I have a friend out here who totally gets it, what a crazy, deluded place is Berkeley. We have a saying that we use whenever describing the insanity around here. We say, “Forget it, Jake. It’s Berkeley.”
The line is derived from the 70s era movie, Chinatown, starring a young Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway. At the end of the movie, when Nicholson is emotionally overcome by the moral abyss of Chinatown, the other character consoles him with the line, “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.”
The phrase refers to the grime and grittiness and criminality of Chinatown. But it’s also, I think, a metaphor for what’s going on in the larger society of the 70s, particularly the moral decay in the urban areas. The decadence is dramatically captured in Faye Dunaway’s sick and twisted relationship with her father.
So the last line of the movie is about Chinatown. . but about a whole lot more as well. And when my friend and I say the slogan, we also mean that it’s about Berkeley, but much much more.
Yes, Berkeley is Berkeley. When the populace ignores and excuses the terrible things going on around here, my friend and I say, “It’s Berkeley.” When, for instance, a beloved member of the Berkeley Zen Center is murdered in cold blood, while residents turn a blind eye to the obscene crime rate around here, “it’s Berkeley.” (1)
But it’s not just about Berkeley. Just as the movie, Chinatown, wasn’t simply about a sliver of life in downtown Manhattan, “It’s Berkeley,” isn’t just about a small city in Northern California. Berkeley is not just a metaphor but an example — albeit an extreme one — of what could happen and is happening to many areas all over the country.
While there are pockets of upstanding citizens still throughout the US, the numbers are shrinking. One can tell a lot about a country by its government and its laws and the political discussions on people’s minds.
For the last 7 years or so, people have casually talked about whether or not to “Kill Granny.” And what does it say about a society when a newsmagazine — that is, Newsweek — glibly and callously even runs a cover story like that?
But the topic of euthanasia hasn’t simply been interesting cocktail party conversation. In hospitals all over the nation, older people and the disabled are being given lethal doses of opiates under the guise of making the patient “comfortable,” sometimes while their loved ones stand helplessly watching.
It’s no wonder that living, breathing people are now viewed in such a cold-hearted, dollars-and-cents manner. Human life is no longer honored and cherished as precious gifts from God — that God created; and it should be up to Him when a person dies. Millions of lives have been snuffed out by abortion, by some estimates, a third of the current young generation. And the current estimate of 58 million abortions in the US since l973 is lowballing it since the most populace state, California, has stubbornly refused to keep any statistics, defying federal mandates.
Not coincidentally, church attendance in our country is low, perhaps its lowest ever. Perhaps the only reasons that many churches are still open is because of immigrant believers from countries such as Mexico and the Philippines. Ironically, while American missionaries used to travel to the Third World to introduce God to the people, now they come here, thereby maintaining some semblance of Christianity in the US. When it comes to native born Americans, though, few seem to need the Almighty anymore for forgiveness, guidance, comfort, for life itself.
So we have a culture, like the movie version of Chinatown, in moral free fall. It’s no wonder: we cannot have a sustainable, enduring country without God, just as a baby cannot survive without a loving adult to care for him. When we try to take matters into our own hands, we see what we have today: rampant crime, racial strife, high rates of suicide, depression, and alienation. Death, darkness, and destruction — just how the Enemy works.
As my friend and I often say when we behold daily the darkness of Berkeley, “Forget it, Jake. It’s Berkeley.” But we can’t forget it, none of us can; the future is in the hands of each and every one of us. Because it’s not just Berkeley or Oakland or San Francisco; the same darkness is eroding people of all ages all over the country. This is inevitably what happens when a people abandon God.
And we don’t want to one day be saying to each other, “Forget it, Jake. It’s the United States.”
(1) For more information on the murder, please see the article below, We are Helpless.