This weekend, the city I've chosen as home played host to 25,000 innocent evangelical youth and their horribly misguided leadership. The culture war has a way of bringing out the worst in people, even when there is potentially some common ground: Assemblymember Mark Leno suggested they should "get out of San Francisco."
That might not be the most delicate way of putting it, but it is understandable. I'm sure that somewhere the conservatives are trotting out the predictable line here: oh look, the left isn't so "tolerant" after all, look at the counterprotests.
Yes, progressives are intolerant of hatred. No apologies there. And we're mighty damn intolerant of leaders who employ fascist sounding language to rope kids into being pawns for their political games. They are literally calling advertisers "virtue terrorists," a better sound bite could hardly have been pulled from The Onion.
Maybe the most unfortunate aspect of all this is that, if these leaders were honest with themselves about the processes really happening in society, there might easily be some common ground here. This is from Henry Luce, the organizer of the event, with emphasis added:
The villains, Luce said, range from the promiscuity and "sexualization" of young people on MTV and the popular online meeting hub MySpace.com to a corporate culture that spends millions trying to woo the under-21 crowd.
Incidentally, it's fascinating that they're blaming a social networking website for anything; apparently that's the scapegoat du jour, and pairs nicely nicely with long-time target MTV. Mr Luce at least mentions what's obviously been the largest force in rearranging teenager's mental furniture over the past few decades: turbo charged, unregulated, free market fundamentalist capitalism.
But is that the process he's really quesitoning? Nope - much easier to blame and then pick on gay people, I suppose, and go stand on the symbolic steps of our city hall where they made their last halting step towards true equal rights under the law. Why didn't they go and protest at the Bank of America building, or some other icon of the almighty market? Mad props to SF Chron write Joe Garofoli for wrapping up the story with this little bit of accidental commentary on these people's uncritical relationship with big money:
"We're going to be back here in a year, to see what kind of progress we've made," he said. "And we're going to be at AT&T Park. Or whatever it is called then."
By following the same tired old culture war script, Mr Luce is leading thousands of kids towards a compliant and unquestioning relationship with market fundamentalism, encouraging them to blame a minority group that has nothing to do with the issues that most affect the problems they ostensibly want to solve, clouding their minds with proto-fascist language, and turning them into tools of the very forces that need questioning. They're welcome to come to my city but they sure better be ready to answer for that.
Addenda: Upon further reflection this post seems like it could be interpreted as being a little anti-pop culture. Don't get me wrong, I'm very much in favor of an inclusive, diverse and participatory popular culture, in fact I think it's pretty close to being a central part of what's good about progressivism. When capitalism supports that, which for the most part it does very much, that's a good thing. When it doesn't, or when it gets out of hand (whether it's marketing things to kids or the recent battles over DRM), that's when progressives draw the line. Democracy defines the rules of the marketplace.
Also, some good news: the conservative Christians weren't the only folks getting together this weekend. Check out these wonderful pictures of the movingly large pro-immigrant rallies from this weekend.