When you enter the Hall of Justice in San Francisco and pass through the metal detectors, you’ll notice a small black and White photo of Dirty Harry on the wall behind the security guards. It serves as a subtle reminder to those who enter that the law is only enforceable insofar as there is a man willing to use force.
Increasingly, however, people of cities like San Francisco are no longer willing to support men like Officer Callahan, opting instead for placing restrictions on their ability to process criminals such as Proposition 47, and supporting politicians who state the need to tolerate the misbehavior of criminals all the while living behind gated communities or high-rise condos with 24/7 security.
The result – at least for those of us who cannot afford to live in such exclusive enclaves – has been a marked increase in petty and otherwise malicious crime. Major cities such as Washington, Chicago, and New York have all seen increases in the murder rate between 2014 and 2015, and San Francisco now has the highest per-capita property crime rate of the country’s top 50 cities.
Yelling into a Hurricane
In my neighborhood, I have witnessed a drug bust, heard gunshots, found hypodermic needles in parks where children play, served on a jury on a case where an illegal immigrant repeatedly stabbed his girlfriend with a screwdriver while she slept, and seen the glass of shattered car windows, including that of my own, on more than one occasion.
Both The Atlantic and The New York Times have published articles in 2016 highlighting the perniciousness of the “smash and grab” thefts on tourists and residents alike. Most recently a group of black and Hispanic teenagers have been loitering on the steps to my building, smoking marijuana, littering, and generally being a nuisance to myself and my neighbors.
After several failed attempts at requesting that they cease smoking on my doorstep, I finally snapped and decided to visit the police station after discovering chewed tobacco and cigarillo wrappers strewn all over the steps.
Upon arrival at the station, I had to wade through a large Black Lives Matter rally which had taken up the entire sidewalk in order to secure my bicycle, which I’ve learned to double lock both the frame and wheels as well as taking my seat with me to avoid having any of those items stolen from me for the second or third time. When I get inside and find my way to the reception booth secured behind several layers of thick, bullet proof glass, I’m greeted by an officer where I explain my situation with the teenagers. He hands me a set of no trespassing signs printed on paper card stock, which he goes on to explain I need to get signed by the landlord, specify at which times trespassing is NOT allowed, file a signed copy at my local precinct, and then replace every 6 months with the proper color, which they rotate randomly like DMV registration stickers.
After asking how I’m supposed to prevent trespassers from simply tearing down the piece of paper, another officer comes up to the window, sensing my frustration, and half-heartedly recommends I place the paper high up, out of reach, or to simply get a gate installed. Seeing a potential sympathetic ear, I ask the officer what’s going on outside, and he explains they’ve been on hunger strike all day in response to a shooting of a man who had brandished a Taser at group of police officers.
This reminded me of when Kate Steinle had been murdered on San Francisco’s downtown waterfront by a Mexican illegal alien using a gun he had allegedly found nearby – to which there was no police to stop him and from what I recall, no response from the Black Lives Matter movement to protect unarmed citizens such as this 32-year-old White woman. The former sheriff presiding during Kate’s death, who defended San Francisco’s sanctuary city policy which had released her murderer prior to the shooting, is now serving as a marijuana consultant in Uruguay.
After talking further with the officer, I explained my frustration in the past with trying to get the police to respond to neighborhood disturbances such as homeless raiding our building’s recycling bins, let alone my repeated car break ins. He explained that in most cases, the police are under tremendous political pressure to not pursue criminals because of fears of blowback from groups such as Black Lives Matter.
Recently a homeless man was beaten with broken glass bottles and left on the street as he slipped into a coma. Even in cases where they do arrest individuals, and the officer cited a case where he had several statements and a suspect with a history of convictions, the district attorney will often not prosecute for similar political concerns.
During the 2014 world series when the San Francisco Giants won, mobs of fans from places as far as the Central Valley descended on Mission Street to smash windows, tear apart a MUNI bus, light bonfires, and throw Molotov Cocktails well into the night. Arrests were made, but when I asked the officer why things were allowed to get as far as they did, he responded they were under staffed, and during the recent 75th Superbowl Anniversary parade, the city had to pay overtime to officers in an attempt to maintain order in a potentially otherwise uncontrollable situation. The officer stated “We’re either a highly paid maid – or a babysitter.”
SF over the Years – From Patriarchy to Matriarchy to Anarchy?
San Francisco elected its last Republican mayor in 1955, and as of 2016 the city has had an uninterrupted string of Democratic mayors since. During the 1960s, San Francisco became famous for being on the vanguard of the peace and love movement, with songs such as “Wear a Flower in Your Hair” attracting thousands of Hippies to the city.
Unfortunately, many of these young men and women were in reality runways, bringing with them few skills and even less desire to work. With little money and few prospects, many developed drugs habits and fell into crowds such as that led by Charles Manson, who was convicted for inspiring the spree of murders that plagued Southern California after he developed a cult-like following in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco into what became known as the Manson Family. My mother, having grown up in the 40s and 50s on Parnassus Street, watched the Hippies as they descended upon the Haight destroy large swathes of Golden Gate Park and the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood as they setup illegal camp sites and squat occupied apartment buildings, often by the bakers dozen.
In fact, when Dirty Harry first premiered in 1971, the movie was widely credited for showcasing the growing resentment America was feeling towards overly permissive and liberal views towards law enforcement, and saw the Officer Callahan character as a sort of anti hero frustrated with San Francisco’s corruption and bureaucracy who decides to pursue criminals with whatever force necessary to stop criminal acts. Movies such as Death Wish also captured this zeitgeist, illustrating what normal citizens do when law enforcement fails them by taking the law into their own hands. Partly as a result of the popular resentment towards rising crime, Americans began electing law and order politicians, and during the 1980s crime began falling in major cities. As my friend at the police station also told me, when “crime rises, the police become more popular.”
More recently in the 1990s and 2000s, San Francisco has enjoyed an unprecedented tech boom, bringing never before seen prosperity to the city and new questions about income equality as the city stratifies into a wealthy nouveau riche and a working underclass.
Amidst this remains the heavily progressive politics that have been with the city for decades, promoting women and minorities towards higher positions in the tech industry through political activism and books such as Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. Ellen Pao, an Asian American woman who sued Kleiner Perkins, one of Silicon Valley’s leading venture capital firms for sexual discrimination in a highly publicized case in which she lost, recently resurfaced in interviews with Bloomberg, CNET, and other outlets promoting her new diversity advocacy group.
As a White male working in technology, I’ve always been suspicious of the term “diversity” as meaning anything but anti White / White male, but when I saw this picture of a presentation on diversity by Nicole Sanchez at GitHub, I was no longer in any doubt. Closer to home in one of my recent office spaces, I witnessed this poster of #ILookLikeAnEngineer go up with pictures of black, brown, and yellow men and women – and White girls. White men apparently need not apply.
During the Depression, San Francisco commissioned the construction of two of the world’s greatest feats of bridge engineering of the time, including the Golden Gate Bridge. The other, the Bay Bridge, is known for crossing over Yerba Buena Island, where it connects into Oakland. During the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, part of this eastern span collapsed, and in 2002 the foundation for a long-awaited replacement span started. Slated to be completed in 2007, the bridge, which was built largely from Chinese steel and proved as yet another example of America’s declining manufacturing ability, ran over time and over budget, ultimately finishing in 2013 at a total cost of over $6.4 billion.
To make the project seem even more absurd, my father, who worked as a civil engineer for the Navy, told me that the previous bridge’s design during the earthquake could have withstood the shaking if simple reinforcements had been added, and the sections of the upper deck that were held up by rollers on a track would not have fallen if the tracks were simply extended by a few feet.
The retrofits in his estimation would have run in the millions – not the billions – and could have been completed in a year or so. Nonetheless, with the new bridge opened, in January this year Black Lives Matter decided to make their voice heard yet again by forcing traffic to a complete standstill by creating a human chain on the bridge for Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Arrests followed, and thousands of inconvenienced people – eventually – were able to get past.
During the time I have lived in San Francisco, my mayor has been Edwin Lee, who is the city’s first Chinese mayor. For the past several years, I honestly don’t know what his official policy goals have been, other than overseeing a relatively significant construction boom in downtown San Francisco. In 2014 he decided it would be wise to fly the People’s Republic of China flag over city hall – all the while ongoing democracy protests in Hong Kong were being actively suppressed by the mainland Chinese government.
Additionally, the homeless problem in San Francisco has gone from bad to ridiculous, with people in certain parts of the city suspecting the mayor is secretly moving whole populations of homeless to shantytowns in neighborhoods less visible to tourists and other visitors.
Near my office in the SOMA district close to the Twitter building, there exists a large Section 8 housing complex that is a constant source of petty hustlers, drug dealing, and piles of trash littering the street. The result has been a city that I can no longer claim I would leave my heart in, as that other song famously stated.
What to Do?
I often ask people what they think should be done about the problems I’ve brought up in this article. Usually they just shrug and say if I feel this strongly I should probably just move.
I very well may have to do that – especially if I hope to raise a family both safely and affordably – but part of me is frustrated by that attitude, because it fails to look at the city as a real community, but rather as a place to simply meet people and make money. I think this is part of a broader phenomenon happening in major cities in America and around the world, where a new globalist labor force is no longer viewing any particular place or country as home and simply moving to where the opportunities exist.
If a problem arises, they simply leave rather than trying to solve it. Having lived in the Bay Area for most of my life, I have noticed this globalist mentality increase as the foreign-born has steadily increased as a share of total population. While bringing new skills and ideas to Silicon Valley, these immigrants are more transient that ever before, often staying only so long as the fundraising cycle allows for their new startup. Our recent voter ballot comes in 4 different languages. This phenomenon exacerbates the boom and bust tendencies of the Bay Area tech economy, as people rush in and out, and adds to a growing superficiality of the culture that now more closely resembles a dull global consumerism than a unique blend of home grown ideas that were part of the counter culture of the 1960s.
As much as I have criticized of what the Hippie movement brought to the Bay Area, at least the people of the Left were genuinely passionate about what they stood for, and brought about real social change. Today – people of the Left seemed to be a muddled and confused mess that combines social activism without any real policy proposals that have any track record of working.
People of the Right have basically been shut out of the conversation, and have retreated into work or have left the Bay Area altogether. The result has been a San Francisco that has been devoid of any real political change or social progress, as true innovation requires a free exchange of ideas and an honest debate. Today people would rather look for answers on their iPhone than in their own neighbors and communities. San Francisco – it’s time to turn (back) on, tune in, and drop out of your current techno nihilism – and reconnect as a real people. We’ve got a lot of work to do.