What is Los Angeles telling us as it begins a year-long celebration of its 200th anniversary next September? Each Angeleno would probably have a different story, depending on where he or she fits into a slice of America at its best and worst. But to us, from this distance and in the glow of an occasional visit, Los Angeles is proclaiming that the problems of the United States are still the problems of growth, not of decline -- and that, for all the stress and strain and lingering inequity, there is an exhilaration in confronting them.
In a sense it might be said that, if Los Angeles can be made to work, America can be made to work. It not only is the country's new second largest city, according to preliminary 1980 census figures. It also seems to have extra-large examples of the nation's challenge to maintain and enhance its physical, economic, and social environment.
With all that smog and all those cars, Los Angeles has to take a lead in reducing man- made pollution. With all that new building in a region of floods, landslides, and earthquakes, Los Angeles and its environs have to take a lead in fostering development that is safe and sane.
As such growth goes forward the economic dangers of inflation and of leaving too many behind loom also. What Los Angeles learns here can help places where the situation is less dramatic.
And, when it comes to the social scene, consider the potential model of a Los Angeles with an expected majority of Latin American, Asian, and African stock continuing to prove the virtues of the American melting pot. With an increasing preponderance of the world's population something other than white Anglo- Saxons , Los Angeles has an opportunity to help the United States once again be a pioneer at finding strength, energy, brotherhood, and creativity in a diversity united on basic American principles.
The social environment embraces the cultural and moral environment on which Los Angeles also has something to tell us. Culture and morality can hardly fall lower than the pornographic blights on some Los Angeles streets, the perverse exploitation of men, women, and even children. Less blatant but more widely pervasive are the subtly and not so subtly demoralizing television and movie products cranked out by the Los Angeles entertainment industry.
But that same industry has shown itself capable of artistic achievement of a high order. And in the realm of the visual and performing arts Los Angeles has been pulling itself up with extraordinary vitality, becoming an exporter to No. 1 New York and the rest of the country. It has been demonstrating not only that the comparatively "new" money of the Western wealthy can be put to as discerning uses of community enrichment as the old money of the older shore -- but that there is a citizenry ready to fill museums, sell out theaters, when it is offered quality.
The third century of Los Angeles will be something!