Earlier today, in succession, I wrote the following three tweets:
1) I’ll say it: All this time and money for #SFBatKid should be spent on other people with terrible diseases. We look ridiculous, San Francisco.
2) This city is ravaged by disease and drug abuse and we’ve got the SFPD and FD sidelined so one kid can drive a Lamborghini around.
3) I hope he lives a beautiful life but this just seems like an ostentatious display of myopia about this city’s real problems.
And then mostly because only the second one was retweeted a lot, a backlash from users on Twitter ensued.
The usual mechanics of this situation are that I delete the tweets, tell you about how my mom had cancer but that’s no excuse — I should have known better — and then apologize and everyone who got upset feels like they’ve done their good deed for the day.
I am only sorry that I used Twitter. Cancer, public policy and philanthropy are too complicated and sensitive a topic for 140 characters and that was a mistake.
But I stand by the essence of the three statements. Does this mean I am “hating” on a kid with cancer? Does this mean I think he doesn’t deserve attention and affection? Does this mean I think we can’t have fun?
Can you honestly read those tweets together and draw any of those conclusions?
A five year old with leukemia absolutely deserves every bit of love possible. But this is a question of proportionality. “So what?” people say. “It’s just one day.” Well, if it’s just one day why not take all the police, fire department, public workers and onlookers that showed up for BatKid to San Francisco hospitals and tell ALL the kids in the cancer ward that they’re superheros.
(Nevermind the parents that have to explain to their kids fighting cancer why they can’t be Batman today.)
I hope — really truly hope — that today resulted in an uptick in funding for cancer research. There is research that shows single stories, rather multiple cases or statistics, are the most powerful when soliciting donations.
But “awareness” is often cover for “not really doing anything.” These sorts of events just have an unshakable whiff of healthy people acting like “help” means tweeting out a cute picture and a hashtag. For everyone that called me an asshole, shitbag or (my favorite) “living proof that a fetus can dodge a coat hanger for 9 months and survive” I do hope you redirected some of that energy toward your checkbook.
And the point I was making in those tweets should not need explaining. San Francisco has a terrible layer of poverty and sickness — from both drugs and disease — which we tuck in alleys, vacant storefronts and the area between Geary, Market and Van Ness. It’s almost trite to bring it up anymore and that’s sad. But it ain’t going away.
If we’re all going to get excited and set aside a day in the life of an entire city for those in need — and we absolutely should do this more — why not make it for more than just one person?