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Sunset on San Francisco: Is the city in need of an intervention? (Digon3 GNU 2.1)


Whenever I arrive in San Francisco I wonder to what extent the denizens of the city realise that they are taking part in a petri-dish experiment demonstrating the bitter consequences of far-left politics. The pleasant location and weather are layered over by generations of local political inducements to indigence, street-dwelling and every form of addiction. It feels as the world might after a real financial crash. Well-off residents live away from the centre or in high-rise blocks, while the streets below are largely populated by zombies, straggling around day and night, howling at the pavement and cursing the moon,  amid the dense city smog of marijuana. It is a whole society in need of an “intervention”.

Looking for respite I head to the famous City Lights bookstore, which through being a home of the Beat poets has at least some tenuous connection with civilisation. Strangely, the contents of the shop only exacerbate the sense of atomisation. Even more than in most American bookstores the stock is divided according to particular identities. So there is a gay section, a black section, a “radical” politics section, and so on. I find a book called Against Equality, which turns out to be an essay collection by “radical” LGBTQI (add at will) writers opposing same-sex marriage. One essay begins: “I’m a feminist, a Taoist, a sadomasochist, a femme, a nerd, a transperson, a Jew, and a tattooed lady. I’m a certified Post Traumatic Stress Disorder survivor. I’ve got piercings in body parts I wasn’t born with.” And so on and so on. Here is the logical endpoint of social breakdown: everybody so busy cataloguing and categorising themselves and their “issues” that they hardly bother to find out anything interesting in the rest of the world. I locate a book on Montaigne (in the “Europe” section) and scarper, wondering how he would have started an essay in the San Francisco style.

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As it happens, in my luggage I have Michael Coren’s new book, Epiphany: A Christian’s change of heart and mind over same-sex marriage. I know Michael a little from appearing on his punchy talk-show on Canada’s sadly now-defunct Sun network. Behind the pugnacious televisual façade is a deeply thoughtful and learned man. Now he has added to one of my favourite branches of literature: accounts by people explaining how and why they have changed their minds on a subject. What is most moving is that the book makes at least as strong an argument for Christianity as it does for an acceptance of gay marriage, and demonstrates what Christian love should look like. I am fairly sure the book would not be stocked at City Lights, but if it were which category would it be under?

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