Childhood lesson loses value
Like most large metropolitan areas, San Francisco is a melting pot of different cultures, nationalities and religions. Most native San Franciscans learn tolerance and acceptance along with their ABCs in preschool, but recently those levels of tolerance and acceptance have been challenged.
Earlier this month, Anti-Islam advertisements were on select Muni buses, reaching the hundreds of thousands of people who ride Muni everyday. To make matters worse, the latest allotment of advertisements has incredibly offensive homophobic messages, another sensitive topic for our liberal city.
Pamela Geller, head of the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), created the ads as a way to garner a legal reaction from the city’s government. Her main objective is to further her extremist political agenda and create media publicity for her cause.
The district attorney’s office is taking a passive approach by not drawing attention to the ads and allowing Geller’s group to run these advertisements without legal pushback. However, for many San Franciscans this approach isn’t enough. It is embarrassing for a city with a legacy of tolerance and acceptance to have its city’s buses with “Equality for All” flashing above their windshields and distasteful ads discounting an entire culture on their sides.
The First Amendment protects Geller and the AFDI, as well as other prominent hate groups. The question that arises is whether or not San Franciscans will allow these offensive ads to affect the city’s image of acceptance.
Geller intends to use these hateful ads to appeal to San Francisco’s large homosexual community by attempting to draw a parallel between extreme homophobia and Islamic culture.
The AFDI-sponsored ads generate an interesting opportunity for conversation among San Franciscans as well as a timely opportunity for the city’s youth to speak up. There are many opportunities to organize counter-campaigns or tolerance rallies across the city. Geller may be entitled to her voice, but that does not take away ours.
For the price of $5,000 San Francisco is relinquishing its place as a destination for acceptance and tolerance and exchanging it for a reputation as a city that allows hate speech to be broadcasted on city-sponsored transportation.
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