April 2, 2008
I have a scarf.
I should be wearing it right now.
“PRESIDENT HU JINTAO OF CHINA,”
reported the April 1, 2008 New York Times, “waved the Olympic torch at a ceremony in Tiananmen Square on Monday, smiling as balloons, streamers and confetti filled a mostly blue sky.
“Nice postcard for Beijing. The Olympic torch setting out on its worldwide journey of peace and fellowship from the site of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Hey China, as Chandler Bing once quipped, “Irony—not a fan?”
TODAY WAS THE DAY.
What would the leaders of San Francisco have to say about the Olympic Torch relay through our city? And what would they say about themselves?
“If there is not alarm and there is not protest in San Francisco when the torch arrives here,” said Supervisor Chris Daly, “that too will be news and that would be San Francisco complicit in the human rights violations happening in China.”
LET THE GAV HAVE HIS SAY:
“For people that want the Mayor of San Francisco to condemn human rights violations,” said the Mayor of San Francisco, “I’ll do it again—I condemn human rights violations. I consistently have done that. I met with the Dalai Lama last year. I have a scarf. I should be wearing it right now. I’ve great admiration for the Dalai Lama, I’ve condemned the human rights abuses before, not just now, was actually fundraising sponsor of an event down in the Mission on a great film about Darfur, and expressed a lot of outrage in that film against China, and I’ve done that, and will consistently publicly do that.”
“But Mr. Mayor,” said a CBS5 reporter, “their point is this is a moment where the world will be watching and you could make a grand statement that they want you to make, and it would, may have more impact…”
“OK, I’LL SAY IT,
but I’ve said it here, I’ll say it again, yes, OK, I’m missing the point, but I’m not going to, with all due respect to Chris Daly, be told what to say by Supervisor Chris Daly. And I say that with respect. Nor would I ever tell Chris Daly what to say.”“Isn’t the point too that it could create an international incident?”
“That’s why they want me to do this. Yeah, of course. That’s all there is, a lot of this is politics. A lot of it’s principle, too, don’t get me wrong, because the spirit behind it, I’m with them. But I’ve got to accommodate an event where I’ve got to keep people safe, and I don’t want to charge that event, and the last thing I’m going to do is have on my conscience is that I created an energy around an event where human beings got hurt, or lost their life. That is a consequence that’s so much bigger than a lot of the politics being played here. As much as I’m concerned about human right violations, I don’t want to see them on our streets, and I want people’s rights to be protected. And that’s my job as Mayor.”
OK, I SEE YOUR DILEMMA, GAVIN.
You’re in a pickle, a tremendously sour one. Out of one side of your mouth, you condemn human rights violations. Out of the other, you’re the point man for San Francisco. You’re caught between a rock, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, and a hard place, the Board of Supervisors’ passing of Item No. 26 at the April Fool’s Board Meeting, the revived Chris Daly resolution to receive the Olympic torch with “alarm and protest.” I arrived late to the meeting to see Item 23 (Chu) tabled (7-4) and Item 26 (Daly) passed (8-3), so let me add my applause to the outcome. San Francisco is on record, we’re out on the AP wires, as speaking out against China. And Gavin, you can wear the scarf any time you please, strut down the catwalk, pivot, and sashay back—it’s all window dressing on a supermodel. Remember the scene in “Glengarry Glen Ross” in which Alec Baldwin asks, Do you know what it takes to sell real estate? And takes out of his briefcase, a pair of (real) brass balls, which he holds over his crotch.
“I DO NOT HESITATE
to weigh in on any, and all, issues of human rights…I’m not afraid of the Chinese government or the Chinese consulate or their representatives and I will speak out, I will speak my mind,” said Daly at the City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee meeting at which Chu and Elsbernd whacked him in the knees with a baseball bat, and I’m not sure what all you’re afraid of, Mr. Mayor, but let me just say, Gavin, Chris Daly has those brass balls in his briefcase, and all you have in yours is a scarf. A scarf from the Dalai Lama. As a leader of and diplomatic emissary from a major American city, you would certainly be expected to have received such a scarf, as did Nancy Pelosi. But she deserves to wear hers. She wants Bush to boycott the opening ceremonies. The famous table, which impeachment is off of, makes its reappearance. “I think boycotting the opening ceremony, which really gives respect to the Chinese government, is something that should be kept on the table,” said she. Wow, that table’s got a lot of clout. I wish she would invite the citizenry of America to sit at it, or at least her Congressional district. There’d be some very interesting dinner conversation at that table.
I’M GOING TO QUOTE YOU AGAIN,
Gavin, as I did in “Boo! Trick or Treat!” from the Spring 2006 issue of Pink magazine. “I don’t think there’s a worse job in American politics than being mayor of San Francisco if you don’t feel you can have some impact…If you just do it for the symbolism and show up and do ribbon cuttings…I couldn’t imagine a worse thing in life. But if you can feel you have a little influence and make a modicum of change, if you feel passionate, it’s truly the greatest job anyone can imagine.”
How do you feel about that job now, Gavin? If you’re passionate about condemning human rights violations, could you possibly have some impact, have a little influence, and make a modicum of change? Or are you going to just show up for the torch relay?
I’LL TELL YOU
who had some impact: Supervisor Daly, in writing the resolution; Supervisors Ammiano and Mirkarimi, in cosponsoring the resolution; President Peskin, in forwarding the reintroduced resolution to the Rules Committee after it got butchered at City Operations; Supervisor Ammiano and Dufty of the Rules Committee, in passing it to the Board with recommendation; Supervisor Sandoval, with his motion to table Item 23; Supervisors Ammiano, Daly, Maxwell, McGoldrick, Mirkarimi, Peskin, Sandoval, in voting to table the item; Supervisors Ammiano, Daly, Dufty, Maxwell, McGoldrick, Mirkarimi, Peskin, Sandoval, for passing the resolution.
IT’S A PROUD DAY FOR SAN FRANCISCO
Supervisor Alioto-Pier—I wish I’d bet money on your votes.
Supervisors Chu and Elsbernd, you’re up for reelection. Good luck with that.
Gavin’s probably ruing the day San Francisco was selected to receive the torch. But fear not, you can skate away clean and the city will still have spoken. Just not through you. For shame!
One of the constantly evolvingfacial hair configurations ofSupervisor Chris Daly
You can bounce a ball
Chris, keep on rockin' in the free world!
copyright Alexandra Jones 2008