There’s a duskiness hanging over the Bay Area that shouldn’t be here. This is normally our warm season, our “Indian Summer,” when the sun is supposed to shine and the people are supposed to shimmer. But there it is, a haze clutching our skyscrapers, a visual reminder of the darkness that has been 2017.
Waking up these past few mornings, the first thing that I sensed was the smell of burning. The fires despoiling the North Bay have brought the horrors of the past year to our doorstep. From Houston to Puerto Rico, from Las Vegas to Mexico City, we’ve watched disasters and atrocities slash across our screens as we felt safely removed. Some of us had loved ones in these places and watched on helplessly, but the majority of us only paid attention for a few days before moving on to the next thing.
I’m not pointing any fingers; it’s hard to stay focused when some new wicked savagery seems to assault our world each week.
As if that weren’t enough, many of the values and ideals that we feel define us have been under bombardment since January. This administration has attacked our weakening environment, our hard-working immigrants, our insufficient health care system, and declared war on people of color, who are just asking to be treated fairly. It’s also promised tax cuts for the wealthy, relaxed regulations for rapacious corporations, pardoned racists like Sheriff Joe Arpaio and defended the actions of white supremacists around the country.
We thought 2016 was bad, but it was just the appetizer — hell, maybe just the amuse-bouche. I’m not sure any of us could’ve known how bad 2017 would be.
That bleak and gloomy haze hanging above us all week may be smoggy air pollution wafting down from the terrible fires claiming lives and livelihoods in the North Bay, but in it’s own way, it’s also the physical manifestation of the desolate weight we’ve been carrying every day since Nov. 8, 2016. Every morning since then, we’ve awoken to news that has filled us with anger or anxiety or both.
As each of these atrocities pile up, the clouds feel darker.
Fortunately, all of this has made our community stronger. When the current administration attempted to ban Muslims, we shut down the airports. When they threatened to rescind DACA, we surrounded the Federal Building.
When white supremacists, emboldened by the Molester-in-Chief, tried to rally in our cities, we showed up in legion and let them know they’re not welcome. There’s no doubt that we have plenty of local problems that we need to reckon with, but when the shit hits the fan, it’s incredible to see how the Bay Area stands up.
It’s been heartwarming to watch people all across the Bay throw and attend fundraisers to help the victims of recent disasters. But seeing the way folks have reacted to the fires tearing through the North Bay has completely filled me with love and admiration for our community. My social media feeds are full of people offering up beds, couches and bedrooms to people who’ve lost their homes. Storefronts are acting as depots for people to drop off clothes, toiletries and other necessities. Some individuals are circulating information on what resources and safe places are available, while others are passing around GoFundMe campaigns to help people get back on their feet. Seeing the community come together to look after our own during a disaster has been nothing short of humbling
Yes, it has been an awful year, and there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight. But watching how this community unites in times of need only strengthens my conviction that, ultimately, if we keep working hard and keep taking care of each other, we’re going to be alright.
Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at BrokeAssStuart.com. Broke-Ass City runs Thursdays in the San Francisco Examiner.