Saturday, November 03, 2007

Tiny Minds ...

Tiny minds make tiny cities, and the pencil sharpener Supervisor Bevan Dufty who personally killed Halloween is just the sort of civic midget that would turn San Francisco into a day care center for lobotomized adults. We had a little correspondence. I wrote him a note in much the same terms as my post on Halloween. He replied:

Thank you for your message. To me it's not cowardice to protect the public safety of the neighborhood. It's what I was elected to do.

I’m relieved that we saw a safe event last night. That said, I was saddened to take steps that were dramatic but necessary.

We certainly want to create an Office of Special Events and involve people in planning for 2008. I am all too aware that a non-event strategy will not be workable with Halloween on a Friday next year. We have much to do for next year, but I feel we've turned a corner and have some good things to build upon.

I wrote back to him:

Thank you for your note. I wrote a post on my blog here:

The problem is that you did NOT have an event, so to claim you had a SAFE event is an oxymoron. I spent the most formative decade of my life in the gay liberation movement in the 70s, and what guaranteed our impact was that we did not run from a challenge. You did. In doing so, you committed a terrible affront to gay people, our history, and our creativity. I still believe that it is shameful, and when compared to the risks to our lives that we took in creating a gay movement, it is cowardice. If New York can run Times Square on New Year's Eve, not to mention Halloween in the Village, then we can run a costume party
on Halloween just has we have done for decades.

If you believe that you deserve electoral support from gay people, you can undo the damage by guaranteeing a Castro event next year. Frankly, it's like the old adage ... if you don't the heat, vacate the kitchen.

The two things that really boil me about his reply are the "safe event" piffle and the Office of Special Events.

Safe, safe, safe. Safety is the rage ... Detroit sells SUVs because they are safe, notwithstanding that they are not safe, that they induce people into an orgy of bad driving, that they are deadly for the entire planet. But they're big and mean and heavy and ugly, so they must be safe. Soap sellers fool people into buying anti-bacterial soap because it is safe ... but it is not safe, it is dangerous, and it fools people into thinking that killing everything will make us safer. Politicians sells us "safety" in the form of "tough" prison sentences, but we are less safe because we have created monster criminals out of petty thugs, and we have created a prison gang culture that kills relentlessly far beyond prison walls, and we have created a reward system for rogue prosecutors to punish everyone, innocent or guilty, with a metaphorical death penalty. And of course poor dumb dubya sells us safety from terrorism, but he has made the world infinitely more dangerous, painstakingly built a platform upon which terrorism is thriving, and driven the reputation of this country lower than at any point since Vietnam.

Dufty is just one more in that long line of fear-mongering snake oil salesmen who promise that his special balm alone will guarantee your safety. But it won't ... it just creates ignorance and fear and makes our lives less colorful.

Now the Office of Special Events. By the time that Kublai Khan had completed the conquest of Song China in 1276, he had made sure to establish a Ministry of Rites to oversee public ritual. He patronized the arts, especially drama. In this, he was in line with previous Mongol conquering practice that had collected artisans from the far-flung corners of their new realms. Kublai Khan understood the role of ritual and celebration in the lives of a people. (The careful reader of my screeds will note that I have moved on in my reading from Genghis to Kublai; I am nearly finished John Man's rollicking if not precisely scholarly Kublai Khan: The Mongol King Who Remade China.) He also understood the need for a monarch to control both the people and his bureaucracy. Notwithstanding the monarchical reign of Mayor Gavin Newsom who will be acclaimed rather than re-elected a few days hence, we do not have the pleasures and agonies of a Kublai Khan. We have to rely on re-cycled accountants like the plain gray dank Dufty.

Mongol warrior or pencil sharpener, an official should be able to create an "Office" when he sets out to do so, or he should "vacate the kitchen". Dufty failed. He does not have the clout, what the Chinese might have called the mandate of heaven. In this case, it is the mandate of the merchants' associations or the homeowners' grousing clubs. So, having failed in stitching together yet another bevy of mournful civic hand-wringers, Dufty kills the "special event." Tiny minded ... and cowardly.

Now they like to proclaim that they ... the "they" here are the hand-wringers and their pencil-sharpening goatherds (refuse to fear the mixed metaphor) ... can start with a clean slate. Nonsense. The Halloween celebration in the Castro grew from history and struggle and pride and art. I promise you, they will try to bring children into this thing, they'll do anything to relocate it, they'll fulminate and mealy-mouth all year long, and they still will not be any closer to where they should have started in the first place: provide the services, police the perimeters, engage the celebrants.

And don't turn into a squawking, the sky-is-falling, prancing chicken in the face of one small episode.

Tiny minds make tiny cities. If we are to be remade as a city filled with Bevan Dufty's, then let us call things by their real names and change our name from San Francisco to Smallville.

Previous post on Halloween Shame in the Castro here.

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