west coast region


* The seagulls are slowly inching closer. Judging by the glint in their eyes, they will not be satisfied with your lunch this time.
* Every day, one more spot in the vending machine has been claimed by Hot Cheetos. You aren’t sure what happens when they’ve taken over.
* It’s June, and the tourists begin to roll in. Everyone keeps their doors shut, and avoids them at the beach. We can’t shatter the illusion of the postcard-perfect town. Not again.
* Four surfers enter the water one night. Five come out.
* The mountains are alive. No one mentions it. They don’t have to.
* You’re at the county fair one night, at the top of the Ferris wheel. You look out over the ocean, and see something moving. Surely it must just be a surfer, right?
* While swimming in the Pacific one day, you feel something caress your leg. You pray it’s just seaweed.
* There’s an unspoken rule about going into the desert at night.
* You come back home from a night out to see a UFO hovering above your residence. You shrug, and leave to spend the night at a friend’s house. Better safe than sorry.
* You see what looks like a fire burning on the surface of the water one night. It’s too far to be a boat, but too close to be an oil rig.
* You lie awake, unable to sleep. The waves sound closer than usual.
* It rains, just a light sprinkle. The people are celebrating in the streets. It’s been so, so long.
* The hills above town are on fire. Ash fills the air and congests your lungs. No one evacuates, PE classes are simply brought inside for the day. Like everyone else, you simply wait, hoping it doesn’t cross the 101.
* There’s a loud grating noise from down the street. In the morning, you see that the landslides have swallowed your neighbor’s house again.
* Everyone awaits The Big One, the earthquake that will send California tumbling into the Pacific. For many, it can’t come soon enough.

west coast gothic
  • predatory tourists on 101 wait for their slow-moving cousins, the RVs and trailers and kayak-bearing vans, to slow down around the curves, and then they make their move. there is no alternative route. you must wait for them to finish their meal and move on, before eking past the remains of summer vacationers.
  • construction workers move patiently down highway 101, catching speeders in their slow zones and using the bones to repair the road. in their wake, the brand new concrete is pierced through with weeds dissatisfied with the sacrifice.
  • a writhing mass of sea lions is barking on the bayfront. the people watch intently, and take pictures of the funny sea dogs. someone throws a piece of salt water taffy at them to see what they do; the mass heaves itself up as one bloated shining being and snaps it out of the air. 
  • glass-blowing workshops pop up like fragile daisies; there are glass floats everywhere. do not break them. do not pick them up. do not lick the splinters from your hands, sweet as candy. 
  • every candy shop in every half-hearted attempt at a town sells salt water taffy. there are always free samples. you take the wax-wrapped lump the earnest cashier offers you, and put the hard sweet in your mouth. something in the center crunches, and then it escapes your sugar-gummed tongue and slithers down your throat. 
  • there’s something huge and heaving on the beach behind the neighborhood full of rental houses. its stink slinks up the streets and chokes the ground squirrels; they die with their fire-colored bellies to the sky. a slab of fatty meat falls away from the thing, revealing ribs that reach like heavenly pillars towards the sky. everyone waits patiently with buckets of bleach; the harvest will begin soon. you’re hoping to grab a shoulder blade to go with your display of illegal driftwood on your front lawn made of gravel and bark chips.
  • in the tidepools, the endless mussels slice at your sandals as you crouch down to poke at a puckered tight green anemone. there used to be sea stars here, but the species is rotting away. you can see the gelatinous remains of purple and orange ochres here and there, half digested by a mysterious bacteria or virus that science has yet to pin down. 
  • you sit down by a deeper pool, one with sculpins darting for cover in the clear salt water. you touch your finger to a white anemone that curls its neon pink tendrils lovingly around the tip; when you pull the finger away, a stinging numbness crawling up to your knuckle, the anemone tears itself in half, and both of them snatch up a sculpin apiece to draw into their maws. 

The backdrop to the racist Right’s 1980s resurgence was a crisis in the U.S. agricultural economy, more severe than any since the 1920s.  In the 1970s, farmers were encouraged to expand their businesses.  Then inflation drove interest rates up.  Those farmers who could still pay their loans saw their land prices plummet between 1981 and 1987, while they read about Wall Street speculators becoming millionaries through insider trading and other crafty means of moving number on paper.  The magnitude of the farm crisis was staggering.  In Minnesota, the average price of an acre of land fell from $1,947 in 1981 to $628 in 1987, amounting to a loss of paper wealth of between $20 and $40 billion for that state alone.  The U.S. farm population dropped from nine million in 1975 to less than five million in 1987, as absentee investors assumed an ever greater percentage of farm ownership.  In Iowa, an estimated 30 percent of the farmers were threatened with the loss of their land.

Individual farmers saw everything they had worked for fall into the hands of bankers who foreclosed on their property.  In that context, the racist Right took advantage of a rare opportunity to spread their spurious conspiracy theories about Jewish control of the financial system.

Beginning in the 1970s, a loose network known as the Posse Comitatus (meaning ‘power of the county’) had emerged in the West Coast and MIdwest regions. A 1976 FBI estimate of seventy-eight Posse Comitatus chapters in twenty-three states placed total membership between 12,000 and 15,000, with as many as ten to twelve times that number of peripheral supporters.  From California to Wisconsin, each Posse leader developed a slightly different style.  Common to all was a belief in white supremacist Identity Christianity and variations on a few 'constitutionalist’ themes: Jewish bankers manipulate and control the Federal Reserve Board, if not the whole U.S. financial system; the income tax amendment was never legally approved by Congress and, therefore, 'sovereign citizens’ need not pay taxes; the United States is a 'republic,’ not a 'democracy’; and the only lawful authority is the county sheriff and his appointed 'posse’ of adult men who reside in his jurisdiction.

Through the Posse Comitatus’ pre-existing network of Farm Belt groups, the Midwest became fertile ground for the spread of racist and anti-Jewish propaganda during the 1980s… Had mainstream farmers not taken serious steps to educate AAM’s rank-and-file about infiltration by the far Right, the extent of the damage might have been much worse.  One AAM faction sponsored guerrilla warfare training and classes on the making of pipe bombs; another faction advocating violence formed a Farmers’ Liberation Army.

—  Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States by Sara Diamond

Day 15 and 16.

Pretty uneventful days, to be honest the West coast region of New Zealand has a lot less to offer than the rest of the country. Beautiful beaches yes, but appart from that… Anyway we visited a beach called the three sisters, which was awesome. It got its name from 3 giant rocks standing on the beach, also visited the white cliff beach, again awesome. Great contrast between the black sands and the white cliffs. That was yesterday. Today we visited the Waitomo cave area, didn’t do any rafting (costs way to much) but did some nice walks in the area. The Ruakuri bush walk was awesome. We visited another beach, forgot the name. After that we drove off to a nice camping place near Matamata, because tomorrow we’re visiting Hobbiton! Peace. For more photos you could always check out our instagram: @mchlptrs and @yvodezeure

Who was Franklin H. Williams?

For those even slightly familiar with Peace Corps history, you’ve almost definitely heard about Sargent Shriver, the first agency Director and the person credited right after President Kennedy with the agency’s founding.

Lesser known but equally due founding credit is Franklin H. Williams (above left, with Shriver), an African American civil rights lawyer, diplomat and foundation president who worked to improve interracial relations in the U.S. He joined Director Shriver as his Special Assistant in 1961 and later became the agency’s Africa Regional Director.

Williams’s career was illustrious before and after Peace Corps. He began his law career at the NAACP, first as assistant special counsel to Thurgood Marshall, where he argued cases before the Supreme Court, and later as the West Coast Regional Director. At the NAACP Williams conducted drives for legislation on minority employment and won the first judgment in a case involving school desegregation. As Assistant Attorney General in California, he created the state’s first Constitutional Rights Section within the Department of Justice. After serving on Peace Corps staff, Williams served as Ambassador to Ghana in the administration of President Johnson, and from 1970 to 1990 he served as the president of the Phelps-Stokes Fund, an organization established to enhance educational opportunities for Africans, African Americans and American Indians.