The other day I took the T to work, traveling at the average speed of 15 mph northbound through the bay view, dog patch, along the embarcadero, finally to downtown San Francisco…in total a sixty minute ride to travel 6 miles.


While I rode MUNI, the sun still slowly rising as people emerged from their warm, dark houses, I couldn’t help but let my thoughts gravitate towards the fact that gentrification is so visible in these neighborhoods – it’s almost palpable. The luxury condos siloed off from the general public – eight-foot fences, dead-end streets, tinted windows, security gates, & pass-coded doors all shout, “Stay back, you are not welcome here!”. I’m not sure if there is a line marking where the bay view ends and where the new neighborhood recently re-branded the dog patch begins (because who can bear to say they live in the bay view without getting stares and scrunched up faces of judgement), but it’s clear that there are lines drawn. Lines that designate, “THIS is where you live, and THIS is where I live.”

Just like lines have been drawn before: on Native American reservations, the line(s) between Israel & Palestine, The Great Wall of China, National Parks, Japanese internment in the 1940’s – lines are drawn to keep people in or out. And even further – these lines designate who has been deemed undesirable & perhaps even less than human.

If John Lennon has taught me anything, it’s that imagining a world without lines makes for a great sing-along but ultimately is just a dream. But there ARE some collectivist societies out there that manage to finagle empathy and mutual compassion out of large groups of people…What will it take for us to let our lines fade & our walls fall? The Mayans had a saying, “In Lak’ech Ala K’in” which means, “I am you, you are me.” It is a lovely & moving idea – but perhaps a bit too subversive for comfort.


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