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A Change Has Gotta Come

Patrick Monk

By Patrick Monk

September12, 2007


Most, if not all of you, probably don’t know me from a hole in the ozone, hardly surprising, especially considering that most who do know me consider that to be my natural habitat. As Fog City editor Luke Thomas has invited me to join his stable of scribblers I figured I should at least start by introducing myself.

As to why he decided to make this offer, I can only surmise. Maybe he finally got tired of being bombarded by my emails and this is a way to deflect them; maybe our common exposure to the English educational system gives him an appreciation of my sometimes obtuse use of language and he gets an occasional chuckle from my dry ‘brit-wit’. Whatever the reason, here I am.

I am not one of the ‘in-crowd’ in local political or social circles and have no aspirations to become one. After many decades of existence, the only category I am reasonably comfortable with is radicalzenanarcho-yippiehumanistmofo.

I am not a policy wonk. I put little faith in politicians of any persuasion and tend to contract brain freeze at the first use of words such as ‘whereas’, ‘hereinafter referred to as’, ‘in accordance with’ etc. While I make my best effort to get basic facts correct, my interpretation, conjecture and spinning of these facts are not constrained by such niceties as fair or balanced, or subject to the restraints of professional ethics. There is ample precedence for such an approach, Karl Rove and Eric Jaye for example, though I question their commitment to even the simplest of truths.

I set off down wrong road at an early age. Reading Sartre, Kerouac, wierd zen stuff, by flash light, after ‘lights out’ in my dark dormitory room, when I couldn’t get my little hands on a copy of Playboy; listening to the “Goon Show” on a transistor radio; wild and crazy days marching and chanting under the CND banner following Bertrand Russell and other inspirational spokes-folks; wonderfully wasted nights in the smoky pulsating Jazz ‘n R&B and Bluebeat clubs in London in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s.

Like my stable mate h. brown, I have a long and checkered history. Deep-sea trawler fisherman, actor, theatre techie and director, logger/log cabin builder, carpenter/woodworker, teacher, itinerant fruit picker, occasional poet, communard, RN Hospice Nurse and social activist, to name just a few of the more respectable pursuits, but most importantly, finally, a blessed and blissful husband and partner.

After years of feeling increasingly alienated from a co-opted and corporate political charade, I was reinvigorated by Tom Ammiano’s run for Mayor, it held out some hope for a return to participatory democracy in which people were more important than profit.

Sadly that light too is beginning to fade. The local political scene, with a few notable exceptions, is largely dominated by insular groups of white, or passing for white, middle-class, middle-aged males, of various political persuasions. This is further illustrated by the recent failure of most of them to rally behind a progressive black female in favor of another ‘good old boy’.

I have been challenged on this and other assertions by folks who say, 'let’s not bring race or gender into it.' I will address this criticism from my perspective.

I maintain that we live in one of the most destructive and dehumanizing societies on earth. We only have to look objectively at the reality of our condition and the results of our actions to see this. I also contend that, despite the advances we have made, this remains a society in which racism and sexism, conscious or unconscious, still exists. While I am not accusing the ‘progressives’ in the city of overt racism, I do find it perplexing and disturbing why in this Mayoral race - which most consider to be little more than a coronation - they did not seize the day as an opportunity to demonstrate at least token support for Dr. Ahimsa Sumchai and those she represents.

Why, in a potentially divisive last minute manoeuver, did they chose instead to put forward another of the usual suspects? A strong showing by an independent progressive black woman could send a powerful message that the ‘opposition’ is united across race, class and gender lines. There is still time for individuals to step back from the party line and walk a different walk.

For the last couple of years I have been privileged to work with folks in the Bayview Hunters Point district who are fighting wanton gentrification and displacement of their community by Lennar/Newsom/Maxwell Inc, current administration/civic leaders/many elected representatives, and other corporate interests and speculators who are their paymasters.

Part of my effort has been to try and convince other progressives that this is not a black and white issue, that all the causes they are fighting for are represented in this struggle, that they should loudly and proudly speak out and demonstrate by their actions, their support of this fight. As I refuse to accept failure, the best I can report is an incomplete. Whether it is the messenger or the message that hasn’t been favorably received, I do not know.

During this time I have become friends with many of the actors in this drama and have been accepted as one of the supporting cast. Amongst those friends is Dr. Ahimsa Sumchai, candidate for Mayor, who I am actively and fervently supporting.

Candidate for Mayor Ahimsa Sumchai.

I close with this extract from a previous response to someone who had criticized me for my involvement and expression of my views.

“I know many of you don’t know who the hell I am and what I am doing here. As an ‘older’ white male of middle-class british origin, I am constantly soul searching and evaluating the appropriateness of my involvement and place in this struggle…what’s whitey doing here - an understandable question and reaction. However I do not believe this is just a black thing. As a descendant of colonists, slave traders, invaders, murderers, exploiters etc, I am conscious of my historic guilt through blood and association, but I try not to let that stop me from contributing what little I can to the cause.

"While we may be born guilt free and innocent, I believe we all develop prejudices as a result of our various life experiences and influences; one of our tasks is to accept, acknowledge and overcome these hindrances. I believe in calling a spade a spade. I believe political correctness is too often used in an attempt to impose conformity and as a cloak to hide from and deny those deeper, darker aspects of our true selves and motivations.

"I say - let it all hang out – let the sun shine in - hit me with your best shot – then maybe we can find the way to accept our differences and reach a common higher ground.

"As an often irreverent, outspoken, opinionated curmudgeon, and hospice nurse, I strongly believe that no matter how dire the circumstances, unless we can find some humor, irony, laughter and lightness in our condition, we might as well be dead.

"My thanks to those in the Bayview community who have welcomed and embraced me, included me in their struggle, and continue to teach, correct and inspire me. I will continue to contribute what little I can in my own quirky way.”

Thank you.

Pat Monk, RN. Noe Valley, San Francisco.


By San Francisco Poet Laureate Jack Hirschman
(Reprinted with permission).

Because memory serves an African American

the story of such monstrous injustices,

such lashes and blowtorches and ropes,

such cruelty and hatred and blight of body and soul,

and because an African American woman

has been the vessel most scuttled yet most enduring,

most swarmed and throttled yet ever emerging

as the open fist of the living community,

and because I remember the fighting words

of struggle and compassion that young poet Ahimsa

sounded in the days that are no different than today

with respect to the plight of the poor, the fight

against displacement at the hands of those

landlawless bootlickers of corporate greed,

happily I cast my vote for Ahimsa Sumchai

for Mayor of San Francisco

whose race is the one of Reason

whose color is all the People of this town.

Jack Hirschman





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