Saturday, October 1, 2011

The end of Arthur Evans

For the past two decades, literally since 1991, Arthur Evans was an irritant to the world of San Francisco homeless-rights activism. He was a smart and persistent letter-writer who got published regularly in the San Francisco Chronicle with diatribes against poor people hanging out on sidewalks in the Haight. He frequented poverty-related discussion threads on the SF Bay Guardian weblog with comments like this one that pretended all homeless people were thuggish menaces to the vulnerable and the decent. Typically he told compelling stories and generalized them into anger against the whole social category.

An accomplished gadfly with an honorable history in gay activism, Evans joined and waged various anti-homeless campaigns. In 2000 he unsuccessfully sued the Haight & Ashbury branch of Ben & Jerry's, more or less for letting people hang out on their sidewalk. At the corner of Haight and Ashbury, for crying out loud.

He died this past September 11. Today the Chron unaccountably ran the NYT's obituary, which discussed him only in terms of his brave early gay-rights career. Funny the Chron didn't give him credit for all those letters of his they published, the last of them just two days before his death, disapproving of old-guy nudists at Castro and Market.

The Bay Guardian has an obituary with an extended comments thread about Arthur Evans with many thoughts from friends and opponents. Along with much else, the comments cite to a thoughtful meditation by queer activist and housing rights advocate Tommi Mecca, who knew him for years and ended up his opponent.

I find it sad that Evans could write a "Critique of Patriarchial Reason" identifying misogyny and homophobia in intellectual trends throughout history, and yet fail to understand that the clearly visceral abjection reactions he expressed so often against poor people came from the same part of the gut or brain as "gay panic".

Maybe he's another of these tragic cases, like ex-HUD secretary Alphonso Jackson, who managed to fight bigotry bravely on one level but, in other ways, dealt with his own experience of rejection by picking out others to despise and harm.

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