San Francisco Shoots Itself In The Foot, Literally
The City I live in represents the mass income disparity and greed that has satiated the appetite of American capitalism run amok. I actually have no problem with capitalism. It is corporatism that is killing capitalism and many critical thinkers are exhausted trying to explain the difference to the average American dullard.
My former place of residence sits across the street from an adorable little tree lined park. This park sits at the foot of the City, on the southern end, near the on ramp to the highway. Within the park sits one of the cutest little art benches for little old ladies to sit on while their boutique dogs run in the grass. Steps away is a state of the art playground area for the new generation to climb on and jump around in and throw temper tantrums in while, checking their cell phones or sipping their lattes, their parents look on in bored interest.
The parents I see these days, especially in this neighborhood where 2 bedroom houses run for $4 million, display a look of smugness thinly veiling the horrors of the knowledge that their children will never, ever be thriving useful members of American society. The irony of all this is that they aren’t even aware that the corporatist America they perpetuate gives rise to this opportunity-less, future-less America. In other words, I hope you like your children, because you are creating a world where they are never, ever going to be able to afford to leave you.
Across from this park, are the projects. Low income housing, mostly occupied by people of color, take up at least three city blocks. And what separates this low income housing from one of the most wealthy neighborhoods in the country is this small, little picturesque City park.
The other night, while I was enjoying a vegan dinner that my boyfriend prepared for a friend and me at home across town, unbeknownst to me, there was apparently a shooting in this tiny little park. Here I was, chatting on about politics and the general absurdity of life when at the same time there was a shooting taking place just steps from my former residence of over 7 years. I learned about the shooting two days after it happened.
It was only a matter of time for this to happen, for the frequency and constancy of burglaries and gun violence are on the rise in San Francisco. And the reason why is an easy obvious explanation. Yes, billions of dollars have been dumped into San Francisco’s corporate interests and all of it is going to the white folks. The Saudi Arabian regime, for example, has invested billions of dollars into Uber and Lyft alone, rendering taxi drivers obsolete. Yes, it’s a terrible tragic thing to see local San Francisco workers pushed out of their own City and forced to find new residences or move back home, or pick up two or three additional jobs just so they can make their rent.
But, the real reason that the violence and burglaries are on the rise is the lack of respect for those that have made this town their home and source of income, for generations; they are responding to being treated like garbage in the way of progress.
It’s not just the newcomers that treat these people like refuse to be discarded. It’s often the natives who enjoy trust funds, living off their parent’s good fortune. Their parents happened to be at the right place at the right time, and bought real estate back when San Francisco was reasonably affordable. And they really rub it in.
Respect, or lack of it, can make or break a relationship.
A program takes place in San Francisco called “Sunday Streets.” Traffic is closed down, cars are rerouted and each Sunday, in a random neighborhood throughout the City, children can ride their bikes freely, make sidewalk chalk art, and play games while the neighbors all get to know one another and connect socially in a healthy safe environment. I have volunteered for this program, passing out literature about how to get involved in city planning, or re-routing traffic or just generally mingling as a way to get out and enjoy what usually amounts to a pleasant Sunday.
One particular Sunday Streets, years ago, I struck up a conversation with a young man who was wheelchair bound. He had lost the use of his legs due to gang related gun violence. He was very social and very chatty. The first thing he said to me was , “I never saw so many white people in my neighborhood before. I’ve never seen such a crowded mixture of black people and Latino people and white people all in one area.” He explained that he had always avoided the Sunday Streets festivities because he assumed it was just something for the white people to enjoy. I assured him that Sunday Streets is a free community event for everyone to enjoy. I encouraged him to tell his friends and become involved, even suggesting he sign up to volunteer.
Out of the blue he asked me why I was talking to him. Admittedly, this caught me off guard a little bit. I asked him, “Why would you ask that and why wouldn’t I talk to you?” He explained it’s pretty unusual for a white lady to talk to a wheelchair bound Latino with gang tattoos.
“You live over there,” and he pointed to the other side of the park. “And I live over here.” And he pointed to the low income housing projects. “And we know there there is an unspoken rule that we don’t talk to each other.”
This bothered me on a deep level, and if it doesn’t bother you then there is something wrong with you.
Rather than bore him with my intricate knowledge of embedded racism structurally designed to keep our country impoverished and in a slave labor mentality, and our manufactured consent of voting against our best interests and our celebration of reality TV over Chris Hedges-like wisdom or the global mission of the Dalai Lama, or the masterful movement of Martin Luther King, Jr., I just let him talk about himself.
He had been shot with a gun and now could not walk. He is confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He attributed his life to God and his mother, who loved him unconditionally. He had friends but he didn’t think they were good for him. He felt that because he survived being shot, that it was his responsibility to make something of himself but he didn’t know what he was supposed to do. He was only 21 and he wanted to make his mother proud.
We talked for a long while about what he liked, and what he thought he would be good at. We shared a pupusa and walked around a little bit, enjoying some of the street performances. Toward the end of it, I told him that I thought he would be a good public speaker. I said that he should go around to different high schools throughout the country, inner city schools, and talk about how gang violence can be a deadly and dangerous decision and interrupt a young person’s destiny. I told him I felt his destiny was to go into public speaking. I told him about Nick Vujucic who was born without arms or legs, yet he swims and thrives and goes on speaking tours as a motivational speaker.
He became inspired and excited and said he couldn’t wait to tell his mom about our talk. He fist bumped me. I walked with him back to his low income housing project while he pushed himself in his wheelchair. I told him that the nice neighborhood I lived in across the park was no different than where he lived.
When I learned about the shooting that happened in the park the other day, my heart sank and I worried about my young friend from years ago. I read a comment on the news article from an entitled local, who went into great detail about how the sound of gunfire rattled him, and he could hear the sounds of bullets ricocheting off the playground structures as he said goodbye to his dinner guests.
The shooting came as no surprise. As time has gone by and more and more people are pushing their way in and buying up expensive housing and investing their millions and billions into the neighborhood, the disdain for those that live on the other side of the park had grown deeper and deeper.
These were palpable, angering conversations overheard while I walked my dog. They dripped with entitlement and judgment and it left me disgusted.
My neighborhood I had lived in for over 7 years was repelling me on a daily basis, and not because of what sits across the other side of one of the most idyllic parks in the City. My disdain for some of my neighbors and their screaming at our community supervisor to “get rid of the riffraff” was growing on a daily basis.
The constant bravado and lack of understanding of what those on the other side of the park must face on a daily basis from police targeting to being pressured by gangs was a repugnant display of entitlement and lack of intellect.
These are the same kind of people that might attempt to restrain someone based on nothing but their own hysteria or even their differing political beliefs. They are actually the ones to be avoided, not those that live on the other side of the park.
As our country posits itself further and further into stupid narcissism, and selfish entitlement and as it turns a blind eye to the income disparity and passes ruthless judgment on those around us because we live in a system designed to keep those less fortunate than us less fortunate than us, the violence will increase. It won’t increase because these people are prone to violence.
It will increase because we assume they should respect us, while we, in turn, show no respect toward them.