June 14 2016 04:56 PM

Life interrupted by hate demands reflection

Hillcrest Pride Flag
Photo by John Lamb

Chris Ward was the only non-incumbent, local San Diego politician to win office outright in the June 7 primary election. The District 3 city councilmember-elect won't be sworn in until December. In the months that will lead up to the November general election—which Ward avoided by gaining more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary—he'll campaign for fellow Democrats. He also has six months to hire a staff and get up to speed on efforts to curtail homelessness, weigh stadium proposals for the Chargers and study issues affecting neighborhoods that include downtown, North Park and Hillcrest.

Ward met me on Monday in a cramped North Park campaign office. He and campaign manager Molly Chase were in the throes of cleaning out and closing down the rented space. No-longer-needed lawn signs and political mailers were scattered around. Transition was apparent.

The interview was requested prior to the weekend—before the senseless, numbing shooting deaths of 49 people in Orlando.

Cordially and dutifully, Ward answered questions about his pending job. Somewhat offhandedly, the soon-to-be officeholder remarked that scores of future constituents have already messaged him about what to put on his plate first when he assumes the council seat. At the moment, though, Ward hoped he could find just a little time to reacquaint with his husband and their beloved two-year-old daughter.

That's where the wheels kinda fell off. Before the interview, I'd let omnipresent media coverage of the United States' deadliest mass shooting wash over me. Yes, we avoid letting terrorists win by continuing on with our daily lives. One story from Orlando got under my deflector shield, however, and Ward's mention of his daughter connected me to it: Eddie Justice's scared texts to his mother, sent while he hid from the rampaging Orlando gunman in a Pulse nightclub restroom. Justice's mom did what every parent would do—she consoled her child and tried to assure him everything would be OK. But it wouldn't. The texts from the bathroom abruptly ended, and "Mommy I love you" was among the last messages her son communicated from that scene of inconceivable carnage.

On Monday night, for the second evening in a row, a vigil was held in Hillcrest for the fallen in Orlando. Alongside commemoration, San Diego now must focus on protecting itself from similar and/or copycat violence. Reports said the Orlando gunman meant to cause harm to the LGBT community. It appears another man with weapons of destruction was taken into custody over the weekend before he could make his way to the Los Angeles Pride parade. What should local officials do in preparation for the July 15-17 San Diego Pride celebration?

"San Diego Pride organizers have a great working relationship with law enforcement," Ward said. "You might recall when we had the tear gas incident in 1999. But we're lucky San Diego attracts a quarter of a million people here for Pride, making it important to be sure a major civic event in Hillcrest is properly safeguarded. We know there are very competent officials who are mindful of public safety needs. But be observant. See something, say something. If you see an errant backpack on the ground there will be people within reach who will investigate."

Those sentiments were echoed by outgoing District 3 Councilmember Todd Gloria, San Diego LGBT Pride Executive Director Stephen Whitburn and by the San Diego Police Department.

"There are no known threats to any area or event in San Diego," said SDPD Public Information Officer Scott Wahl. "Yes, you can expect to see an increased presence for the [Pride] event. Additionally, we have increased our patrols in the Hillcrest area with a focus on areas where large groups gather."

That's reassuring, to a degree. In time, the sting of this latest tragedy will subside, even if we feel incapable of escaping the quicksand in which political polarization (on gun laws) and intolerance (for race, religion, sexual preference...) entraps us.

So, "Russians." In that dirge about wars no longer being winnable, singer Sting laments: There is no monopoly in common sense, on either side of the political fence; We share the same biology, regardless of ideology. Per the song, the long-shot means to curb toxic rhetoric and mortal combat is shared deference to a potentially universal connection: love of children. No, we're not living in a Pixar movie. But today would be an excellent time to reacquaint with your kids and kin, and redouble expressions of love.


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