During Halloween, for those who don’t live in San Francisco, the Castro transforms into a fantastic affair that is held every Halloween: sort of a mini-Mardi Gras in which everybody crowds into the Castro neighborhood and dresses up. Tens of thousands of people are drawn every October 31, and this confluence brings together freaks, drag queens, and everyday people — all of them celebrating the mischievious spirit of Halloween and this City’s rep as glorious weird magnet.
Last night, nine people were shot in the Castro area.
Now, a few years ago, some stabbings occurred and there was some discussion on whether the Castro should be closed down for Halloween. Thankfully, it wasn’t.
But the shootings have now upped the authoritarian ante and now Mayor Gavin Newsom is considering pulling the plug.
I certainly hope this isn’t the case. On Halloween 2001, I went to the Castro with some friends, having just returned from a trip to Germany. With irony declared dead (why?), I had grave reservations about whether or not my country’s innovative and creative spirit would survive the “you are either with us or against us” mentality that followed the 9/11 attacks. Castro Halloween 2001 reassured me, demonstrating that my country’s spirit was there. And I realized then that no matter how authoritarian this country became, there would still be Castro Halloween. There would still be people determined to celebrate their inner Bohemian spirits. There would still be people wanting to have fun and rock the boat, however rightward the national galleon sailed.
But if Castro Halloween is to go or to be seriously restricted because of these treacherous bad apples who spoiled the party for everyone, then I’ll know that my country is dead. I’ll know that our zero tolerance policy, which doesn’t account for the fact that terrible things will continue to occur as long as humans occupy this planet, applies across the board. I’ll know that, much like the great edgy cabaret acts of Berlin in the 1920s and 1930s that inspired Christopher Isherwood were completely halted and uprooted by Nazi thugs, this nation has no interest in one of our most precious freedoms: the right to assemble peacefully under the First Amendment.
If we believe in America, that marvelous land of rabblerousers and cultural innovators, then the citizens of San Francisco won’t let Castro Halloween go because of a few thugs.
© 2006, Edward Champion. All rights reserved.