Some of you may know I wasn’t born here, that I moved here as an adult. Of course I recognized America is a democracy, and I thought I knew what it meant. Elections. Party politics. Politicians’ promises. “The worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time…” (Winston Churchill).
Somehow or the other, over the last year, I’ve been drawn into community issues. We have a few of them around our neighborhood: among others, UCSF’s plans for Sutro Cloud Forest; PUC’s plans for a gravel yard beside the Laguna Honda reservoir; and a builder’s plan for an apartment block at the end of a long narrow cul-de-sac on Crestmont. What I saw was that community action actually worked.
It was then that I realized what democracy truly meant: You don’t have to be Somebody to have a voice. And the corollary: Just because you’re a big and powerful institution, you don’t get to make unilateral decisions.
If you were born here, you probably think this article is just silly. You already know that your voice counts, that if something really ticks you off, you get to try to change things. It’s the American way. But I’m hoping this makes you feel a bit prouder about what goes on here. Community activism isn’t a universal truth.