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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Publisher’s Notebook

• Malibu Xenophobia Anyone? •


The word xenophobia doesn’t trip lightly off the tongue. Its usage is now broadening to mean dislike or fear of anyone from outside one’s immediate circle, instead of just applying to people from other countries.
It’s not exactly a word that would be expected to be at the crux of a chance meeting when making a brief stop to pick up comestibles at the Point Dume Village supermarket.
The encounter—really a conversation of no more than 5 to 8 minutes—followed an inquiry by an elderly couple about whether I knew in which aisle a specific item was located.
Since I was headed in that direction, I suggested that they follow me, which they did, while simultaneously explaining they were staying at the Leo Carrillo campground.
Their distinct accents, matching Burberry scarves and the rest of their attire bespoke their background. Chatting and pushing a cart, they said their children are now grown and they are reliving their “country” childhoods with camping expeditions.
The pair enthused that “Leo,” as the rangers call the west Malibu State Park, is a wonderful campground, but added it is disappointing that, with all of Malibu’s public open space, there are not “more wilderness” campsites that aren’t so close to each other.
I was curious about their use of the term wilderness until they explained that they had researched camping in Malibu online last month and saw news articles about the Charmlee transfer debate.
They reacted in unison to the issue, “Why are the residents so negative about campers? We really care about the outdoors. Sometimes we think that people who live with something extraordinary do not appreciate it as much as visitors do. Could this have something to do with us being outsiders—xenophobia?”
Aside from a cursory explanation, a supermarket foray was neither the time nor the place to discuss the strong resident fears of fire, even though legal camping has never been connected to a wildfire in the history of the state of California, let alone Malibu.
The couple said they witnessed wildfires from a distance a few years ago on a trip to Australia, and then added, while they understand the residents’ concern, they don’t understand demonizing those who care so much about the outdoors.
The pair found what they came in to purchase and offered a courteous thank-you for directions and the brief conversation. As they turned down the aisle out of sight, I recorded some thoughts about the encounter.
Malibu is too special not to be shared. That is why public effort and funding are expended to obtain and protect as much as possible before it is covered by an extension of the urban blanket that new residents ostensibly leave behind only to try to recreate it here.
There is no shortage of people who strive to transform Malibu into a carbon copy of somewhere else. It just may take a few outsiders to remind the rest of the community that sharing Malibu might be the best way to protect what is still salvageable.

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