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THE ROSA PARKS EFFECT

Dreamed 1997/7/21 by Chris Wayan

Yesterday I dreamed of a herd of elephants gridlocking downtown San Francisco. Wondered if it was a warning--I have to bike down there today. But it goes okay--nothing resembling elephants downtown. Well, no, actually there are, but we're all blind to them, since they have wheels and license plates.

Look at a paper on the corner: the headlines say our mayor is threatening to arrest the riders in Critical Mass (a monthly bike ride at rush hour downtown) for holding a protest march without a permit, blocking traffic. Which beautifully proves the bikers' point: "We aren't blocking traffic, we ARE traffic. Every bike is one less car in the mix. Cops don't treat CAR drivers jamming downtown as a nuisance, though they do it every day--no one accuses them of making a political statement by choosing to drive CARS at rush hour, though they do, EVERY DAY." The discrimination angers me--I can expect cops to harass bikers like me from now on. The mayor has declared me a public enemy--for driving a smaller, cleaner vehicle.

And I've seen it before. I biked to work for years in Palo Alto for years without a single ticket... till the cops started harassing bikers as a protest against a council member they saw as too pro-bike and anti-cop. Suddenly I was stopped and questioned for being a suspicious character in my own neighborhood, and hit with a couple of bogus traffic tickets.

I don't want that here. I can't afford a lot of tickets. Biking's not a hobby or political statement for me, but the least toxic way for me to get around. I bike on back streets away from cars AND busses. For the environmentally ill, the bus is problematic. The routes are on busy streets with more exhaust, you have to wait for them, upping your dose, and their diesel engines are much worse than cars.

At least Rosa Parks could get ON the bus...

THAT NIGHT

I dream I'm reading an account of the bus strike launching the modern civil rights movement, by a black writer who recalls something he later found many others felt too: at the exact moment Rosa Parks got tired and said no, a shockwave of determination and mysterious urges to organize rippled out through the black community, far faster than the grapevine or the media reports.

Her simple "no" caused a psychic tsunami that energized everyone to resist across an entire continent.

THAT MORNING

You know, I do see the signs of such a wave of determination among San Francisco bikers about Critical Mass--it certainly motivates ME to back the protests, just to defend my right to be on the streets at all. I moved to San Francisco because I was different--I couldn't live in America. Half the people here are refugees from something, whether homophobia or dictatorships or smog.

And our mayor, our black mayor, who Newsweek recently touted as a sign liberalism was making a comeback, is declaring war on us. We get in the way of commuters, business--real Americans!

Strange to be making a Rosa Parks statement, just by riding down the street.

But then, it's stranger still to have a black mayor with a red neck.



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