Dear Mayor Farrell,
Forget the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, the Transamerica Pyramid and the box of rice a roni with the expiration date that has overstayed it welcome. The icons, that bevy of hallmark moments of picturesque panoramas that fit nicely in pockets—and the deeper the pockets, the better—are mere holograms, mirages. When I think of the city, one image comes to mind—the image of a metal walker in a garbage truck. What use is the Golden Gate Bridge when the bridges that connect people have been severed, like a tendon, or a cable, meant to hold and support but cannot or rather—will not. The sweeps, the confiscation of tents, the seizing of the minimal and meager belongings of those who struggle just to walk down the street is cruel—and ugly. But that’s what San Francisco is, ugly. It didn’t begin with your tenure as mayor but it persists. And the historic icons, the lovely quaint Victorian homes, the cable car—are ugly. The evictions are ugly and the fear that is mistaken for strength and decisiveness—is ugly. When James Baldwin visited the city in 1965, he said that it was a good place to hide, that its beauty belied its ugliness. But, at the end of the day, as Baldwin pointed out, it was just another American City. He wasn’t fooled, he saw the ugliness immediately. Many houseless folks were once housed but lost their homes to eviction. Many are seniors and disabled. Many were born and raised in the city, like you and I. The fare inspectors are ugly. The currency that the city thrives on is ugly–slashing away at tents, tossing out the possessions of folks who possess little, if anything–is ugly. Sidewalks where scooters have more rights than people, is ugly. It’s clear that SF not only wants to confiscate the property of the homeless, but their dignity as well. The city won’t be happy until it kills the spirit, especially of those who stand up, or speak out. In those encampments are stories. In them are pain and misfortune. But there is also sharing, where falls are broken by a hand or someone willing to put his or her body on the line. In those encampments, in spite of what we are being fed by politicians and media, is a dignity that is, unfortunately missing in a city that has become ugly.
–2018 Tony Robles