What’s so fundamentally American about tonight’s excellent concluding episode of Mad Men is the underlying notion, entertained by so many of the characters, that California is the answer to everyone’s problems. I share this attitude somewhat myself: I have loved every one of my four visits to the Golden State, and I spent three days in Santa Monica just last summer that I now look back on with love and awe. California is a place that takes on a life of its own in the spiritual imagination.
Ronald Reagan used to say that if the Pilgrims had initially come to the West Coast instead of the East Coast, they still, today, would not have reached as far as the East Coast. And the prominent Catholic writer Amy Welborn Dubrueil recently tweeted: “Routinely, as I read about the problems of California, I think, ‘Why do people live there? Just move!’ And then . . . I come visit and think . . .”
Of course, it’s a beautiful place, with every beautiful natural thing imaginable: oceans, deserts, gardens, mountains. But more important, it represents the future, a fresh start, the understanding that the minister from Don Draper’s childhood was right: The only unpardonable sin is to believe God can’t forgive you.