There are good people who live in Berkeley. I hope they both forgive me.
I used to live in Oakland, but as the 2010 elections approached and it became apparent that California would lurch further to the left and toward insolvency, my family and I fled to the safety of a red state.
Nevertheless, the underdog in me has a place in his heart for Oakland, a town that is perpetually frustrating for those of us who want to see it succeed.
We love our little city, as do Berkeleyites. But Oaklanders don’t go around bragging about how amazing it is. Oakland boasts three professional sports teams, wonderful diversity, great food, beautiful architecture, fascinating history, and a humility that we can be proud of.
Mind you, Oakland has its fair share of problems: an urban combat zone that has resulted from fanatical left-wingers, a terribly antagonistic city council toward business, awful violent crimes, one of the country’s worst public school systems, and a completely incompetent mayor.
Yet, for some reason, the City of Berkeley irks me. Here are ten reasons why the People’s Republic bothers me so.
1. Arrogance: Whether from the affluence, the snobbery of an elite university, or the blatant leftism, Berkeley is America’s most pompous city. Its residents never claim to hail from “Northern California,” the “Bay Area,” or the “East Bay.” It is always “Berkeley,” intoned with an inflection of cheekiness.
2. Traffic: The land of the electric car and solar power for all is certainly not friendly to the needs of commuters. Unless you need to get to downtown, forget BART. Want to get to Memorial Stadium? You’re walking. With a population of only 100,000—nearly half of that UC students, who are supposedly too strapped for cash to own cars—this city just shouldn’t have traffic problems. But if you want to make it anywhere in Berkeley by car, plan on a long drive.
3. Whole/ Organic Foods: I just want Oreos and other yummy processed foods. Not only do you risk utter shame for even thinking about shopping at a regular grocery store, but every ordinary item is marked up. If it’s organic, it’s more expensive. If it’s not, it’s more expensive.
4. Minimum Wage: Are Berkeley workers more productive than others? Do they deserve more? Perhaps flipping a vegan burger is harder than an all-meat one, or bagging groceries in hemp bags carries greater dangers than for paper or plastic.
5. Nuclear Freedom: Atomic blasts and mushroom clouds tend to kill indiscriminately. Perhaps anyone mad enough to initiate nuclear attack on the United States will have the sense of humor to start with those places that have outlawed it.
6. Tree Huggers: That anyone would voluntarily live in a tree house for nearly two years, as environmentalists did on the UC campus during all of 2007 and most of 2008. Imagining the obvious hygiene problems that the sit-in entailed is enough to make a hippie’s skin crawl even after taking a shower.
7. Crosswalkers and Jaywalkers: Yes, you have the right of way, but that doesn’t mean you have to exercise it at every opportunity. People who cross the street in Berkeley without even looking for cars live in a utopia where risks aren’t calculated. You might be right, but you might be dead.
8. Code Pink: The group itself is loathsome enough, but their elevation to Brahmin class by the city during the infamous counter-recruitment operation against the Marines’ offices, was disgusting. The city council drafted a letter to the Marine Corps calling them “unwelcome intruders,” a position it later softened. But the access and support the city government gave to the thankless pinkos was the equivalent of a city flipping the bird at the military.
9. The Homeless: Now I don’t hate the homeless. I just hate the way Berkeley has elevated the status of homelessness so as to make it difficult to solve it as a social problem. Bigger cities have more homeless, to be sure, but in Berkeley they are celebrated as gentry of the People’s Park and other such refuges. Talk to some of the homeless and you’ll find out exactly what a PhD. in Post-modern Meta-evaluative Models of Psycho-social Roles Among Female Afro-Asian Hermaphrodite Clans gets you in the real world.
10. Cal Football: There has never been a more disappointing college football team that the Golden Bears. Nuff said.