Saturday, October 17, 2015

"How did the bicyclist become such a divisive symbol?"

C.W. Nevius wonders about something he should know while answering a question we all know the answer to---yes, of course it's wrong to put nails on a road in Woodside frequented by cyclists:

It’s not entirely clear how the bicyclist---eco-friendly and healthy---became such a divisive symbol. Drivers honk at cyclists, pedestrians yell at them, and the angry, militant cyclist flipping everybody off has become a cliche. It seems there’s anger on all sides (Guerrilla war against cyclists in Woodside is wrong tack).

Like most "moderates," Nevius likes the "all sides" usage, since it absolves him from taking a close look at an issue; he can simply split the difference intellectually without doing any real analysis, like when he fussed about the failure to find an imaginary "middle ground" on the Bicycle Plan.

But there's no pretense when there's an important policy or issue at stake: He always supports City Hall.

Sometimes he can't bring himself to split the difference between two equal and imaginary positions, like when he wrote that the Great Recession was "everyone's fault"!

The "angry, militant cyclist" may be a cliche, but it also happens to be true. Even though Nevius was working on the Chronicle's sports page at the time, he must know that San Francisco is where Critical Mass was born. Before that, scofflaw bike messengers were seen as the ultimate in cool by middle class, would-be cyclists who were looking for a hip way to work out their Mommy and Daddy issues on the streets of the city.

Then came the merging of the great bike revolution with the dumb "smart growth," new urbanist ideas. They then saw themselves as not just a bunch of assholes on bikes but part of a larger, planet-saving environmental movement.

Nevius on the Idaho Stop and the Wiggle:

It isn’t the slow-mo roll through stop signs that has everyone up in arms. It’s the psycho-bikers, the ones who roar through intersections, barely missing pedestrians, challenging cars and generally behaving like morons...That small, obnoxious group is fueling this entire controversy. They are the reason pedestrians are angry. And they are the reason the police are out trying to enforce the state stop sign law.

Anyone who spends any time on city streets knows that the punks on bikes are not a "small group." It is in fact the dominant ethos of cyclists in San Francisco and elsewhere. They fancy themselves as rebels and social/political visionaries who think they are morally superior to the rest of us.

The punks-on-bikes behavior has gotten a lot of support over the years from the media and our "progressive" political leadership. Former head of the SF Bicycle Coalition, Leah Shahum, had her life-changing bike epiphany during Critical Mass. The Chronicle in effect endorsed Critical Mass during its most violent phase. Then-Supervisor Mirkarimi endorsed Critical Mass, as did the Bicycle Coalition. The now-defunct Bay Guardian and the barely alive SF Weekly have always supported the bike movement, with the sole exception being Matt Smith's column knocking Critical Mass way back in 2003.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

The "stabbing intifada": The historical background

Some historical background by Jeffrey Goldberg on the current violence in Israel:

In September of 1928, a group of Jewish residents of Jerusalem placed a bench in front of the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, for the comfort of elderly worshipers. They also brought with them a wooden partition, Jerusalem’s Muslim leaders treated the introduction of furniture into the alleyway in front of the Wall as a provocation, part of a Jewish conspiracy to slowly take control of the entire Temple Mount. Many of the leaders of Palestine’s Muslims believed—or claimed to believe— that Jews had manufactured a set of historical and theological connections to the Western Wall and to the Mount, the site of the al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, in order to advance the Zionist project. 

This belief defied Muslim history—the Dome of the Rock was built by Jerusalem’s Arab conquerors on the site of the Second Jewish Temple in order to venerate its memory (the site had previously been defiled by Jerusalem’s Christian rulers as a kind of rebuke to Judaism, the despised mother religion of Christianity). Jews themselves consider the Mount itself to be the holiest site in their faith. The Western Wall, a large retaining wall from the Second Temple period, is sacred only by proxy. 

The spiritual leader of Palestine’s Muslims, the mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al Husseini, incited Arabs in Palestine against their Jewish neighbors by arguing that Islam itself was under threat. (Husseini would later become one of Hitler’s most important Muslim allies.) 

Jews in British-occupied Palestine responded to Muslim invective by demanding more access to the Wall, sometimes holding demonstrations at the holy site. By the next year, violence directed against Jews by their neighbors had become more common: Arab rioters took the lives of 133 Jews that summer; British forces killed 116 Arabs in their attempt to subdue the riots. In Hebron, a devastating pogrom was launched against the city ’s ancient Jewish community after Muslim officials distributed fabricated photographs of a damaged Dome of the Rock, and spread the rumor that Jews had attacked the shrine. The current “stabbing Intifada” now taking place in Israel—a quasi-uprising in which young Palestinians have been trying, and occasionally succeeding, to kill Jews with knives—is prompted in good part by the same set of manipulated emotions that sparked the anti-Jewish riots of the 1920s: a deeply felt desire on the part of Palestinians to “protect” the Temple Mount from Jews...