Fleet Week, the annual celebration of active military folks docking their ships and hitting our town, is upon us. As we all know, Fleet Week is not without controversy, and it’s hard to find a San Franciscan who doesn’t have a strong opinion for or against it. (Would knowing that the F Market is free to ride all day Saturday and Sunday sway your opinion either way? ‘Cause it is.)
Unlike some folks, we don’t think a publication necessarily needs to have a united public face on all the issues. So we have two of our esteemed staffers, Adam David Cole and Richard Ciccarone, stating their cases for and against. What side do you fall on? Let’s hear your fors and/or againsts in the comments.
Fleet Week Sucks
Adam David Cole
I’m against Fleet Week because, as a San Franciscan, I’m against everything.
For better or worse, San Francisco is a homogeneous liberal bubble cut off from reality. We embrace our insanity in a constant freakshow of absurd parades and protests, ad retardum. We traipse down Market Street, traffic be damned, on our roller skates with our dicks dangling out of our tutus, celebrating, protesting, cavorting…What is it this week? Bay to Breakers? Prop 8? Thursday? Fuck it. Bust out the tutu. We’ll throw a parade for just about any reason.
But not the military. Or the Navy, or any other offshoot of the trigger-happy folks responsible for bombing schools and hospitals in war-torn countries, supplying weapons to right-wing dictators, torturing civilians, and shipping off our poor and people of color to their imminent friendly-fire deaths. Need we forget Don’t Ask Don’t Tell? WTF, man. As San Franciscans, we know better than to rally behind the Right.
Look, don’t get me wrong. I understand San Francisco’s storied history with the Navy. And the kids love seeing the Blue Angels fly between the skyscrapers. I GET IT. But I’m not about to abandon my hard-earned leftist ideals just because it warms Granny’s heart to see the ships roll in, or because some 9-year-old gets a boner off a fighter jet. Go to a ball game if you want to watch the jets fly overhead.
I’ll give any strapping lad in a sailor suit a reach around and a few tugs because, shit – who won’t give it up to a man in uniform? But come on, Mary! Get your ass down to the Castro, where you can’t spit without hitting a dude in a sailor suit. He just might be wearing a tutu.
I love you, San Francisco.
My argument for Fleet Week and the Blue Angels
Our current federal government as prescribed by the Constitution, permits a civilian controlled defense structure lead by a Commander-in-Chief. We, the people, elect that Commander-in-Chief every four years so it stands to reason that we, the people, are in effect in charge of our military. We rely on the military to protect us and to assist us in times of crisis. It is a symbiotic relationship that has, to date, freed us from dictatorship and invasion, internal chaos from natural disasters and man made catastrophe. In return, we supply our military with the best equipment and training we can furnish. But that must include more.
Those serving in our military put their life and limb on the line to defend our nation and our beliefs. In doing so we, the direct beneficiaries of their sacrifice, owe a collective debt of gratitude not just in materiel, but in a show of support for their efforts. And what exactly are we sacrificing for this?
One weekend a year our military visits one of America’s most beautiful cities, spends money, and enjoys what they put their lives on the line to protect. In the military, respect is shown through protocol and ceremony, for both celebration and mourning. Allowing the expression of this ceremonial function puts our civilian gratitude into a martial lexicon. A much enjoyed component of these ceremonial rights include the Blue Angels. The Blue Angels have become such an integral part of Fleet Week that to remove their presence would say more about the ingratitude of a city than about safety or convenience. Lest you think my argument is merely a hollow, jingoist, ad hominem response to paint those who disagree as unpatriotic, I will say here and now this is also about money.
The air show, to which the Blue Angels are featured, is sponsored (in large part) by private donations with assistance from local grants set aside for specifically this purpose. This same fund also furnishes the opera, local theatres, the ballet and a variety of other entertainment producing organizations. Depending upon the statistics, this weekend is estimated to earn local businesses collectively anywhere between 3 and 4 million dollars including hotels which pay for that fund. Not a bad take for one weekend in a city desperate for revenue.
The two most serious arguments against the Blue Angels using San Francisco air space as I see it are safety and convenience. (Let us dismiss the anti-military rhetoric which has no serious merit in this debate. We have a military and as long as we are a nation, we will always need one.) The Blue Angels have had 26 fatalities nationally during the past 60 years. Tragic, yes, but not prohibitive. More people are killed in one month as a result of traffic-related accidents in the Bay Area, should we ban automobiles? And as for convenience, yes, the planes are loud and for civilians it is certainly off-putting to hear the screech of fighter planes rip open the sky. I myself am particularly sensitive to irritating noises, but it is a small price to pay knowing that this small, three day event, helps the economy and boosts morale for those whose bravery and courage secure our ability to protest these displays.
God bless you all and God bless the United States of America.