I live in Vista and I like living here. I like it here because Vista is like me, an entity not certain about its identity. As such, Vista is always looking to a future when the identity crisis will be resolved. That forward-looking perspective can be called a kind of ‘hope”.

Vista is uncertain about its identity because the city is divided. It is divided geographically by the 78 freeway which separates the “good” side of Vista from the part of town where I live. Of course, “good” and “bad” tend to be measured in terms of property values which are actually a poor indicator of the quality of life. I live in a nice house with no HOA, I have a big yard by San Diego County standards, I live near shopping and restaurants and I have GREAT neighbors who look out for my family. Despite all these wonderful qualities, my home is in the “bad” part of Vista. That geographic and financial divide also pervades the city’s politics, pitting “us” against “them” in deciding what the future of the City should look like. Thus the city has yuppie-populated “cookie-cutter” suburbs as well as funky lower-class trailer parks. I live across the street from the latter.

Vista is divided racially. By the latest census, the town is about evenly split between Anglos and Latinos. In fact, assuming that many of the Latino residents weren’t counted in the census, there may a small preponderance of Latino residents. I’m a white guy who spent his formative years in rural (98.6% white) Iowa so I appreciate the racial and ethnic diversity in Vista, in fact I celebrate it! When I walk my dog around the neighborhood, I hear Spanish being spoken and ranchero music in the air. It reminds me how far I have come and how wonderfully different my life is from those of the folks back home. I love Vista for that diversity and I personally think any white person who hasn’t experienced it firsthand lives in an oddly-misshapen world.

Many people (usually older, lower-middle class whites) apparently spend a great deal of their energy and time maintaining this racial divide. They have in mind some vision of Vista and the USA which has never existed and most likely never will exist. The economic and social forces which have produced the racial composition of contemporary Vista are as old as this nation and the racist, capitalist, and extremist protestant spirit which infused its founders. The white folks that complain about THEM (in Vista THEM= Latinos) are looking toward a fictional past as a model for the future which can’t be a smart way or a happy way to live. But these folks are part of Vista too, a reminder of a sometimes venomous, shameful past.

The divides I see in the city in Vista groove fairly nicely with the divides I see in my life. I was an ignorant white hick from rural Iowa and, like many in Vista, I tried to impose my past upon the future. I, however, soon recognized the futility of that and adapted to the “climate” so to speak. Nowadays, I rather enjoy having visible divisions which I can see and traverse in a few short blocks. Traversing divisions makes me feel “edgy” and socially aware rather than complacent and culturally ignorant. While I’d rather live in a community where geographical, economic and racial division didn’t exist, I garner no small amount of satisfaction from recognizing the existing rifts in society and negotiating them successfully. What are my real options anyway? I can hide in my house, hurl invectives at reality or go out and affirm my life in my community. I choose the latter option.

I like Vista because to me it still contains the potential for positive social change. I like it because I regard the divisions as representing strength not yet realized rather than as resources I am forced to share. I like thinking about the potential good that can arise from the resolution of the current divisions. I hope someday Vista will realize the economic windfall it seemingly thinks is coming. If and when that windfall should come, I hope it comes in a form so that all “parts” of Vista profit from it. Maybe my daughter, the future veterinarian/astronaut, will make her office/personal astronaut training facility near home. I hope so. I also hope my daughter and all the little children at her predominately Latino-serving public elementary school use Vista as a launching pad into an inclusive society which celebrates diversity and looks toward the future. To me divisions in Vista represent a kind of hope. And I am always hopeful that better days are on the way.

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