The Sum of Our Parts
Legitimate vs. illegitimate rape. The word vagina being banned from utterance in public office. An Arizona law that states pregnancy happens two weeks prior to conception. Breast-feeding touted as a cure homosexuality. No, you are not seeing highlights from a gag reel of some wacky new comedy show. These are actual platforms and pieces of legislation being thrust from the bile ducts of politicians in America.
As shocking as these seem to the eyes, ears and minds of rational people, there is a chilling social and political zeitgeist that is buoying this madness. How many more years until the pyres are lit and the witches burn? Don’t laugh. Ten years ago the contents of the first paragraph would have been considered comedy fodder on Mad TV or Saturday Night Live.
Recently, I was visiting San Francisco for the first time in my life. I had managed to traverse up and down the lovely Left Coast many times and had somehow never alighted in the City on the Bay. It is bigger than I had imagined, denser than I had ever thought and beautiful. San Francisco is filled with eclectic architecture that covers hills and valleys that seem to go on forever. The downtown core is a mix of old and new buildings that complement one another as twisting and winding streets lead to unique places to shop, dine, drink and live.
Forgotten people wrapped in old blankets and tarps huddled in bus shelters and doorways, sleeping.
San Francisco’s city hall is a stunning cathedral set on a diamond where all streets lead to in a symbolic realization of city planning that actually works. Streetcars and busses—and those iconic trolleys—crisscross the city, traversing its steep hills that lead to neighbourhoods like The Castro, Haight Ashbury, SOMA, The Tenderloin, the Wharves and so many others. Even old TTC streetcars run the routes, still in their original red and still emblazoned with TTC logos.
San Francisco is a city of juxtapositions: old, new, urbane, grit, sunshine, rain, wealth and poverty. Many things stuck in my head as I wandered San Francisco, but one thing that really clung to me was the amount of abject poverty I witnessed. There were scores of homeless living along Market Street. It seemed every alcove was the residence of at least two souls who called it their home. Walking down 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th streets, and on and on, I saw the same thing night after night: forgotten people wrapped in old blankets and tarps huddled in bus shelters and doorways, sleeping.
The plight of the poor—and those on the precipice—is obliterated by the inane
and insane utterances of politicians who long ago forgot what public service
is all about…
The Bay Area has an approximate population of 7.5 million. The GTA has an approximate population of 5 million. We are not that disparate. However, by comparison, the poverty and homelessness is stunning. Certainly, Toronto has a homeless population, but I have not seen anything like this since New York in the early 1990s.
So, how does this relate to the idiocy of legitimate rape, banning the word vagina, conception vs. pregnancy and the sexually curative properties of breast milk? It doesn’t. And why should it? The plight of the poor—and those on the precipice—is obliterated by the inane and insane utterances of politicians who long ago forgot what public service is all about as they prattle and distract from real issues by asserting their own agenda.
Thanks to mass media and 24-hour news, we all know that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want to save the American taxpayers trillions. And they would like to do it on the back of the middle and lower classes. But as I walked around the streets of San Francisco, looking at more homeless people than I’d ever seen in a North American city, I wondered how the already tested tensile strength of the social safety net, its strands and threads taught and snapping with each passing year, could take any more weight.
We are more than the sum of our parts. We are more than penises, vaginas, uteruses, sperm, stem cells, bank accounts and leveraged equity. We are human beings. If politicians who are meant to serve the public are allowed to cut trillions from the coffers of social services that are already being drained, many more people will slip through the mesh of that tattered safety net to land with a thud on the cold, hard concrete of the streets of their cities and towns. After that, there’s only one place left to fall. Pay attention America. Take heed Canada.
All photos taken by Andrew Vail
Tags: Andrew Vail
, City on the Bay
, Haight Ashbury
, illegitimate rape
, legitimate rape
, Mad TV
, Market Street
, Mitt Romney
, Paul Ryan
, San Francisco
, Saturday Night Live
, social safety net
, The Castro
, The Tenderloin