August 21, 2002

Bill Quick, over at Daily Pundit, linked to this drivel from San Francisco Chronicle ("The Chronic") columnist Mark Morford. I will attempt a rebuttal to the whole column.

Dang you left-coast liberal scum.

Well, he's off to a good start.

Buncha nugatory tree-hugging tofu-headed pacifist left-wing nutjobs, antiwar and Dubya-resistant and all smug and gay-friendly, sitting around naked in your hot spring mineral baths and enjoying deep-tissue massages in the woods and riding the mountain bike to the next polyamorous group sex vegan barbecue in the park. Christ.

If he ended it here, I'd be in total agreement with what's he said. Unfortunately, he had to continue.

Much of this country really does not like San Francisco in the slightest. This is my experience, a general sentiment culled from thousands of emails over a few years, excluding the happy throngs of yearning SF expats and the large numbers who consider themselves honorary SF-ites, underground progressives living like vegetarian pro-choice guerrilla rebels in patriotic ultra-affordable redneck burgs in dust-choked states that tend to rhyme with "Lexus."

Most of this country really does not like San Francisco's politics in the slightest. And the slap at Texas is just the first in a series of attacks Mr. Murford will be launching in this column.

Much of goodly America, from what I've read, thinks SF is truly beautiful and curious and worthy of a nice tourist visit to Fisherman's Wharf and maybe Alcatraz and North Beach for some overpriced pasta, strolling the streets with that oh-my-God-honey-grab-the-camera- look-at-all-the-crazies gleam.

San Francisco is a nice place to visit, not only for the crazies (of which there are plenty), but because the surroundings are beautiful, the parks (particularly the Presidio and Golden Gate Park) are gorgeous, and the weather is nice. San Francisco, however, does not have a monopoly on these amenities; San Diego and Monterey are also very nice, and for excitement, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami all blow the doors off the bay area.

But there is a certain chunk of the heartland, the "real" America (or "Amurika," as Geedubya calls it, or sometimes just "Merka," depending on how much he's struggling with the phonetics on the TelePrompTer), a great gaggle of honest hard-working citizens who write in and truly believe SF is Satan's own Romper Room, a festering cesspool of out-of-touch non-Americans who secretly worship Fidel Castro and want to abolish God.

"Amurika" is how LBJ pronounced it, not Bush. Bush mangles pronunciation sometimes, but this is not one of the words with which he has a problem. And yes, parts of San Francisco *are* a festering cesspool of out-of-touch non-Americans who secretly worship Fidel Castro and want to abolish God. The letters to the editor in the Chronic prove it every day.

And they think they are safe — safe in the deeply mistaken knowledge that their kids will never get a nose ring or a sacrum tattoo or a hemp-wearing heavily dreadlocked boyfriend named Starrspanker, never suffer the slings and arrows of a nuanced progressive ideology featuring a deeper understanding of exactly who is profiting most from our "war" on terrorism.

While sacrum tattoos and nose rings are sadly popular at this time, it is rather unlikely that someone living in suburban middle America will have to worry about their children dating a hemp-wearing heavily dreadlocked boyfriend named Starrspanker, because the rest of the country realizes that the sixties ended over thirty years ago. As to that vaunted "ideology", Middle America recognizes (and rejects) Marxism, regardless of what its propenents are calling it. I won't even begin to discuss the realities of the war on terrorism (Morford's views are straight out of Chomsky).

They just open, say, the Provo Daily Gazette and read about the latest whacked Berkeley city proposal to legalize dog marriages or maybe SF's groundbreakingly weird surgery benefit for in-progress transsexuals and they scoff, viewing our fair City as incredibly weird and foreign and vaguely dangerous, an open threat to family and the sanctity of marriage and the GOP political war machine and pretty much the entire genital region in general.

Note that he doesn't DENY the nutcase proposals that come before the city councils in San Francisco and (or course) Berkeley; he just bashes those who don't share their views.

This is a hallmark of the left—when your ideas are bankrupt, attack the messenger. It's much easier to deflect attention toward someone else than to defend your own position. It happened during the Bill and Monica show, and during the McKinney campaign (she attacked Majette, because McKinney had no record upon which to run), and during the Global Crossing collapse (if Enron had lasted for three months longer, imagine how different that whole issue would have been framed).

Oh, we've got problems, make no mistake. Issues galore. Gaping woes. We are a deeply flawed city, an exasperating intellectual cluster-bomb sitting like a pimple on the face of a ridiculously large and confused state that can't even agree which end is more exploitable.
We are saddled with a sellout mayor and a wooden humorless governor, homelessness galore and far too many grimy streets that smell like a nasty mix of stale Starbucks and cheap leather and urine; water-use issues like a collective psychosis, tract home developments like a cancer, enough excessive PC puling and self-help whining to make Deepak Chopra wince.

Only in San Francisco could someone such as Willie Brown be considered moderate. The homelessness issue is due to the fact that successive city administrations in San Francisco (and the "Homeless Advocates") have refused to deal with the situation. The city smells bad because nobody has the intestinal fortitude to tell the vagrants that they cannot use the city streets as a latrine. Tract home developments are a response to the desperately needed housing that isn't available due to "no growth" advocates blocking any development in the city itself. And unsurprisingly, I agree 100% with the remark about the city's suffocatingly PC culture.

Energy disasters and environmental abuses and abundant self-righteousness, a state with far too many semi-quotable celebrities who truly think they know something about anything when in fact they know incredibly little about almost nothing.

The energy disasters are due to an unwillingness to build enough power plants to handle the demand (thank you, enviro-whackos). The rest of this paragraph is not too far off the mark.

We are precious. We are indignant. Our homes are wildly overpriced. We still ooze with far too much New Agey Birkenstock granola sentimentality. We are often wrong. But man, at least we try.

"Precious"—how appropriate. I've already addressed the housing issue. The granola effect is self-evident—it is the source of much of the city's problems. And trying is pointless if you have no clue how to accomplish the task you are attempting.

Why, of course they hate us. What with all the incredible restaurants, terrific parks, a coastline to die for, beaches, dense forests and stunning untouched nature within a 15-minute drive, wine country less than an hour away, and more tolerance per capita than France and maybe Amsterdam combined except for all the hookers and the legal pot lounges. Gosh. Jealousy is a terrible thing.

More tolerance per capita than France doesn't say much if you're Jewish. (And the SFSU and UC-Berkeley contretemps make that comparison debatable.) The rest of the amenities have nothing to do with the reason people hate San Francisco; bringing them up is a straw man designed to divert attention from the real reason why SF is loathed by middle America.

We have interracial dating and happy mixed-race children and men flagrantly holding hands in the street as if it was no big deal, lipstick lesbians riding their Harleys to Peets on Sunday mornings, the best overall climate in the nation if you ignore the fog and entirely avoid the Richmond/Sunset.

That is all very well and good, but not everyone considers that to be the prime criterion when they are looking for a place to raise their families. Crime (which is rampant in the bay area), education (the public schools are atrocious), cost of living (the only place that makes New York look inexpensive), and job availability (there aren't many) are more important to most people than being able to watch women riding their motorcycles to get a cuppa joe.

We have phenomenal sushi and astounding art murals and Good Vibrations open late on Valetine's Day; we are the birthplace of the astonishing Burning Man desert art festival, home to the best burritos this side of Tijuana, panoramic views to make you weep, more world-class universities and Nobel Prize winners than all of Switzerland.
And we have, more than anything, a certain awareness, a consciousness, an attuned perspective unlike any other city. We are, as my S.O. calls it, a "womb" city, a giant incubator of new ideas and fresh perspectives, a destination for thinkers and rebels and innovators and mad scientists and various quasi-geniuses some of whom are wildly obnoxious but most of whom are truly interesting.

San Francisco is *not* an innovator. The city still thinks that it is the summer of love, and while the specific proposals change from year to year, the underlying attitude never left the sixties. The rest of the country recognized that time and tide wait for no man, but SF iconoclastically refused to move on.

You can find it here. You can find support and a niche for your crazy art, your vision, your body type, your particular freak flag, your perspective. Many people don't like SF because people dare to do things here, and they get away with it.

Most poeple don't like San Francisco because people get away with stuff that nobody in their right mind would sanction. The fact that the government in the city champions such idiocy is why it is disdained.

We are, in fact, quintessential urban America. More balanced and lush and less manic than New York, more temperate and quirky than Chicago, SF is what the freedom-inducing utopian metropolis was mapped out to be: which is to say, more open, tolerant, funked-out, colorful, strange, unorthodox, thoughtful, nature aware, baffled, contradictory, and kaleidoscopic than any other city in the nation. It is equal parts beautiful and annoying, frustrating and wonderful.

If San Francisco is quintessential urban America, we have an explanation for why so many people are fleeing the cities for the suburbs.

Perhaps this is why we seem to be so hated by sundry hunks of 'Merka. We get it right, even in how frequently we get it wrong.


posted on August 21, 2002 01:21 PM


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