Stop telling Californians to leave

California is home, a real home, for people of all kinds. My family has been in the United States for four generations, and in California for three. My spouse and I were each born and raised here. Our parents and siblings live here; our loved ones are buried here; we are building a new family here. We live alongside people whose ancestors have lived here for thousands of years, and people who arrived only recently. People who have crossed state lines, international borders, and even oceans to put down roots here.

We live here, whether or not we deserve to do so. This is our home. We are grieving for the place we thought we knew, and trying to come to grips with the violent and unpredictable environment in which we now find ourselves. The California fires, and the responses of the powers that be, are taking a real toll on real people: wildfire victims who have lost homes and loved ones, disabled and chronically ill people whose lives are at risk every time the power goes out. Even in my privileged bubble, my loved ones and I are coping with repeated illnesses from wildfire smoke, with losses of refrigerated food and medication, with grief and fear that threatens to overwhelm us.

As California burns hotter and longer, perhaps those of us with the greatest privilege and resources — those who can afford to start over somewhere else — will leave. But not everyone can, or will, abandon this place. And those of us who could, have perhaps the greatest responsibility to stay.