My wife and I made an agreement not to look at the election results until 10 am the next morning, giving us time to properly prepare ourselves. But while I was checking e-mail, she came into the room at 9 am and announced “Proposition J passed!!!” She simply couldn’t wait to find out and decided that in some ways, this was the thing she cared most about.
And I understand why. It was a local issue that affected us directly, one our neighbor aggressively campaigned for, one we supported by coming to the rallies and leading that song I made up and putting up the “Yes on J” poster in our window.
Now please don’t assault me for being a privileged citizen caring so much about whether or not we could continue to walk on the road on a car-free JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park when there are so many larger issues that literally can be a matter of life and death to people. I get it. But it need not be either/or. Big change starts small and this particular victory has things to teach us.
1) Shame on our De Young Museum for trying to shut this down, to the tune of spending some $412,000 to do so. Money that could have been spent offering free admission for a year to the museum!
2) Hooray for the grassroots power of the people! The money was miniscule, the rallies were small, but the determination to make sure voters understood the importance of keeping the road car-free won the day— apparently by a significant margin!
3) In the past few months, the car-free portion of JFK has blossomed into an enticing, community-centered and super-fun place to be. Inspired art on the road, both paintings and sculptures, a stage with scheduled performances, two pianos out on the road available for anyone to play, Adirondack chairs off to the side, two areas with benches and trees and ping-pong and corn-hole, a beer garden with a white picket fence. So much to do and everyone out doing it!!
4) At the bottom of so much political struggle in this country these days is a simple choice— a joyful active life in community or a cynical money-grubbing exclusive life. This little victory is so clearly on the side of Joy, Joy, Joy, If you build it they will come— on bikes, skateboards, roller blades, jogging, walking. Today I invited my friend Javier to bring his clarinet and we sat at one of the pianos and gathered a crowd around us for an hour of joyful music-making. One man sketched us and gifted us with the sketch, another listened with great enthusiasm and shouted out requests: “Puccini! Strauss! Gilbert and Sullivan!” And we were able to play them all. We all left uplifted and refreshed.
Small victory. Big result. More, please.