Monday, September 04, 2006

This Just In: SF is Part of the US

San Francisco needs to constantly struggle with its knee-jerk civic narcissism, against "the city that knows how" and the "only in San Francisco" bullshit that grates on even long-time residents like me. Even when beset by a problem afflicting every other major city in the country---gun violence among young black men---SF still proceeds as if in a political/social/historical vacuum. Enter, for example, "gun violence in Philadephia" or "gun violence in Detroit"---or Milwaukee or Houston, etc.---in your search engine, and you quickly learn that our city's struggle is not unique in the US. In fact it's not even unique in the world, since it's now an international problem, with cities like Toronto, London, and Paris trying to stop gun violence by young alienated males.

In all the local press coverage of the issue thus far, only Mayor Gavin Newsom has even mentioned the national/international dimension of the problem: "San Francisco, like most major American cities, is witnessing a growing number of homicides---a trend that the city is fighting at every level." But the mayor hurried by that opening remark in his recent opinion piece in the Chronicle to list the measures he and the city are taking to try to stem the tide of gun violence ("We Put More Police on the Streets," 9-1-06). He was problably right to do so, since, if he emphasized the national/international dimension of the problem, it would be interpreted as an alibi for his administration's failure to find a ready solution, an inevitable failure D5 Diary predicted months ago (http://district5diary.blogspot.com/2005/11/new-experience-for-gavin-newsom.html).

And what exactly do all these American and foreign cities have in common? Large pools of alienated, under-employed, under-educated young black men, along with the toxic gangsta/hip-hop culture that is, unfortunately, now an international phenomenon. As long as these young men operate on the assumption that shooting each other over relatively minor differences is acceptable behavior---which is what the gangsta culture teaches them---the gun violence will go on. It will continue particularly in the US, because the NRA and the mythology of the Second Amendment are politically dominant here in the Land of the Free.