Let's Stop Guilt-Tripping Marin

We care, we give, but we still get chided.

Earlier, Patch linked to a story from the Huffington Post, for a project called California Watch, written by Patricia Leigh Brown. Ms. Brown has written for the Philadelphia Inquirer, the New York Times and has been based at the San Francisco bureau since 2000, so perhaps she lives in Marin and writes from her personal experiences here?

The title of the article reads: Marin County Inequality: Study Shows Poverty Exists Alongside Wealth. Do not think me unkind, but my first thought was, duh.

When I lived in West Chester County, Pennsylvania, poverty (mine) existed alongside wealth. I was living in a third-floor walkup while stately horse farms dotted the nearby landscape.

When I lived in Atlanta, I lived in a small two-bedroom apartment in De Kalb County where there were also plenty of beautiful southern mansions.

When I lived in Wilmington, Del., I shared part of a funky old house with six people directly across from a super upscale development — I think it might be where Vice President Joe Biden has his place today.

And when I lived in Washington, D.C. I lived in a really gross high rise on 14th and Rhode Island that housed blacks, seniors and students; the hookers worked outside. One night an arson threw a fire bomb into our building and set it on fire. I’ll never forget negotiating around the flames to get out. I had on a yellow terry cloth bathrobe and my pajamas and luckily I had the good sense to grab my wallet and my toothbrush. The next clothes I wore were donated from the church across the way where we were evacuated. They were the kindest, most considerate and generous people I’ve ever met, and they were all poor African Americans.

The congressman I worked for lived in an exquisite brownstone in Georgetown on the other side of town.

I was a single white female trying to pay my way through college, law school, an internship and my first job.

Ms. Brown goes on in the article comparing the Canal area and Ross — population 12,000 in the teeming Canal and Ross at 2,100 — then old trucks and gangs in the Canal and so on and so forth.

She even quotes a city councilmember saying, “(The councilman) estimates that more than half of the town's residents, including many investment bankers, grow their own organic vegetables. They have the space: The typical residential lot in Ross is an acre or more.”

Everyone is this county knows how difficult life is in the Canal.

I get what she is trying to say and why she is trying to say it and I applaud her efforts but I just think this bad, rich Marin stuff is silly — and more importantly, unjust.

The Marin Community Foundation CEO, Tom Peters, is quoted as saying, "Marin stereotypes are held by many outside the county, but, insidiously, inside Marin as well." (And then more about a 1 percenters’ paradise and all that jazz.)

Oh please, look around, Mr. Peters. Look at your own supporters and board members and stop saying these things. Say instead, “Thank you, I applaud you, I appreciate you.” Because this ‘ol guilt trip thing is getting tired and lame.

The people I know in Marin County, aren’t the rich folks with the megahomes dotting the hillsides or behind massive gates. However, I don’t think I know anyone in this county who doesn’t give back. Checks are written; creative, volunteer labor-intensive fundraising events are staged, and the poor and less fortunate, the immigrants, the disabled, the ill, the dying and the homeless are thought about in every city in this county. To name names would take pages and pages. Then also, there are the scores of people who choose to remain anonymous in their contributions.

There are the little kindnesses I see all the time, too.  For example, when I was leaving my house today, I saw a little girl’s purple and pink bike, a large beige crib and a big play kitchen put curbside outside a small condo down the street, with that ubiquitous Marin tag, “FREE.” They were in great shape and could have been sold, but that family decided to “pay it foward.” Of course the items were gone when I arrived home.

This is not necessarily how it works in other wealthy, well-educated counties in this state, certainly not in many other states in this country.

This is a blessed, generous county that understands what reciprocity means.

And for the record, I grow my own organic vegetables too, Ms. Brown. I live in salt box in Novato, which I love, on about a quarter of an acre. My vegetables don’t seem to know they are less privileged than those acre-greedy guys in Ross, either.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Steven Norwin April 02, 2012 at 10:53 PM
@Michael: You're a right on. It doesn't matter how much is given it will never ever be enough.
Steven Norwin April 02, 2012 at 11:03 PM
And Bravo, Christine, for a wonderful article that will probably go over Ms. Brown and Mr. Peters heads. I wonder if they grow their own organic vegetables???
Bob Ratto April 03, 2012 at 01:41 AM
Christine It was a really well written piece, thank you. Having only lived in Marin for the past 46 years, some of this is nothing new, we had the whole Peacock feathers and hot tubs stuff on TV in the 70's (which was not reality), and now we have an overbearing foundation founded on oil stock "guilting" everyone into feeling we need to do "more, more, more"....I call total BS on that, and with a likely high percentage of the populace of the Canal illegal, I can bet you their living conditions here are much better than in their home countries, and their opportunities are essentially endless. MCF shamelessly playing morality police needs to stop...it is one thing to push an agenda, it is another to stand up and do something constructive that benefits more than their own guilt ridden constituency.
Sierra Salin April 10, 2012 at 06:28 AM
Nice piece. The main poverty we have in Marin is ignorance and consumerisim. The poverty of too much stuff is drowning our whole lil planet. No matter if you have the poverty of too much or too little money, the Love "stuff" is all around, and underneath all the material stuff, and that is where the good is. Spread it around.
Paul Miller September 28, 2012 at 12:14 AM
Brown should have reported on the short distance and wide differences between Tijuana and La Jolla for a truly news worthy story!


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