Passports, Religions and Wolves

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

With apologies to the late, great Los Angeles sports journalist Allan Malamud, here are some late-summer notes on the California scorecard.

Passports

The LA Times recently declared that a combination of state laws granting benefits and responsibilities to unauthorized immigrants – in-state tuition, drivers’ licenses, rules to limit deportations, state-funded health care for children, stripping the word “alien” out of the labor code – constituted the establishment of a new kind of “California citizenship.”

Of course, at the same this idea was being advanced, an initiative to make California an actual separate nation was being criticized an example of an abuse of the initiative process. Ours is definitely a country of contradictions.

My own take: if there’s such a thing as California citizenship, they ought to issue us passports. Yes, we probably couldn’t get across any borders with such a passport (though it might be fun to try to figure out something with our friends in Baja California, given how onerous the federal government makes routine border crossings), but there’s a kind of passport that we all should be issued.

A passport that lists our rights as citizens. A passport to democracy.

The idea is the brainchild of my friend Bruno Kaufmann, a Swiss-Swedish journalist and political scientist who visits California often to study our direct democracy. He designed a passport for citizens of his city, Falun, Sweden, and then for the entire European Union. For all the talk about engaging more citizens, it’s hard for Californians to know what citizens here can do. A passport would solve the problem.

Religions

Hardliners in the U.S. Congress want to scuttle President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. But in Iran, hardliners are expressing worry that American culture – much of it from the great state of California – will descend upon Tehran and de-stabilize society. Iranian hardliners have been quoted expressing concern about what McDonald’s could do to the people of Tehran; one suggested the company is a den of American spies.

My own note to the Ayatollah and his buddies: You have nothing to fear from McDonald’s, outside of obesity. But you should worry if In N Out Burger, which has been expanding outside of California, decides to open up outlets there. In N Out is a more powerful, faster-spread religion than your ancient society has ever confronted before.

Wolves

Big news: a pack of gray wolves has formed in Siskiyou County. Two adult wolves and five wolf pups. It’s been a long time since a pack has been seen up there.

Reaction 1: They should get over to Oregon before the 2016 California elections, since only the top 2 will be allowed to survive.

Reaction 2: Has anyone asked the wolves whether they consider themselves residents of California, or of the State of Jefferson?

I’ll be here all summer.

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