Who We Are

This morning, President Obama uttered three words in his speech to the United Nations that had never been heard on the floor of that international body. The three words were “Grass Valley, California” and they were mentioned in the President’s tribute to Chris Stevens, the slain ambassador who was born here in 1960. We did not know Chris, as his family moved away shortly after his emergence. Still, he was remembered as a native son of the Gold Country community we call home.

This comes as we debate who we are and where we are going in the 21st Century. Perhaps it would be helpful to reflect on who we were, and how we evolved to our present condition. In the greater scheme of history, Nevada County and its communities are mere toddlers compared to the ancient cities of Europe and Asia, but we have contributed much in our 162 year history.

We were born in a frenzy of greed and violence in the rush for gold in 1849. Prospectors from all points of the planet gathered here to seek their fortune. While doing so, the 49ers murdered and cast out the Nisenan. They raped the land and clogged the rivers with the refuse of their endeavors. 

But from the chaos, civilization took hold. In 1855, our first born celebrity was Josiah Royce, noted philosopher and historian. Today his memory is overshadowed by our famous immigrant rock stars, Countess Lola Montez and outlaw Black Bart. We honor the memory of District Attorney, newspaper publisher and Senator Aaron Sargent for writing the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gave the female gender the right to vote, and choose to forget that he also authored The Chinese Exclusion Act that reinforced white supremacy and kept the yellow man from settling upon our shores.

Closer to the present, there are other notables who made their mark elsewhere then chose to live here. Chuck Yeager, who broke the sound barrier and inspired The Right Stuff, married a local girl and moved here. Revered folk singer and social activist U. Utah Phillips was a resident of Nevada City and beat poet/environmentalist Gary Snyder lives on the Ridge. Dan O’Neill was the cartoonist for The Nevada County Nugget before he became the youngest cartoonist to be nationally syndicated. Later he challenged Walt Disney and the first amendment all the way to the Supreme Court. Peter Collier was the editor of the radical magazine Ramparts before remaking himself as a conservative scholar and author of presidential biographies.

Charles Litton built a research lab on the top of a hill overlooking town and inspired Dr. Hare to establish Grass Valley Group, which revolutionized television graphics and electronics. GVG spawned dozens of offshoots, including AJA, which is now located within spittin’ distance of the old Litton building.

So it’s hard to say we are one thing or the other. We have been destroyers and builders, liberals and conservatives, radicals and moderates. In short, we are America.

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20 Responses to Who We Are

  1. gregoryzaller says:

    I was with you 100% , RL, right up until the last word. We are not “Americans”, we are human beings right along with all the beings on this planet. There are no countries and there are no borders. We’ve made them up and we should forget them. We are not special and to think otherwise only makes us less. We are all part of one and only one creation.

    • rl crabb says:

      Yes, we are all members of the human family, Greg, but most everyone on my incomplete list would no doubt consider themselves Americans. Nations are made by people, and ours was born of the desire to be free. We are imperfect, but strive to live up to our ideals through the Constitution. Nevada County is a microcosm of the United States, good, bad and ugly.
      On a lighter note, you must be a barrel of laughs on the Fourth of July.

    • Greg Goodknight says:

      Ich bin ein Amerikaner.

      Sorry, GZ, but while we are Homo sapiens first, we are also Americans, and the borders establish where the Constitution, the first ever creation of a nation by the granting of powers to the government by the governed, applies.

      There is no world government, and there will not be a world government as long as the USA exists. And many think that is a good thing.

      • gregoryzaller says:

        That wasn’t my point at all, Greg, to establish a new world government.

        I think a case could be made, though, that Americans are a select group because they selected themselves to come here.

        • Ryan Mount says:

          Are you saying that Americans are exceptional?

          Select = exceptional?

          Maybe I’m spitting hairs. However it would seem to me that because of this selection, we have been able to reap an arguable happy harvest relative to the rest of the world’s countries? Well, at least in the past, I guess.

          What are you suggesting in real terms? Some kind of human outreach to underprivileged countries? Or perhaps a John Lennon-style “imagine there’s no countries” thing?

      • Ben Emery says:

        I would have to argue the unelected unaccountable international banking cartel, which includes the Federal Reserve and other Global Central Banks, along with the WTO have a pretty good grip on global policies at the moment. An example; who set up Greece to fall and who is coming to the “rescue” with austerity policies as part of the “rescue”?

        • Greg Goodknight says:

          “who set up Greece to fall”?

          That would be the Greeks.

          • Ben Emery says:

            That would be Goldman Sach’s. But I guess you thought the Libor scandal was no big deal either.

            Goldman Sach’s sold Greece a bunch of toxic swaps to hide their minor debt to join the Euro. Then when the interests ballooned Greece lost the good credit rating and foreign investors dumped their investments sending Greece into to a tailspin. The people got screwed while bankers got bonuses.

            You can make the claim that Greece government gambled and lost, I wouldn’t argue with that opinion. But it wasn’t the people of Greece that caused their problems.

          • Ben Emery says:

            I should have said it wasn’t the people that caused the crisis instead of problems. Two drastically different issues.

          • Todd Juvinall says:

            GregG, good question. I guess I am confused by conspiracy nuts like BenE claiming the “banks” want a country to fail since if they did the “banks” would be out of business. Amazing!

          • Ben Emery says:

            Not hard to follow Todd. It is about power and control. You might have heard a few warnings about the banks in US and world history if you have ever bothered to read about it. Here are few warnings. You look at the banking and the military industrial complex among a few other industries and you will see a very tangled web indeed.

            “I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies.” – Thomas Jefferson

            … The modern theory of the perpetuation of debt has drenched the earth with blood, and crushed its inhabitants under burdens ever accumulating. -Thomas Jefferson

            History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling money and its issuance. -James Madison

            If congress has the right under the Constitution to issue paper money, it was given them to use themselves, not to be delegated to individuals or corporations. -Andrew Jackson

            The Government should create, issue, and circulate all the currency and credits needed to satisfy the spending power of the Government and the buying power of consumers. By the adoption of these principles, the taxpayers will be saved immense sums of interest. Money will cease to be master and become the servant of humanity. -Abraham Lincoln

            Issue of currency should be lodged with the government and be protected from domination by Wall Street. We are opposed to…provisions [which] would place our currency and credit system in private hands. – Theodore Roosevelt

            The real truth of the matter is,as you and I know, that a financial
            element in the large centers has owned the government ever since
            the days of Andrew Jackson… -Franklin D. Roosevelt

            When a government is dependent upon bankers for money, they and not the leaders of the government control the situation, since the hand that gives is above the hand that takes… Money has no motherland; financiers are without patriotism and without decency; their sole object is gain.” – Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France, 1815

            “I am afraid the ordinary citizen will not like to be told that the banks can and do create money. And they who control the credit of the nation direct the policy of Governments and hold in the hollow of their hand the destiny of the people.” Reginald McKenna, as Chairman of the Midland Bank, addressing stockholders in 1924.

            “It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and money system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.” Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company.

          • Tom Betterman says:

            “Every debit/credit card you take, every purchase you make, the banks will be taxing you…”

            …at rates far in excess of their costs, and if not you directly, then your merchant will pay and pass the costs on to you.

  2. Steve Enos says:

    At Tuesday nights Grass Valley City Council meeting I asked them to consider doing a resolution or proclamation commemorating native son Chris Stevens, our slain Ambassador. It would be a nice thing to do for many reasons. I hope the City Council does this.

    • Michael Anderson says:

      George, what Bob wrote was this: “So it’s hard to say we are one thing or the other. We have been destroyers and builders, liberals and conservatives, radicals and moderates. In short, we are America.”

      This does not sound like the Great Divide to me. It sounds more like the melting pot we are supposed to be, that everyone who is at least engaged in the process is making some kind of a contribution to this great American experiment, regardless of whether we agree with them or not. I happen to believe this is our true strength as a nation.

      So, how does your comment “excellent Bob” jibe with the Great Divide?

      Today I wrote the following over on SFR: “After the Democrats take over the House in November, perhaps a new version of HUAC might be in order to ferret out these un-American vote suppressors who seem to have infiltrated the federal gov’t.”

      It was a joke of course, but I’m sure only a select few got it. That is the nature of the intrawebs. I’m waiting to be excoriated for just trying to get a cheap laugh. Oh well.

      Michael A.

      • Tony Waters says:

        I’m with RL and Michael on this one. No matter who wins or loses in November, we are all in this together. It is great to have a loyal opposition. Admittedly it is less great to be the loyal opposition, but we all get our turn.

        GG: You have quite a talent for German articles. Could you please send it to me over here in Germany?

  3. steve cottrell says:

    Some of the exchanges on this posting remind me of an incident in 1860, shortly after Nevada City resident Aaron Sargent was elected to the United States Congress. Sargent –– co-founder of the Nevada County Republican Party in 1856 –– was seen cozying up to some Democrats, (actually joking and laughing with them, if you can imagine such a travesty), prompting some Republican brethren to soundly scold Aaron and counsel the rookie congressman about party loyalty.

    In response to the tongue-lashing he received, Sargent publicly replied, “I am a Republican. I am proud to be a Republican and I will always be a Republican. But I am more: I am an American.”

    Near as I can tell, what R.L. is saying in 2012 is pretty much what Congressman Sargent said in 1860. But is anyone actually listening?

  4. A now the immigrants are finding more success elsewhere:


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