Guardian Angels 30 Years Later.

Is this 1979? Am I on the New York Subway? No. I’m walking down Mission Street somewhere between 24th and 20th and I see the white t-shirts and red berets of the Guardian Angels strutting confidently single file and weaving through pedestrian traffic. I found it interesting that a two of them, one man, one woman, looked to be in their early 60s. On the corner of the next block I saw at least 4 more. In my 9 years living in San Francisco, I have never seen a Guardian Angel. Have they always been around in areas I don’t frequent or is this just a reaction to the growing crime rate? I wonder about the effectiveness of a group walking the streets with a uniform publically declaring that they’re not gonna put up with any shenanigans. Back in the day, Ed Koch was opposed to the idea but the fact that they were unarmed seemed to save them. I guess I don’t know enough so I’m somewhere between admiration and suspicion. I always support anyone who can stand up to thugary but I’m curious if there is any kind of screening process to separate those who are willing to fight from those who are “itching” to fight.

In my personal experience, I have seen direct effects of the bad economy. The first 6 years I lived in San Francisco from 2000, I felt pretty safe. But then I had a car broken into then saw a purse snatching attempt in the BART station and a more brazen and a bit violent purse snatching right on the bus in front of security cameras. Thinking back on the purse snatching, I can’t help feel that I could have done something. I know that in retrospect time slows down and there was lots of confusion but still I don’t know if I froze or didn’t have any time to react. At first it just looked like a guy lost his footing and fell against this young woman but when he got up he had her purse and she tried to grab it back. Someone even tackled the guy at the bus door and the snatcher was on the ground again but he was first to get up and take off running. I know the amount of time where I knew what was going on must have been only a second but helping the girl hold on to the purse was probably all that was needed to make the guy give up. To act in that moment would have required a complete shift in my frame of mind. I never thought anyone would be stupid enough to snatch a purse with the bus security cameras going. Still when I play it back in my mind I feel shame. I felt there was enough time to do something. I won’t know if it really did happen that fast or if I just wasn’t fast enough to react. The crook had surprise as his advantage so also I wonder if he looked around the bus and saw a red beret, would he have thought twice just knowing that someone wouldn’t be surprised.

The Guardian Angels still exists and a quick visit to their website shows an almost comical picture of the familiar face of the Guardians, Curtis Sliwa, wearing a grey suit and tie but still wearing the raspberry beret. I saw that Curtis teaches seminars to kids about dealing with bullies and I wondered why this was never part of my education. The catholic school dogma of “turn the other cheek” only hurt me in the long run. No quick and easy answers here but seeing a 60 year old woman confidently walking with her red beret gave me some things to think about.

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1 Comment

  1. euclidcreek said,

    April 8, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    Would you prefer, the Hell’s Angels?


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