Mark Twain once said, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” The strangest vibe I’ve ever felt was a night in San Francisco in the time of Covid. I’ve been visiting city on a fairly regular basis for about twenty years. My wife and I decided to get a room there over the weekend. This is towards the end of April of 2021. It was our first visit since Covid. This is what I can tell about San Francisco in 2021 after spending roughly twenty-four hours there. The city is in a state of disarray. The number of homeless living on the streets has seemingly doubled, which is alarming considering that the homeless situation was already dire before Covid. Before you dismiss me as just another self-interested tool that is unsympathetic towards the unhoused, you should first spend some time in places like San Francisco, Portland and Los Angeles. People are not living on the streets of San Francisco due to the high cost of living or lack of housing. The working poor of the Bay Area live in places like Vallejo and often with family or friends. Those living on the streets of San Francisco are either mentally deranged or reckless vagrants roaming the city, looking for something to steal and hoping that their next high will be as euphoric as the last.
The streets smell of urine and even the wealthier parts of the city have been tagged with graffiti. There is an uneasy sense that the city is unsafe, and the police are almost non-existent. There are people literally shooting up heroin on the streets in broad daylight. Human feces on the sidewalk happens regularly. I wish I could tell you that the things people have been saying about San Fran have been greatly fabricated. I would be much less dismayed if it were all merely right-wing propaganda aimed at poking holes at the push for progressive policy change around the country. I can tell that this is definitely not the case and anyone who tells you differently is being dishonest. Only one with an agenda would try to convince you otherwise regarding San Francisco or other once great American cities like New York, Washington DC, Portland and Seattle. Oddly enough, there is little coverage in the mainstream media of what is transpiring in San Fran, which is strange considering that it is one of the most famous metropolitans in the world. It’s been the setting of countless novels and films. It was the center of the counter revolution in the 1960s. Yet, the utter unraveling of a once iconic city is largely ignored by the press.
But the problems with San Francisco should not be solely pinned on the mentally ill that meander its streets like a scene from the walking dead. The urban professionals that have gravitated to the city in recent years are as every bit as mentally dysfunctional and lost as the homeless. They are in many ways the inverse of each other. A cluster of lost souls from all parts of the country occupying a small parcel of land on the edge of the continent. Many of the urban professionals work in tech or for large non-profits geared at “changing the world”. The majority are rather young, but there are plenty over the age of forty. Covid-19 has sent many of them over the edge. They are seemingly engulfed in a frenzy of fear, anxiety and groupthink. Virtually everyone in San Francisco, particularly the urban professionals, wear mask outside. And not just in somewhat crowded areas, but when walking in the park alone and with nobody within a hundred feet. They wear mask when they are jogging or riding a bike, including those that have already been vaccinated and despite the fact that San Francisco has very low cases of Covid or Covid-related deaths. The mask for the urban progressive in San Francisco is a symbol of his new religion. It is a way to signal one’s progressive obedience to those around him. For anyone not wearing a mask outside, then it is clear that person does not fully commit to the new religion of far-left Progressivism. I would also argue that there is generally sense in the city that many of the residents prefer that the mask mandate remain permanent.
It is as if the city of San Francisco has morphed into the setting of the TV show Black Mirror. In the time of Covid, the urban professional of San Fran has truly become an atomized being. Entirely alienated from society, but sort of mechanically functioning within in the shell of a former one. I say former because San Fran no longer really exist. The beautiful architecture represents a relic of the past. The city has become lifeless, soulless, and dictated by ideology. Many of its residents showcase signs advocating for “love, science and Black Lives Matter.” Yet, these have merely just become clever slogans that mean nothing to anyone. The urban professional of San Fran in 2021 lives life confined to a false narrative. You rarely see him or her smile, gesture or communicate. She walks quickly along the sidewalk, face covered with a mask and fixated on her smart phone. Occasionally, she meets a friend for lunch at an outdoor patio. It is only then that the mask briefly comes off for the consumption of food or a glass of wine. They talk, but there is little communication nor discourse. They have been indoctrinated from the time of university to think the same, repeat and agree on the same dogmatic ideas. The mask has exasperated this precarious shift towards collectivism. The mask exempts them from ever having to truly live or think again. It allows one to comfortably play for one team and ignore the blatant contradictions that are simultaneously destroying the city one calls home. While these two acquaintances are enjoying an outdoor lunch, there is man on the other side of the street, completely out of his mind, defecating on the sidewalk.
The point of this depiction of San Francisco is not to demonize its residents. There are certainly good people living there. People that may have good intentions. But it has become clear that the lifestyle and general vibe of the city in 2021 has become toxic. This is true from both from a public and mental health perspective. If San Francisco is a prelude to a future urban American landscape ten or twenty years from now, then we need to start taking an honest look at what is unfolding there, so that we can prevent other cities from succumbing to the same precarious path before it’s too late. Personally, I feel bad for many of the residents of San Francisco despite the fact that the vast majority of them are quite affluent. Even before Covid, it was nearly impossible to escape the groupthink culture of fiercely progressive enclaves like San Francisco without suffering consequences. Covid has accelerated this mentality in parts of the country to literally the point of insanity and it must be wreaking havoc on people’s mental health. In places like San Francisco, there exist this overwhelming pressure among the urban progressives to blindly agree on one perspective of the world and the mask has been the perfect mechanism to further herd the sheep. Despite the fact that many residents in San Francisco have already been vaccinated, the number of Covid cases are extremely low and most residents are generally fit and not overweight, it is as if the mask will become a permanent fixture. My intention is not to deny that there is a virus or downplay the severity of Covid, but the mask has become ‘political theatre’ in San Francisco.
Can San Francisco come back from this?
I am optimistic that at least some San Fran residents are going to wake up when the contradictions and lies surrounding them begin to produce a suffocating effect. However, they will simply just move out of the city and many have already left. The remaining will be a collection of the homeless, the mentally ill, young vagrants and the most ideologically committed progressives. It is a recipe for disaster. Human beings have a tendency to be painstakingly stubborn and nobody in San Francisco, including the politicians are willing to admit that they are wrong. There is no longer room for honest discussion or open political discourse in such an environment. The majority of San Fran’s residents are so entrenched in their myopic view of life, that there is really no turning back. The only way forward for San Francisco is honesty, but the culture that exist there in 2021 is drowning in dishonesty. Although I am a person that generally sees the glass as half full, I do not see much hope for San Francisco. At least not in this decade. It is going to take years for the city to recover and I wouldn’t be surprised if the situation gets worse before it gets better.