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Monday, May 20, 2024

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UncategorizedEnough is enough: Saving SF values

Enough is enough: Saving SF values

San Francisco values were not born with flowers in their hair – they were born howling, in strife. It's time to fight for them again

Editor’s note: A lot of us were amazed to see more than 100 people crowd into the Women’s Building Friday night for a general meeting of SFVision, a new organization that is trying to bring more people from across the spectrum into the politics of saving San Francisco. Author David Talbot gave the opening speech, which we’re running here. 

Enough is enough!

David Talbot says enough is enough
David Talbot says enough is enough

Enough homelessness and human misery on our streets. Enough friends and family members thrown out of their homes by landlords because they’re not worth enough. Enough city hall leaders who think they’re in public service to serve private greed. Enough young men of color being hunted down by trigger-happy cops and shot in the back. Enough Super Bowl cities and corporate orgies taking over our streets for the benefit of billionaires and their entourages, while police tell the rest of us to move along, move along.

Enough, enough, enough. No mas, no mas, no mas! This is our city and we’re taking it back.

By now you’ve all probably heard of a young San Francisco entrepreneur named Justin Keller – the latest “tech bro” to become a poster boy for selfishness. Keller wrote an open letter to Mayor Lee on his blog complaining about the growing homeless problem in our city. Now Keller wasn’t offering to help people in need, by rolling up his sleeves or taking out his wallet — he was just complaining that he was forced to see more and more of these raggedy people. And he wanted the mayor to get rid of this mess, this eyesore… now! Because people like him have worked hard and made lots of money and they shouldn’t have to put up with unpleasant things like this in their city.

This, my friends, is a perfect expression of everything wrong in our city today. Suffering people are seen as problems to be engineered away, to be hosed off the street. They are not part of our community, they are THE OTHER.

Division Street. Where the homeless camp keeps growing. Is there any better name for it? It’s almost poetic. Because we’ve allowed ourselves to be divided into the haves and the have-nots. And those who don’t have do not belong in the new San Francisco. They should be evicted – not just from their homes, but from our sight.

Even if those people were made homeless in the first place by the very city hall policies that benefited tech bros like Justin Keller. Division Street runs directly through city hall — because Mayor Ed Lee and his billionaire tech buddies turned a chronic, but manageable homeless problem into a raging, full-blown crisis by bringing in an occupying army of techies with nowhere to put them. As a result, thousands of hard-working San Franciscans were thrown onto the streets by greedy landlords, so this new cash-flush army could be billeted in their homes. That’s right — over 70 percent of the homeless once had homes in San Francisco.

Many of us remember another time when people in need, people fighting for their lives were scapegoated, were turned into pariahs. That was when AIDS struck our community – a mysterious and deadly epidemic that began cutting down our young gay brothers. There were those who wanted to get rid of these sick men too. They wanted to round them up, or quarantine them, or dump them on the street, or even tattoo them – as if their physical suffering did not mark them enough.

But the people of San Francisco ultimately resisted this reign of cruelty and fear – and we came together to take care of our sick and dying brothers. In that moment, we truly became the City of St. Francis – the city of compassion and love and San Francisco values. The city that said we leave no one behind.

This is who we truly are – we open our golden gate and we take people in. The social outcasts and the dreamers, the freaks and the misfits. And yes the poor and the homeless. Because we are all one. Because we know that they are us.

“There But For Fortune Go You Or I.” Some of you remember that old folk song, written by Phil Ochs and sung so beautifully by Joan Baez.

Show me a prison, show me a jail
Show me a prisoner, whose face is growing pale
And I’ll show you a young man with so many reasons why
There but for fortune, go you or I

Show me an alley, show me a train
Show me a hobo who sleeps out in the rain
And I’ll show you a young man with so many reasons why
There but for fortune, go you and I

There but for fortune…and yes that even goes for tech bros like Justin Keller. What goes up must come down in capitalism, as in life. Keller and his startup company are just one more Chinese stock market crash, one more Silicon Valley bankruptcy away from disaster. And then Keller himself could be one of those raggedy tent people whom he hates looking at every day.

But there’s a way out of this vicious cycle of boom and bust, of luxury and misery. We have to organize to make life in our city more humane again, to restore our San Francisco values of love and compassion.

You know, as I wrote in my book Season of the Witch, those San Francisco values were not born with flowers in their hair – they were born howling, in strife. We had to fight for them every step of the way.

It’s time to fight for them again.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

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