My spirit plummets as I type the obligatory New Years post. Despite decades of economic and social progress – and in spite of millions more voting for Hillary – a narcissistic hate filled bastard becomes president on January 20, 2017. Even proof Russia interfered with the election didn’t deter this travesty. (Though I laugh; conservative family and friends have long accused me of being a traitor. Yet, most surrendered our country without firing a shot.)
Still, as Thomas Paine eloquently wrote, “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” Or as we say in my family, “it’s put up or shut up time.” This means signing up for the Muslim registry, possibly hiding the Dream Students (think the Underground Railroad), using Grassroots to Lobby Congress, and funding nonprofits big and small to replace lost government services. See up top for organizations where you can take action.
Welcome to Trump’s Amerika San Francisco style. Skipping my usual walk in hopes of finishing a work project, I instead wandered over to the Standing Rock Protest. Along the way I greeted the SFPD with a smile and half-wave (as did other protesters; everyone’s a regular here.)
Newt Gingrich used to disparage San Francisco protests as a “cheap date,” but he never understood the sheer pageantry and choreographed joy each brought. I can recall running out for days on end in the the late 80’s (Gulf War 1, LGBT Rights, and Police Brutality). Today I found myself reflexively checking my phone so I didn’t miss my start time. Damn it sucks to grow old. But sacrificing my first college education for politics taught me something. What I forget my migraines and need for health benefits reinforce.
The mellow crowd joined speakers in singing Wiccan, Jewish, and Christian spirituals. Female voices pervaded, providing a comfort I sorely missed. However, one young man had an enchanting voice which stilled everyone. Together it felt like someone, or something, embraced us all.
Glancing around I saw protesters of all ages. Squinting I vaguely recognized some of the older ones. [It’s really been years since I ventured out.] Moving actively around them were youngsters in their teens, twenties, thirties and forties. Many had amazing costumes and clever signs. Still I refrained from too many close up pictures because the police were taking plenty of them. However, sometimes I couldn’t resist.
Trudging back to work I felt guilty for not joining the march. However, I suspect many more opportunities will soon follow. Besides things were well in hand without me. Kinda of my life story. But it’s okay; I help most by telling other people’s stories.
So yes, CSheila blogs again. And somewhere my mother smiles.
Walking to work from MUNI in the Civic Center can be a fascinating experience as long as you remain alert. Mind you weaving through traffic and around waste – less said the better – hones one’s observation skills.
But those skills create the false illusion you are seeing everything.
Case in point the Mid-Market (read Loin) attempted metamorphosis into a “middle class neighborhood” – only in San Francisco – through high rise apartments averaging $3,000 plus a month.
Will it succeed? Initially yes but long term remains questionable. Why? It’s unclear the newest neighbors understand San Francisco’s cyclical economy and population density require certain attitude adjustments. Conversely those most resentful of the financial upheaval must accept these folks are not going away.
As the weather people are fond of saying the earliest indicators are not good. A beautiful new supermarket opened next door to Twitter – replete with enticing pictures promising foods from all over- but it doesn’t list it’s hours and remains closed before 8:00 a.m.
I guess if you have to ask the hours you don’t belong there. Surrounding this newest slice of retail heaven are emotionally disturbed street residents navigating a savaged mental health system. Contrary to developers’ dream designs these folks’ psychotic breaks will not take place off stage. See John King’s great article on Developers Narrow Vision
Okay how do we fix this problem?
Developers and tenants must understand short of tanks rolling you will not move everyone to Oakland (Nice Try Libby but No Thanks). [Given each also lives paycheck to paycheck thanks to their high rents a certain humility would also be welcome.] This means directing additional money to mental health programs.
Homeless Advocates and City Hall must set up shelters accepting pets, offering showers, and providing treatment while demanding accountability. [Forced treatment of mentally ill remains a seemingly intractable issue but if we don’t allow people to bleed to death on the street how can we ignore self-harm or assaults on others.] Those screaming about criminalizing the homeless must understand prisons don’t only exist behind bars.
In the meantime the neighborhood continues strong.
I toddled off to Walgreens which has been serving and welcoming all San Franciscans for decades. Retirees practiced their tai chi and lapped me as they circuited the Civic Center Plaza. Two homeless men eagerly played cards.
Throughout Falung Gong members continued their vigil.
I must commend The Log Cabin Club for finally obtaining recognition within the Republican Party. See Log Cabin Recognized
Mind you I just sent generations of my working-class ancestors ancestors spinning in their graves. I’ll leave it to you to figure out whether Gay or Republican put them over the edge. Given brains run in my family – – as well as homosexuality – –I’ll pick the latter.
The easy post would attack the “Grand Old Party’s” closeted history. I could conjure up the HUAC specters of Cohn and McCarthy rooting out hidden homosexuals while at least one lived an openly gay life. Or I could snipe at more recent Republicans performing tap dances in bathrooms while spending their careers smashing fellow queers. See Outrage Video
But quick and easy would deny the more storied history surrounding Lincoln’s Party. Abolitionists helped found the Party. Later it fought on behalf of freed blacks during and after the Civil War. See Radical Republicans Even as a child I remember the Rockefeller Republicans who fought for the ERA.
More importantly both paragraphs above deny the United States’ complicated political history. Southern Racist Democrats moved en masse to the Republican Party in the 1960s and visa versa. This pattern has repeated itself throughout US history with Parties whose name only means something to PhDs. IMHO it comes down to believers in government and haters of government. The twain shall only meet on April 15.
No I write because the Log Cabin member fought and won acceptance on their home turf. This emotional acceptance helps not only any child seeking his or her proverbial home –“Auntie Alice, Auntie Alice” –but all parents, siblings, and others desperately wanting to extend the greeting. Besides given the homophobic horrors currently thriving within the California GOP it’s a meaningful victory despite being decades overdue.
More to the point, haters only really win when they can demonize [make distant] the other. Anytime and anywhere this breaks down humanity moves forward.
Of course my tree splitting friends, the niceness goes away tomorrow. Then you non-1%ers can explain why you keep hanging out with Koch and his friends.
Yes, like the proverbial bad penny I turned back up. Mind you, WordPress seeking its renewal fee played a huge role. Every time I change a card number my automated life goes to hell because — gasp — I must remember passwords and type numbers. With those skills I would be a techie and not struggle with inserting images.
But truthfully it’s been a long time in coming. Why? Communicating feeds my soul. Without it I become my migraine fog or current obsession. Neither are very pleasant nor particularly interesting. Even when I’m (literally) hiding from the light I’ve begun listening to nonfiction shows or books. I don’t fear dementia – some would say it’s already arrived – I just want to learn stuff for later conversation or posting.
A lot happened over the past year. Like everyone else, I lived, died, and resurrected with the Giants. I can’t thank those boys enough for being so San Francisco. Too cool for school most of the year and then pulling it out of their [fill-in-the-blank] at the end. Yes, I can hear the haters chant it’s a corporate machine. Whatever. They brought every part of this City together without scandal or violence (are you listening Niners?). Not to mention forced the East Coast Media Establishment’s heads to explode. A win any way you look at it.
I have loads to talk about in future posts. The homeless situation spawns almost daily and seemingly endless tragedies. Our local archbishop beats the local media like a drum despite using every page of the Internet Troll playbook. With MUNI imploding and rents rising we continue to build our City’s future on quicksand.
But for now I must stop. Need to figure out what and where to pay WordPress. Then climb into bed with icepack strapped to my scalp.
Before I leave, however,I pledge a weekly post. Pictures may be sparser until I remember previous free sites. I must adjust to a world without my camera (see future post).
Most of us exist in a dream state. We chase after our greatest desires, or fend off our current challenges, without giving real thought to what matters. “What” being our connections to loved ones.
Collective tragedies like the Sandy Hook Shootings, the Boston Marathon Bombings, and the Waco Plant Blast jolt our delirium. Instantly we morph into a community vicariously facing our greatest fears as we sit transfixed near flickering screens. During this collective outpouring we will hug our loved ones closer and dig deep to send what comfort we can afford. In time the closeness will pass as everyday life and loved ones reassert themselves, but painful memories defining generation remain. Dates like November 1963 or 9/11, remembrances of past wars, genocides, or plagues (AIDS), and the seemingly endless mass shootings will drag us back to the original horror.
However, nothing prepares us for the loss of a truly loved one. Even if anticipated the loss brings us to our knees. If we are fortunate, friends and family help pick us up. Still it remains a journey each of us must walk alone. A bleak journey designed to get us to accept a seemingly unbearable loss. Time helps but memories matter more (once we pass the ones loaded with regret). In time hopefully we regain strength enough to once again pass along the love so generously bestowed on us.
Before a torrent of losses of persons both known and unknown, I might have admonished everyone to grab a hold of their loved ones. (Obviously I recommend this approach on all possible occasions.) However, much like the now cliché quote from the movie, “we can’t handle the truth” we can’t handle the ecstasy accompanying the emotion. Truly grasping what losing a dearly loved one means would render us besotted, unable to leave their side. Most likely we would lose them along with our ability to continue as a species.
Still we must train our senses to capture the ecstasy when it arrives (often by surprise). It’s not the big events I remember spending with my mom, loved ones lost to death, or former friends and lovers. Often its an ordinary day spent doing ordinary things or perhaps a silly day where responsibilities got tossed. At the time it filled me with happiness but didn’t register large in my life. Now these moments are a lifeline. Pay attention to them and soak them for every bit of available joy. God knows we will be back in front of our flickering screens soon enough.
Growing up as a bookworm gave me a strong affinity for older, elaborate homes. My favorite tales featured hidden passageways, transport to other worlds, or (as I aged) bodies crying out for justice. None of these things frightened me because each promised the fictional release my brain and spirit craved.
Later – as I pursued my passion for social justice – I looked to history both for inspiration and justification. The large homes I had avidly scoured for secrets became reduced to symbols of excess (especially after learning my relatives toiled downstairs to run them). Smaller, run-down homes I once barely glanced at achieved heroic status as examples of working class ingenuity.
In time – lots of time – I removed both the dreams and the judgments. Having come from a working class family I could see the skilled labor and fine materials poured into the more elaborate homes. Frankly the same went for the smaller homes clearly built from Sears Catalogs and salvaged items. In each case I could appreciate how these efforts allowed them to stand through the decades.
While I will never forget or forgive the excesses poured into some homes (both old and new) while many people barely survive, I cannot help but photograph them. In glancing at my favorites, however, I realize I need to capture the smaller, older ones. This will be quest.
Can you go home again? And even if you could, should you?
Most of you are shouting “HELL NO” because past experiences discourage such a fanciful exercise. Returning to small classrooms remind us how it felt being small and powerless. Class reunions trigger old insecurities and disappoint dreams of rekindling old bonds. Family get-togethers rife with tension inspire endless novels, plays, and films skewering the underlying hypocrisy and pain.
Yet the enduring truth about family – be it is biological or created – is no one knows you – or rather past parts of you – better. Conversely you know them. It explains why nothing hurts worse than a searing conversation with a past lover, estranged family member, or classmate with an overly good memory (yes they exist, even in my age group :)). Wisely many of us avoid these conversations (not only do we suffer but we inflict suffering in return). Too often funerals drive home the painful finality of this choice. Still most of us have moved on to create new families and/or communities so we generally even survive this horrible guilt.
However the very items sowing the seeds of emotional terror also support the bridge to honest communication. Despite conventional wisdom – and millions spent to reinforce it – deep down no one carries more credibility than someone of our own background. (Yes, we can all name favorite pundits, celebrities, and ball players. But I said DEEP DOWN.) The same bridge(s) among us also provides refuge when things get really bad (pride be dammed) financially or emotionally. Past closeness and ever-present DNA spawn obligation deeper than the eye can fathom.
Its this ever present obligation – and past bonds – which prompt me to post the following election advice to old friends and classmates.
Yes, it hurts to lose campaigns. I have spent most of life supporting losing candidates and causes because either conscience (liberal) or identity (lesbian) demanded it. Afterwards I spent my free time fighting those new administration’s policies on war, poverty, or civil rights. Similarly, each year I came up with money I didn’t have to fight nearly annual referendums designed to prevent the LGBT community from holding jobs or keeping our families and relationships safe. I don’t begrudge the time or the money, especially since each seems to be paying off. It’s the same reasoning prompting me to respect those former friends, classmates, and family members still pushing for a conservative movement. Hopefully this mutual respect will allow us to find common areas of agreement.
However I must address a disturbingly large fringe of you. (Mind you, though, it truthfully surprises me who among you ended up on this fringe.)
Grow up people. Quash the racist imagery (you know who you are). Quit mocking poor and disabled folks (especially when some many of us remain a paycheck or diagnosis away from joining them). Quiet your inner demons demanding you see each darker skinner person as a criminal non-citizen (especially when as a child most of you resisted this temptation). None of you either came from – or even married – the fabled 1%. Many of you – like me – lack the racial purity necessary to truly belong to Aryan Nation. Even choosing a conservative parish won’t save you when the forces behind most organized religions decided to jettison you (besides how many of you really want your life run by an Ayatollah of any stripe?).
This election merely gave voice to the pre-existing New Diversity. Most of your children will move on to embrace it either economically (it makes good business sense) or romantically (to paraphrase a brilliant writer: “the best racial integration is horizontal” — why, it builds family). They will leave you behind much like many of us turned away from our grandparents’ overt racism. You will also find yourselves increasingly isolated both at work or online.
If you really can’t hold it together right now, then step away from the keyboard. Many of us are watching appalled and with growing anger. Even if you want to cut off all our past connections, remember what you type stays somewhere. Make similarly stupid remarks at work and you will find folks scouring for other racist comments when they sue you. Most importantly, a time-out might also let you remember how we all once wanted to make the future a better place.