Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bumper sticker war

Torsten and I have been living in Colorado for about two and a half years. We love it, and we're planning on staying here for the rest of our lives. But there's no denying that we aren't Colorado natives. Callum is, though. And now that I have a kid who's considered a Colorado native, does that mean I have more of a right to live here myself?

Because the thing is, Torsten and I aren't the only people who've noticed how awesome Colorado is. According to the Census bureau, Colorado's population grew by 16.9% from 2000 to 2010 (9.7% is the national average). According to the Denver Post, the state had the fourth highest growth rate in the country in 2008, and the seventh highest growth rate in the country over the past decade. The Post estimates that more than 50% of that growth came from people moving here from other states and countries.

And really, you can hardly blame them. Colorado is awesome. The weather is fantastic (we are known for our cold winters, and while we definitely have our cold moments, what some people don't realize is that we also have lots of mild snaps in the winter, with sunny days in the 60s, which more than makes up for some sub-zero snowy days, in my opinion). There's no humidity. The mountains are absolutely gorgeous, and so great for exploring in both summer and winter. The people are nice. We have a major airport. It's very dog-friendly. Denver is a good-size city and Boulder is a lovely smaller town. We have an excellent public university system. The cost of living is reasonable. And so on and so forth. Basically, there are a ton of reasons why we decided to move here when we could have moved anywhere--and obviously we weren't the only ones to come to that conclusion.

So, there are a lot of people living in Colorado who aren't from Colorado. Which is fine! Yay for an interconnected world where we don't all just set up house on our parents' property, or marry into the family on the next farm over, right?

Except that all these Colorado natives like to complain about the transplants. They complain that they're a drag on resources, that they're leading to urban sprawl, that they don't care about Colorado's heritage or its beauty, that they place undue pressure on fragile ecosystems, that they contribute to pollution and development and destruction. Some of the more conservative people also complain that the transplants, who for the most part tend to be more politically liberal and drawn to the Denver-Boulder corridor, are making this once-conservative place into a swing state.

Personally, as you can guess, I don't agree with most of these complaints. I love Colorado in a way that I've never loved anywhere that I lived before. I care about it. I take advantage of what it has to offer. And I boost its economy by living here, spending money here, and paying taxes here. I don't mind the tourists, either (and there are lots of tourists because of Colorado's great skiing), because they are a huge part of Colorado's economy as well.

I also don't see what being born and raised here has to do with how much you appreciate this state and how well you care for it. In fact, I think the argument could be reversed to say that the transplants moved here because they wanted to be here, whereas people who were born here might take it for granted. But that wouldn't make much sense either. Really, we are all given the opportunity to be responsible stewards of our homes, whether we've lived in the same place all our lives or not, you know?

But I do think it's pretty amusing that this clash has led to what I personally consider to be snooty bumper stickers. They are a play on the Colorado license plate, which looks like this:

Except they say NATIVE, like this, as though that's something transplants should be jealous of:

And of course, now there are the counter-stickers, which say TRANSPLANT, like this:

And I recently saw one that was in the same format but simply said BITE ME. Unclear if this was a big eff you to the entire back and forth, or simply a nod to Colorado's fly fishing opportunities. Either way, it made me laugh. My Google searching for these images also led me to variations that say things like XENOPHOBE and NO VACANCY. Strong feelings on both sides, apparently, as expressed through bumper stickers.

Even the state of Colorado has jumped on the bandwagon, offering a Pioneers license plate that, until recently, was only available to people who could prove that they were the descendant of someone who lived in Colorado 100 years ago (and the only reason the state stopped requiring this and started making the design available to everyone was because they found out that asking for this information was illegal):

What about where you live? Are there lots of people moving in? Or moving out? Are there tensions between people who've lived there forever and people who have newly arrived? Do you think it matters?


  1. I've been thinking about this because I've lived in Seattle for 10 years now. So what does that make me? A pacific islander ex-pat? I definitely feel like a Seattleite, though and I felt this when I was in Atlanta this past weekend. It was so different--burning hot, people smoking everywhere and alcohol sales banned on Sunday. I love Seattle because it's cold, people are healthy and you can buy most alcohol any day of the week.

  2. I put a house on my parents farm and married the guy from a few houses over so I'm kind of partial to that lifestyle but Colorado sounds wonderful. I ve been to Denver and it was beautiful.

  3. I always find it so ironic when AMERICANS poo-poo other people moving into areas where they have lived for a while. Um, HELLO, isn't that what this country was founded on? We were a bunch of people who intruded on other people's land. My attitude is, get over it. Unless someone is stepping foot on your private property, it isn't yours in the first place and therefore lots of people have a right to stop by, visit or even settle down. Sheesh!

  4. People say that Minnesota can be a difficult place to move to because it can be hard create friendships with people who have lived here all their lives and already have friends. I haven't found that to be true though. And there certainly aren't people here campaigning against "outsiders" moving here.

  5. I live in a place where everyone gets a college degree and flees for their lives (probably to Colorado).

    I think a lot of the anti-immigration stance has a lot to do with this. But really, now we are even going to discriminate between other Americans? Holy cat hair.

    Conservatives. (Shrug)

  6. Given that I live in Colorado and qualify for the Native and Pioneer stickers and plates, I'll just point out that the native versus non-native stickers first came to life in the early 70's with the first wave of outside immigration from California.

    I sometimes miss the "good old days" before the front range became just another urban waste land. At least the far rural areas have remained free of crushing population loads. {*grin*}

    1. the only qualification for a Colorado native is either you were born in Colorado or you were not. plain and simple.

  7. Right before I started 6th grade there was a HUGE, inexplicable influx of people moving into my very small town over the summer. (We didn't even have a 4-way stop at the time, I'm talking a small town.) It seemed every last one of them was from California. The influx was so large that my school had to add 2 more 6th grade classes the first week of school because we were cramming 45-50 kids in each classroom (we already had 4 classes of kids). Multiply that by the other 5 grades in my elementary. It was insanity. And the "native's" were pretty disgruntled about the whole thing; these California people were moving in by the hundreds, throwing up these big, ugly, stucco'd McMansions that filled up the entire quarter-acre lot (as opposed to the modest brick homes with large vegetable gardens that we all lived in) and overrunning the public facilities (schools, roads, parks, etc) that just were not equipped to handle that kind of an influx.

    It took a while before we, the nNative's" stopped complaining about the people from California. I think it just takes some time to adjust to such rapid growth (like you are experiencing in Colorado), and I don't think that 10-15 years is that unusual a time-frame to adjust to such a big population change.

    That doesn't mean I'm a snooty conservative who hates immigration, either. What I'm trying to say is that it takes most state or local governments at least a decade to properly catch up to an unexpected growth like that, raise the revenue and then build the infrastructure to handle it. Until then, the "native's" notice more traffic, more pollution, more sprawl, etc and aren't happy about it. So they express their feelings via a bumper-sticker war, or, at least they do in Colorado.

  8. We have those same Native stickers here in Oregon, although I haven't seen the transplants. It cracks me up that many of your commenters mentioned the California haters. That's what it is here in Oregon too. "Oh, you moved here from New York/Washington/Nebraska/Florida? Cool!" "Oh, you're from California? You people are RUINING our state." Clearly many states dislike Californians! (for the record, I think we have room for everyone).

  9. I live in Oregon, and has Tia mentioned, Oregon loves to hate on California. I am not a native-Oregonian, and many of my friends moved here (mostly it seems from the midwest). I find that Oregon, or at least Portland, has been mostly welcoming ( unless of course - you are from California). A few years ago we lived in Arizona - and they liked to hate on California as well.

    I think this is an interesting observation. I find it funny that Americans can be so territorial. I know there are native Texas, and native Arizona license plates as well. My husband is Canadian, and we lived in Texas and when we were going through the immigration process - we ran up agains many Texans angry that people would immigrate to their state at all. Now that Andrew has lived here (and paid taxes!) for six years - people are finding new reasons to dislike us - for moving to their state. Geez.

  10. i am a midwest transplant to connecticut. when we first moved here we were warned that people in connecticut were different and that no one would talk to you for a year. it was true, they are still different and i went a year with no social outlets outside of work-but they do talk to me now! but i still tell everyone i am from michigan and i live in connecticut...

  11. I think it's sort of cool that people in Colorado are so loving/protective of their area. I have some friends who moved out there a few years back and they just LOVE it. However... I'm from Michigan, so I'm definitely from a state that people are leaving, not flocking toward (though it's not without its charms! Just ask any Michigander about "up north" in the summer and be prepared for a long chat).

    I really like this post - it's interesting to hear your take on your new community. I wonder how it will compare to your son's when he's older?

  12. We are in New Mexico and the nearest city is actually growing in size because of people retiring there. I would say that many of the residents of this state are transplants. But I never bothered to look into it because we aren't staying anyway.

  13. Yay! I love and miss this kind of post!

    I've never understood what prompts someone to be vocal about being a native of...wherever. That's not to say that it's better to be a transplant, it's more to question why it matters at all. In some cases, it may be due to an underlying class divide in that educated, upper-middle class folks are more likely to have the means and opportunities to choose a place to live while blue collar families stay where they were raised (and perhaps try to turn that into a positive by scolding transplants?).

    The "pioneer" thing, on the other hand, sounds a bit like the Wild West version of the D.A.R.

    I was born and raised in California (and have an unreasonable amount of love for my state), but I welcome equally my friends who are moving back and those moving here for the first time.

  14. Well, as a Colorado Native married to a Colorado Native raising a Colorado Native, I think you should just be glad that I talk to you. (Please know I'm kidding).

    I will say that your political statement is true to a degree - I don't think you have to be conservative to realize that the surge of "transplants" to Colorado has shifted this Red State to more often than not a Blue State. There are lots of other factors too, but definitely the state's population growth is one of them. Which is just how things work - as new people move in, views change, etc etc. It happens everywhere.

    But I don't think the Native bumper stickers are snooty. Why shouldn't people be proud to have been born, raised and made the active choice to stay in this beautiful state? There's something about being born and raised Coloradoan that IS special - not to say that you're not special if you moved here, but I don't see the problem in being proud to have lived here your whole life. I love my Native status and would totally have a bumper sticker - if I liked bumper stickers.

    1. I'm a native of Colorado springs and I just wanted to say that was well said and its about time someone was on our side of this debate.

  15. ha. I lived in Colorado for 7 years, and it is exactly how you described (especially in the small town I lived in). There, when people complained, I reminded them that my entire department at the local hospital I worked at were transplants and that they would have a long drive for procedures if it weren't for us. But I can see the other side, too. It's hard to see your hometown change.

  16. As others have said, Oregon is very similar. It's especially directed toward Californians, but there is also a general feeling toward the "big city folk" who move to Portland these days ala Portlandia's "Dream of the 90s."(It's funny 'cause its true).

    I'm a 5th gen Oregonian, which for a West Coast state is a long time, resident. My family homesteaded in Eastern Oregon and a great great great grandfather (or some number of greats) was the 3rd post master of one of the towns there, and another great great (or something) grandfather was a circuit riding minister who used to open the state legislature sessions with prayer waaaay back when (apparently he was something of a character)! That said, I definitely acknowledge that, as a white girl, my "people" are not the real natives of this state anyway...and I choose to look at my 5th gen status as something interesting about my family history, and not any sort of superiority thing.

    Enjoy your home, and don't worry about the haters!

  17. It's very similar here in NC. I know your family lives in NC, so I don't know if you're already familiar with it here. It's especially bad in the Charlotte area. There's a saying that in the south, every city is know for a question they'll ask a stranger they meet. In Savannah, it's what would you like to drink? In Charleston, it's what church do you go to? But in Charlotte, it's where are you from? Because no one is from Charlotte anymore. The Charlotte-metro area seems like it is all transplants. From New York and Ohio.

    As a born and raised CT girl, I fall into that category too. I get a bad wrap a lot of the time from the few natives - or at least NC natives - that find out I'm from the north. "Oh, you're from up there??" And I want to immediately reply, "yes, but I'm not like the rest of them, I swear!"

    So many people come here because the cost of living is amazing and for nothing else. Why not? You can buy a 3500 sq ft house for $250k which would only get you barely 1400 sq ft in CT. But they don't appreciate a lot of what the south/NC has to offer.

    The "other" Yankees, as I like to refer to them, constantly complain about all things southern. It's definitely a different culture down here than it is in CT and the "others" don't appreciate it. I can understand why the natives take offense to this. Heck, I take offense to this! If you don't like it, move back to where you came from. I moved back to NC(went to college here) bc I *missed* the culture, the food, the people.

    A lot of these other folks are constantly picking on the southeners and the way they do things. Especially in the winter when we get bad weather. Saying how they can't believe everything is shut down for a few inches of snow and complaining that the roads aren't plowed and how can this be. Well, guess what - this isn't NY, we don't get 30" of snow at a time and we're not equipped to handle it. Deal with it.

    The tiny town I live in is rapidly changing and feels like it's turning into Charlotte. I don't want that and neither to the natives of my town that sport the "SAVE [name of town]!" stickers on their cars.

    So I guess what this long drawn out comment is saying, is that we experience that here too, but to an extent, I can understand where the it is coming from.

    Sure, this country is a melting pot (I'm only the second generation in my family to be born here), but I agree with one of the other commenters - what's wrong with being proud of your heritage - especially is others are trying to make it something different to accommodate their needs.

  18. Excellent topic! As my blogging has made no secret of, I was born and bred in NJ. But, it should also be noted, that I spent 7 years living in another state (NY, but trust me, it is like two different worlds).

    In college, I was actually only one of a few people from out of state, and found myself having to fiercely defend NJ to all my Long Island peers. And now that I've moved back, I'm more proud than ever.

    What does anger me is shows like Jersey Shore, expecially since I actually did grow up on the Jersey Shore, about 3 towns north of Seaside (no one local uses the "Heights"). What I feel like I MUST STRESS to people when the topic comes up is that Snookie and the Situation and the rest of the... characters... on that show ARE NOT FROM NEW JERSEY, LET ALONE THE SHORE!!! (Mostly, I think Deena and Sami are). So it really bothers me when people from other parts of the country think that's how we act in NJ or the shore.

    We are really just mellow, surfing, family oriented people who don't have a GTL routine or want to marry gorillas.

    So like I said, good topic!

  19. I actually chuckled while reading this post. I considered myself personally a half native... lol I have been visiting family here since I was a babe and moved here when I was 12. Now I've been here for 20 years, more than half my life... :)I hear alot of what you are saying from people around me and the funny thing is they haven't been here as long as I have. Cracks me up! The only complaint I have is driving habits. So many people cause accidents in some of the weather conditions we have. Whether it is driving too fast or too slow. That is my major complaint.

    Aren't we lucky to live here?

  20. I think the Rocky Mountain West is particular to this kind of attitude. Wyomingites are particularly proud of that title, seeing as how there are so very few of us.

    I have to admit, I am damn proud to be a Wyoming native. Not many of us can say that!

    A Wyoming Transplant sticker would not go over well.

    Wyoming stays the same. Many, many of its educated youth are forced to leave as there are no jobs for them, and skilled oil and coal workers stay. Our populations is a bit older than the national average, as a result.

    Ranch families tend to have people stay and run the ranch.

  21. Nobody in the Chicago 'burbs brags about living here unless they are bragging to someone who lives in a lesser 'burb. (Like mine!)

    Perhaps you create a sticker that reads, "Smart enough to know CHOOSE to live here."

  22. The Nova Scotian term for "transplant" is "come-from-away." The dumbasses who complain about the come-from-aways are one of the main reasons I moved away from there.

  23. Enjoyed reading this blog post which came up when I was searching for, you guessed it, NATIVE bumper stickers. Actually, my wife and I are wanting to get the ones for transplants like ourselves. We moved to Colorado Springs last fall after having visited here twice and fell in love with the area.

    Although I have seen a few "NATIVE"s around here, there are far more transplants in COS than probably any other part of Colorado. With the numerous military bases in our area, it's no wonder. Out of the many people we have met over the last few months, we only met one person who was native! We non-natives aren't alone here in COS!