A Change Has Gotta Come
By Patrick Monk
Most, if not all of you, probably dont 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 couldnt 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 50s
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
After years of feeling increasingly alienated from a co-opted
and corporate political charade, I was reinvigorated by Tom Ammianos
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, 'lets 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 hasnt been favorably received, I do
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
I close with this extract from a previous response to someone
who had criticized me for my involvement and expression of my
I know many of you dont 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
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.
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
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
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.