Tie your tubes, and ride a bike!

Clayton Cramer (a guy who probably wouldn't approve of two gay men holding hands in public) nonetheless has a good point when he cites these remarks about bigotry against "breeders" in the San Francisco Bay Area:

[T]hey think I'm overpopulating the world. Probably the strangest experience I've had is being pregnant in the Bay Area. During my other pregnancies, I lived in Sacramento and was used to people smiling when they saw a pregnant woman. Here, no smiles -- mostly scowls.

My favorite story is this one: When I was getting physical therapy when I was six months pregnant (after falling and breaking my wrist), the therapist asked me whether I was pregnant with my first child (she had already told me that she had one child and planned to have only one). When I said, no, this was actually my third child, she immediately asked me whether I was going to have my tubes tied after the birth.

After my baby was born, the hostile looks and mutterings continued. While I was waiting in line for coffee one day with the kids in tow, one woman offered to me that she thought three children constituted a big family. When I told her it really isn't considered a large family in many other parts of the country, including the Midwest town I had recently moved from, she asked me with disdain, "Where was that, a religious community?" Then there was the woman who said to me as she pushed by my stroller, "Three? Don't you think you have enough?" It's not like I was asking her to contribute to their college fund! I was just taking my kids to the bathroom.

From time to time, I have to bring one or more of my children with me to shop at the Bowl. (And let me just say that I am on the strict side of parenting -- my kids behave in public, or we leave.) People are less than happy to see kids in that market (the same is true at Market Hall in Rockridge).

I can understand why -- both markets are crowded with people and products, making the navigation really tough. But, you know, even people who don't regularly get out to Oliveto's, Aqua or Roxanne's (because Bay Area baby-sitters charge $12-$15 an hour) like fresh cracked crab, a nice selection of domestic and imported cheeses and Artisan bread. Sometimes we just have to bring our wee ones along to buy the food we're eating.

Part of the problem with some folks in the Bay Area is that they have lived here too long. They have no other experience with other towns, no diversity in their idea of community.

A couple years ago, The Chronicle ran a series on neighborhoods in Berkeley. According to one longtime resident of the very white, very expensive Elmwood District, "We think of ourselves as being part of Berkeley and don't worry about our neighborhood being diverse." Wow, how nice for them. I guess Hispanic gardeners and African-American housekeepers provide that neighborhood's diversity. Meanwhile, they live in their million-dollar homes, drive expensive Volvos and walk on Oriental rugs that require insurance -- and they still get to call themselves liberals.

This is outrageous, and while I lived in Berkeley for 30 years, I never experienced that kind of narrow-mindedness. (But then, I am not a woman, and I never had kids.) It makes me wonder whether there might be additional problems with the baby's (or the mother's) race or something. Would the same social intolerance be displayed towards, say, a black, Hispanic, or Asian mother? Do the rich Elmwood lefties scowl disapprovingly at the children of their Latina housekeepers or lecture the mothers? If not, why not?

Not that there is anything new about condescending, elitist social prejudice against having too many children. I can remember from my childhood that mothers with one or two kids used to make deprecating remarks about other mothers who had "too many."

But today, I guess any is too many.

Such neo-Puritanism reminds me of another irritating, related phenomenon: a group called "Critical Mass" (more here) which believes that cars are bad, that all drivers are guilty of crimes against the environment, of war crimes, and (I guess as a logical extension) Bush is bad too! Here's a typical example of Critical Mass in action.

I wouldn't want to be a right wing bicyclist!

Here's some typical drivel from this (worldwide) movement:

Bay Area Reclaim the Streets (RTS) is part of a global, decentralized direct action movement. Direct action means that, rather hoping and waiting for the powers that be to make the world all better, we personally set about the urgent task of reclaiming the streets (and the planet and our lives) from the destructive tyranny of global capitalism. The streets are the arteries of the capitalist system of exploitation and oppression, painful extensions of the military-industrial complex that is destroying the earth. By creating a zone of fun in the streets, we disrupt the normal functioning of that system, thereby opening a space for creative development (revolution). Stepping of the sidewalks and into the street brings us together, and allows us to challenge the dehumanization of our lives and the sterile world that accompanies it.

And here they are, proudly blocking a fascist gas station!

Just reading about this shit makes me mad enough to run out and buy what Critical Mass hates the most: an SUV. (Is "SUV" the antonym for "bicycle"?)

I guess one of the reasons these folks so hate SUVs (here's a discussion of the relative virtues of "keying" versus "ticketing" them) is because they tend to be filled with kids.

Cartoonist Ted Rall (of whom I am no fan) has also weighed in on SUVs:

[T]he SUV craze is making Detroit more profitable than ever.

That leaves consumers and dealers as the principal targets of radical environmentalists like the ELF. The idea is to make SUVs as unfashionable, and as scary to own, as fur became after the PETA-inspired spray-paint attacks of the '80s. In an ideal world, American consumers could be convinced to do the right thing through an appeal to logic with public service messages like the "What Would Jesus Drive?" TV campaign, but the kind of people who would buy a car that increases the risk to other motorists in an accident can't be reasoned with. They're selfish and stupid. It's unfortunate that drivers must worry that their SUVs are being targeted by insulting stickers and Molotov cocktails, but one thing's for sure: It couldn't be happening to a more deserving group of people.

Fortunately, there is at least one organization devoted to countering Rall's repulsive ideas. (And if you ask me, all SUV owners should have the right to concealed carry in their vehicles -- just because they own an SUV!)

The Culture War seems like a depressing, uphill battle sometimes. I keep complaining that lifestyles are being politicized, and while the focus of this blog has tended to be on the illogic of judging people by the content of their orgasms, now it's whether you have children. And whether you drive or ride.

As William S. Burroughs used to say,

Most of the trouble in this world has been caused by folks who can't mind their own business, because they have no business of their own to mind, any more than a smallpox virus has....

posted by Eric on 01.13.04 at 04:07 PM

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