My San Francisco Values

Tom Nardi

With the possible exception of the dreaded “Islamofacist,” there is perhaps not a phrase as overused and simultaneously meaningless in American political dialogue as “San Francisco values.” Bill O’Reilly has used it, as has Newt Gingrich, as a slur against Nancy Pelosi, that queen of everything wrong with America.

As readily as far-right commentators have adopted the phrase and branded it onto liberals, Americans have adopted it as a sign of itself. An inherently empty phrase has come to mean everything the right wing hates in the left without thought to what those things are. “San Francisco values” are bad, and those that have them must be stopped.

But what are these despised values? Can we attach a definition to the idea? Is there a meaning behind the sound byte? What does the right think that “San Francisco values” really are?

Being a dutiful left-winger, I have been checking my e-mail for the memo on what my “San Francisco values” are supposed to be. Giddy with anticipation, I’ve been awaiting my marching orders. However, I have gotten no mailing telling me what these values are. Confused, I journeyed to San Francisco this summer to find out.

I didn’t know what to expect on my liberal hajj. Maybe there would be drive-through gay marriage chapels with abortion clinics in the basement and head shops upstairs. Maybe Alcatraz had been replaced with a temple to the pagan gods of liberalism, and Al Gore would call us to prayer five times daily.

Would it have been shocking to see Nancy Pelosi in a dominatrix outfit walking Barbara Boxer down the street on a leash in a gimp suit? Maybe elsewhere, but certainly not in San Francisco. I wonder if their safe-word was “flag-burner.”

No trip to the city by the bay would have been complete without a stereotypical gay pride parade. Yes, Villanova, my family planned a trip to San Francisco during Pride Week this summer. Not for Pride Week – during. The conservatives in our family planned the trip, so it was just a happy little irony that I could see a giant pink triangle from our hotel room window.

Certainly, this parade must symbolize “San Francisco values.” It must mean sex. Gay sex, flatly. And the kind of kinky stuff Larry Craig begs for in his dreams. Of course, there were protesters. Some poor self-loathing closet-case was on his soapbox preaching that people needed to repent and seek God’s love. Needless to say, he was also shouting that “homos burn in hell,” because they are liars, cheats, adulterers and other such vile things. I guess he forgot the part where Jesus said to love thy neighbor.

As I was standing in line for a cable car near Fourth and Market, I watched the parade go by. And I also watched the people around me. There was a fairly big crowd of spectators along Market, always several people deep. What struck me most was that parents had their little children on their shoulders, lifting them up to watch the festivities.

Did these people not know that the ‘San Francisco values’ emanating from this spectacle could harm their children? After all, Rev. Falwell told us that feminism caused Sept. 11. Surely a pride parade would turn a child into an octopus, or something. I can’t profess to know how such things work, but I’m sure genetic mutation must be involved.

But the onlookers viewed the parade as only something else happening that day. Even as the Christians protested so loudly with their pro-hatred Jesus signs, the crazy guy signing James Brown at the top of his lungs garnered more spectators. People watched the parade not as a spectacle but as something interesting going on in their city.

What I learned this summer is that “San Francisco values” aren’t something nefarious. “San Francisco values” consist of acceptance of other people as they are. Pride Week taught me that liberals value people more than any of their attributes. Regardless of who and what you are, you are first and foremost a person worthy of respect and open acceptance. “San Francisco values” aim at establishing a society where people matter more than doctrine.

So, Villanova, I’m Tom Nardi, and I have San Francisco values. That shouldn’t be a code word for anything except valuing people as people.

To the freshmen, welcome to Villanova, and I hope you’re adjusting well. To the upperclassmen, welcome back. I hope you all enjoy my column this year.