I’m writing at my favorite desk(s) on the 5th floor of the San Francisco Public Library Main branch on a gloomy Sunday afternoon. To my left, outside the floor-to-ceiling windows, I can see the Pioneer Monument, where 24 hours ago over a hundred thousand people were gathered for the San Francisco Women’s March. I walked through the crowd briefly with Boanne to witness a beautiful assembly of female pride, from little girls holding signs from their strollers to millennials raising timely cultural references (“Herstory has its eyes on you”), to the elderly passing on their dignity and spirit to the next generation, to a massive walking paper mache I first thought was Obama but was actually Susan B. Anthony. Unfortunately the rain weeded out the unfaithful, myself included; nonetheless the message of solidarity rang loud and clear. Particularly I was glad to see the broad plazas of the City Beautiful movement being utilized all around America for their only essential purposes: as platforms for peaceful demonstration of civic values. It’s the full realization of the simple idea I worked on in my Market Street projects for two years — that when we see and interact with each other in public space, we acknowledge each other’s existence, and create shared experiences and values far greater than ourselves. We should strive to reenact a little piece of the Women’s March on every street corner, every bus and train, every public bench in our disconnected cities and towns, every single day of the year, which each and every passerby.
On a related note, if you are feeling civic pride and are looking for more kindling, I highly recommend Congressman John Lewis’s graphic novel trilogy MARCH (I’m only through Book One) and the film Hidden Figures which boasts one of the most satisfying scenes of social justice from 2016. And on a slight segue, for some provocative food for thought on just how deeply rooted and devised this demagoguery of an administration is, listen to two podcast episodes: Reply All’s “Man of the People” and Benjamen Walker’s Theory of Everything’s “The Twentieth Day of January”. Both are excellent and timely pieces of journalism and criticism.
Of a hundred events out of DC in the last few weeks that I simply don’t have time to react to lest I quit all of my jobs and become a full-time political activist (and until then, this meager blog will have to suffice), I just want to highlight Kellyanne Conway’s use of the term “alternative facts” on a Meet the Press interview. It’s a small matter regarding the size of the crowd on Inauguration Day, but as one of the first press communications out of the Trump White House I think it’s a perfect crystallization of doublespeak–writ-nonfictional, a beginning of an end. I have a flow chart I’ve been developing for my moral philosophy project, and “belief in one set of facts” is literally my first test of intellectual honesty, even before religious, political, and moral views. In other words, if we can’t protect Truth, consider every other battle already lost — and that’s a loss for both sides.
And by that I mean something very serious. The real war is not Right vs. Left; it’s Right vs. Wrong (the details to which no single political ideology is yet fully privy). I personally don’t feel comfortable with either liberal or conservative voices on the national scale nor in my own Facebook feed. Yes, the Trump supporters are afflicted by delusions all the way from the top, but some progressives are posting righteous statements in the name of social justice that are straight-up racist. If you find yourself ever deleting something you’ve written because you realized it was inappropriate in hindsight, you are experiencing a perfect example of the danger of dogma from both sides of the political spectrum. The only “safe spaces” we have are empiricism and reason, and we need more thought leaders in every bubble of discourse, especially those on the left, to own up to their misjudgments and malpractices in intellectual honesty. It’s certainly not the “easier path forward”, but I believe it’s the only path forward at all for fallible minds in uncertain times.