Mother of Pearl! The City is a run away horse, and no one has the reins.
This is my ninth consecutive 4th of July in the USA. The first one I was overwhelmed by the amount of red white and blue. It seemed wholesome, patriotic and above all, fun. I spent it in a campground in Washington state, playing toss the beanbag and smoking good ole west coast weed, watching people enjoy their freedom and independence from the dastardly Brits just like they have done since 1777 when the first celebrations were held in Philadelphia’s Independence Square with the ringing of bells, lighting of bonfires and yes, the ubiquitous fireworks. I would say that most likely in 1777 our freedom loving American forefathers and mothers did not spend their time throwing fireworks at each other, nor lighting great big fuck off mortars outside people’s windows. Probably. They also probably did not shoot at each other or into the air because it was ‘the 4th of July and I am gonna light shit up.’ My friends, these past few days in San Francisco, 2023, have been closer to The Hunger Games, than any kind of celebration. Yes, oh yes, I have got those San Francisco 4th of July Blues!
Can you imagine,
“Joseph, doest thou desirest a spell lobbing bombs down streets at our own people to declare we are independent from the British and their taxes?”
“Zachariah Earnest Braithwaite, have you lost your ever-loving mind, you crazy pilgrim? Why in the name of the Almighty would we do that?”
“I think it is going to be all the rage in the future, Joseph! Doest Anna have thou on a leash, my good man?”
No? No, I don’t see it either. After all, what screams (hits the floor and possibly pisses its pants in fear slightly) celebration like risking other people’s lives and limbs and possibly your own damn arm, face and even life as well? This is my third 4th of July in the City. The first two passed with almost peace and quiet. A few illegal fireworks (fireworks are banned within City limits, even the ‘safe and sane’ ones that California law allows) were heard, perhaps a few gun shots, but that is pretty ‘normal’ for the City, sadly, but in general it passed without too much danger or horror. The past three nights in San Francisco have been pure hell on earth.
The police do not care. They do not come, they do not investigate, nor do they appear to be patrolling to stop the use of illegal fireworks, which are being sent horizontally down narrow, crowded, heavily populated streets, without any room to ‘stand back’ 100 yards or whatever they suggest. One huge mortar type firework was launched right outside my window, a few feet from where I sat on my bed, next to my son. It was so loud I am shocked it did not break windows. Light flooded the room, our ears rang and we ran towards the back of the apartment and got away from windows. Police? No. Not one. Sirens? No. Nothing. So then the law is not being upheld in the City to any extent.
It has become very dangerous, uncomfortable, filthy, and violent of late. My street is full of human shit, humans having mental health crises and threatening people, screaming literally all night long and fighting and prostituting themselves within earshot and sight. It is horrible to live in this mess, but we manage. Even when we can’t even walk down the street on one side of it, due to it being totally blocked by an encampment of people who desperately need help and do not get it from the City. The situation outside it not safe for the people living there, or for those who live on the street, it has got out of control, and I never see any kind of services turn up to help them. That situation is bad, but these past few days have been intolerable. Having to run out of my front room due to what sounds like gun shots, hearing threats, constant firework throwing is sending me into an absolute pit of despair.
I am not well enough to handle this. I swear I left my body for a short while when that one firework of a kind which is neither safe nor sane, and therefore ILLEGAL in California, let alone San Francisco, was let off within a few feet of me and my child. And nothing happens. The people doing this are allowed to use freedom and independence as a shield to terrorize the City, and I don’t see how that is fair, nor a right, let alone any form of celebration. I slept last night, in the hallway, with my son also in the hallway, because it is too dangerous to be near a window. The City is not failing, it has failed entirely.
It is not just a few fireworks, this is a siege. It is constant and horrific, and the fireworks being used in the City are huge and very explosive. They are risking setting a huge fire, breaking windows and hurting people, and yet the City and police do absolutely nothing. Nothing. I barely heard a siren last night, in fact I heard fewer sirens than normal.
I don’t think I can handle tonight. I saw there were a few official celebrations, but considering the armed carjackings, and shooting incident a while ago in Embarcadero for which nobody has been charged, and the current atmosphere of lawlessness and violence so extreme it would make the writer of Clockwork Orange blush and feel like a pathetic shadow of a violence-monger, that I do not feel it is safe to attend any actual celebrations, so we are going to stay in the house. That is a shame. I would like to go out and buy the Boy cotton candy and give him money to have fun on the Pier and just enjoy living in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and yes, see the fireworks safely lit over our stunning Bay. We cannot do this. It is simply too dangerous, too much of a risk to take.
I love San Francisco. I consider myself and my child devoted San Franciscans. This City has always been a boom and bust kind of place, ever since the Gold Rush, but currently it is not just going through a down phase, it is twitching on the floor in its death throes, waiting for someone to restart its heart, its compassion, its decency, its ability to nurture those that live within its boundaries. So, here I sit, my own heart in my mouth, pitying the dogs, the people with PTSD like me, those who cannot get inside and away from it all to any extent, pitying the City which surely has a soul, and whose soul is suffering because of the actions of a few of its inhabitants who are allowed to commit crimes and make life miserable for everyone else, and not just miserable, the opposite of celebration, but dangerous too.
I don’t know what the answer is. I suspect it does not lay with those people who are currently in charge of the mess we are collectively in. It has been a very challenging time trying to navigate the pandemic and our exit from it, I know that doing so must be a herculean task, but it must not be used as an excuse to allow the City to decay into a hellscape of violence, lawlessness, homelessness without any services being provided, mental health crises on the streets without any relief for those suffering it, or those having to see and hear such loud and disturbing suffering. No joke, I regularly see men outside, masturbating, or simply naked, on the streets in daylight. This is not ok, and do not fool yourself that any cop would ever show up and take em to jail to cool off or sober up, let alone the psych ward they belong in. I am no judgmental person that does not understand. I get it. I have been homeless for an extended period of time, and I am saying that this lack of compassion which is shown in a lack of positive action is not being ‘kind’, it is being utterly reckless with both City and people.
I am not one to slam the City, nor those who try and help others. I have and will defend San Francisco’s compassion to my last breath. This City has saved my life and my son’s. However, should I have to sit within it and be grateful still when fireworks are being thrown outside my apartment and, fireworks of HUGE and very dangerous proportions are being set off within the City all night long, even in daylight in contrary to the laws of both City and State? Should I have to tolerate being harassed by a homeless person with mental health issues who lives on my street and is not offered any kind of help? Do I matter too? My safety? My son’s?
There are some things we are doing very well in San Francisco. There are other things which are not going so good for us. I personally believe that a lot of the reason why the shopping centers have closed down is because people buy online. It’s cheaper, there is a better selection, it is more convenient. However, let’s not shy away from the fact that constant theft, an atmosphere of violence and danger in Union Square, and the absolute filth that the City currently sits in has not had a negative effect. I have never seen or smelt our poor streets in such a decrepit and filthy state. Shit of the human kind, everywhere. Stinking of piss worse than Paris. Trash. Filthy encampments which collect trash and are not cleaned. None of this is ok. None of it. I hope that I am wrong, and those who currently run the City have a plan to pick up the reins of that runaway pony that is San Francisco, and get it back under control.
That said, it won’t make tonight any better, will it? I am going to have to spend tonight and probably tomorrow night in absolute terror because of fireworks and the very reasonable fear of gun crime. Fireworks hide gunshots. We regularly hear gunshots in our part of town. That is also not ok. It should not be ignored, and yet it just accepted. I don’t even bother calling the cops any more. I figure they have ‘shotspotter’ tech and they know, and they don’t care. I have got those San Francisco 4th of July Blues. I wish I could go and sit somewhere with a lot of people and try and enjoy the day and evening amongst other San Franciscans, but that is not safe either because the entire country has not controlled its weapons. Yes, of course I get that it is a basic right in the USA, and born out of a desire to protect, but that is not how guns are being used. When the average person is too scared scared to go and celebrate the 4th of July in a City, then something has to be done. I read about the terrible shooting in Philly – a man armed with an AR15 shooting people celebrating the 4th of July in their neighborhood. This is not freedom. This is anarchy. No one needs an assault rifle. It is ridiculous and now people are dead who should have been alive!
I am not fighting so hard to survive, to live, just to risk my life to go out and about on a day when some people believe they have carte blanche to go out there and fire weapons and throw fireworks because it happens to be Independence Day! Does the country need re-education about what the day means? Have we lost our patriotism? Have we lost our minds? Our pride in our country and history? Have we totally lost our way? I don’t know…probably…could I ask though, plead even, can those who have lost their way do it more quietly and try to not hurt others with their useless and faithless and reckless nihilism.
Happy 4th of July. Freedom comes with responsibilities my fellow patriots and lovers of the beautiful red white and blue and all that lays between sea to shining sea.