As I rose on a working and steep escalator in the cavernous 3rd Avenue and Yelser Way section of Pioneer Square Station, I heard the mad screaming of crows. What was this commotion about? It sounded like the sky was falling. When I reached the top of the "urban canyon," as the artist Laura Sindell named it back in 1990, and which is covered by a glass and steel structure that resembles the shopping centers of early 19th century Paris (called arcades), I saw the black birds panicking in the air and hating on a poor black woman who was walking toward Second Avenue. She was in her mid-40s, average height, average American weight, and clad in dark-blue pants and a light-brown t-shirt. Her hair was very natural looking. Crow after crow dive-bombed her head.
When she crossed Yesler, the still-screaming birds followed her. What did this woman do to make them so angry? And it appeared to be all of the crows on the block. In this and that tree or street lamp or while flying, they were all screaming: SHES'S THE ONE! THAT'S HER! THE ONE! The black woman finally entered the safety of a tent near Second and Main. The crows were attacking a homeless person.
I bring up this unhappy incident because my imagination, at that time (walking out of Pioneer Square Station), could not stop itself from connecting it with the intense negative feelings that many humans in our city direct towards the homeless. Our mayor is now cracking down on people who live in RVs for only one and very obvious reason: it's better than living on the streets. Durkan is piling more misery onto a mountain of misery. Where do you go when your RV is impounded by the city for the "health and safety" of its productive members?
Amid this systematic and unrelenting aggression (in the papers, on the web, on radio, in City Hall), maybe we can imagine that the crows, a very clever animal, are now really feeling it too, because how can they miss it? This bad mood. It's everywhere. The humans here hate the homeless. They, the black birds, should do the same.
“Many of them [RVs] have drug paraphernalia, loaded with needles, frequently rat infested and recently we had a serious issue with bed bugs," said Lincoln Towing General Manager Chuck Lebertew to radical right-wing TV station KOMO about the RVs. “It’s brutal.”
In a press release, Mayor Durkan wrote, “We have an obligation to protect public health and ensure that our neighbors are not living in inhumane conditions. And we will hold accountable those who prey on vulnerable people for profit.” So far, the city has taken 94 RVs from the desperate, and has "budgeted $375,000 for RV disposals in 2019." The towing manager demonized them; the mayor authorizes the demolishing. More business for towing; more pain for the poor.
Now, you may laugh at the suggestion that crows can feel this ever-intensifying negativity toward the humans who are unfortunate enough to be at the very bottom of an extraordinarily wealthy city. You could argue that crows also attack the people that the mayor represents—those who can afford luxury apartments or own over-valued and space-wasting single-family homes. It is around this time of year, you may reason, that the crows become obnoxious because they are defending the fledglings in their nests.
Fine. Fine. Fine. But let's be imaginative for a moment and recall an image that's in a marvelous passage near the end of Plato's Republic. The image appears in what Socrates says to Adeimantus: "...how much greater is the liberty which the animals who are under the dominion of man have in a democracy than in any other State... [even] the horses and asses have a way of marching along with all the rights and dignities of freemen; and they will run at any body who comes in their way if he does not leave the road clear for them: and all things are just ready to burst with liberty." If our city was not so oppressive, so filled with the soul-poisoning puss of the sad passions, or led by a mayor who only knows how to punish the poor for being poor, would not the crows be also a little less aggressive? Maybe a little more friendly? I do love democratic donkeys.