more surely the sound of leaf blowers will still echo down the half-empty gated communities. At the rally in support of E-Verify, Tom Barnard of Murrieta [see “Lesser Evil” sidebar] was quoted by The Press Enterprise as saying, “Without an American culture, there is no America.” But Tom is a little misguided here—we’ve got military bases in 140 countries, fast-food outlets literally everywhere (North Korea excepted). American culture is the world’s culture, and that won’t end due to the fact that an undocumented guy is outside Home Depot looking for an honest day’s work to feed his family.
Blaming the Weak
The Defense: Hmm. Well, certainly Temecula is in step with the nation on this one. Polls show a majority of Americans favor SB 1070, a law which effectively suspends our constitutional right against unreasonable search and seizure. So, it’s not, like, extremely fringe that many in Temecula feel this way; indeed several other IE cities have voted for it. Another mitigating factor is that several of the groups who organized the protests for E-Verify aren’t from Temecula. We The People, a group that spoke to the Temecula City Council, is actually based in Claremont. Who could be so angry living in Claremont? They’ve got such a thriving restaurant and bar scene.
The Verdict: Guilty. The bandwagon argument doesn’t apply here. There’s a certain level of classlessness on blaming the weakest members of society when it all starts to swirl around the drain. And—realistically—illegal immigrants aren’t taking any of the jobs that could pay for the mortgages on the McMansions that were shoddily thrown up during the boom years. Guilty of douchery.
Exhibit B: The Mosque Controversy
The Prosecution: It’s understandable, if wrong and misguided, that some New Yorkers felt uneasy about the mosque and community center that is opening near Ground Zero in Manhattan. It’s bat-shit crazy that there was a protest against the opening of the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley. Even sicker was the idea that some protesters floated around: bringing dogs to the event because some Muslims view canines to be “unclean” animals. Even lamer than this was local Tea Party officials Bridget Blanton of Temecula and Diana Serafin of Murrieta [see “Lesser Evil” sidebar] claiming no responsibility for the protest but halfheartedly endorsing it nonetheless.
Look, Temecula, pick an enemy and stick with it—you’re confusing your message here. My god, who are we to be afraid of? The Mexicans or the Muslims? Should we fear Sharia law or George Lopez? Make up your mind, people. Or maybe, just maybe, Temecula is on to something here—maybe it’s okay to be afraid of everyone. How liberating, how free. This city’s citizens may have opened up a new chapter in the country’s story of freedom. Take that, Jefferson.
Everyone has Crazies
The Defense: Once again, most of the people and organization behind this embarrassment come from outside Temecula. This is truly offensive—this is certainly a city that can embarrass itself without whackos from other communities trying to horn in on the action. Oh, and another thing: on the day of the protest, pro-mosque demonstrators outnumbered the yahoos four to one, showing Temecula’s actual citizens might just be far more thoughtful, intelligent and caring then they had been made out to be by many media outlets.
The Verdict: Innocent of douchery. Look, any place has its crazies or crazies from up the road. The fact that most people weren’t trembling about the onslaught of an Iranian-dominated Sharia law not only speaks wonders for Temecula but also makes this writer nervous about the whole thesis of this article. What if Temecula is acquitted? I’ll look like such a douche.
Exhibit C: All-Around Douche-Bag Behavior
The Prosecution: This is a city outside the mainstream of California, an area that would be perfectly suited to Alabama, Idaho or some other far-right state. Now, they have the right to protest against mosques, performances of The Vagina Monologues and nude portraits being exhibited at local art shows, but do they have to be so, well, you know, douche-y about it? And do so many of them have to be in their 40s and white?
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Some, okay most, of my friends are white, but if I see another scared cracker on the television saying that they want their country back I may have to turn off Fox. The most conservative elements of Temecula are just such people; ignorant, confused and looking for someone to blame. This isn’t what they fled Orange County for when it got too Asian! It’s also worth noting that the area has been a hotbed for white supremacist activity (Hammerskins, anyone?) over the last 30 years, that Tom Metzger ran his organization not too far down the road and that all of the aforementioned protests smack so strongly of a fear of “the Other.”
The Defense: Talk about a smear job. Most of the residents who moved here from Orange County didn’t do it because they feared their neighbor, but because they wanted a chance at that central tenet of the American Dream: home ownership. The fact that the dream in many cases didn’t work out isn’t their fault. Some people have given themselves over to fear, but others haven’t. And yes, the city is almost 80 white, but since when has that been a crime? By branding the whole city as a douche-bag, don’t we risk throwing the baby out with the crazies swimming around in the bathwater?
The Final Verdict
Sorry, defense team, but Judge Weekly convicts the city of Temecula with a guilty verdict of douchery on two out of three counts. Yes, you’ve got great Indian gaming, up-and-coming wineries and an old and interesting history (Did you know there were not one, but two massacres here during the Mexican-American war? I sure as hell didn’t), but that’s not enough to save you. Even more than your E-Verify and your mosque protests, it’s your overall priggery that earned you the conviction. Protests against The Vagina Monologues? Seriously? In a city that boasts of wineries and a casino? Chill, hypocritical bitches, chill. Illegal immigrants aren’t going to take your job at Abbot Laboratories, and Yussef doesn’t want to convert your scout troop to Sharia Law. Even the housing market has to come around sometime . . . well, two out of three ain’t bad.
A Lesser Evil
You can get a dose of Temecula right next-door in Murrieta
Remember all those of those protests in Temecula? Lots of those douche-bags live right up the road in Murrieta, the travel-sized, airport-ready, mini-douche to Temecula’s industrial-strength version. Murrieta is Gilligan to Temecula’s Skipper, Ted Haggard to their Jerry Falwell, Vinnie to their Situation. Murrieta is the little brother who tries to one up the older sibling. Mosque controversy? Check, they’ve got it too. Anti-immigrant sentiment? Ditto. Tea Party hub? Oh yeah, baby. What really pisses off the people of Murrieta is that they have to live in Murrieta and not Temecula. Temecula can smell San Diego County. Murrieta can smell Perris and it makes them cranky. What good is white flight when you still occasionally run into the people you tried to escape in the first place? To roughly paraphrase Porfirio Diaz: Poor Murrieta, so far from La Jolla, so close to Moreno Valley. (Bill Gerdes)