fleetweek.jpgFleet 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.

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.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
Richard Ciccarone

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?

Allowing the expression of this ceremonial function puts our civilian gratitude into a martial lexiconOne 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.

the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at eve@sfappeal.com.

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  • citizenal

    I’ve leave the symbolic arguments to others.


  • Jason Bentley

    Okay, while I agree with some of the “against” opinion, it’s written with the panache of a forum troll-comment, so I can’t take it seriously at all.

    The “for” argument is problematic, though, because it ignores the biggest problem. While I’ve heard the “safety and convenience” arguments (and the even lamer arguments against it), the problem I hear most about, and feel the strongest about personally, is the distracting distruption caused by the weekday rehearsals.

    Yes, we love the military and support the troops, but as the author pointed out, it’s a privately funded event. How many other private events would be allowed to pollute the business district of a major financial capital with alarming, ear-splitting roars? If bass booms from a concert at AT&T park rattled the windows of SoMa during the middle of a weekday, you’d have everyone from city officials to street-level wonks rightfully up in arms about disruptive noise-bleed from a “private event.”

    Alas, it’s a great excuse for a work-from-home day.

  • bloomsm

    Cole’s article proves why Fleet Week is justified: the let-it-all-hang-out lifestyle we embrace here in the City is a fruit of liberty. Our right to protest in the streets is guaranteed in the Constitution. And once in a while, it wouldn’t hurt to take a moment to appreciate the efforts (and talents) of those who guard our liberties and sometimes make the ultimate sacrifice.

    Or, you can join the lemmings and be another jaded, cynical San Franciscan who thinks that the country apparently defends itself and the most important thing the military can do is zealously preserve my right to walk in a crosswalk at any time, or get Papusas on demand from El Zocalo.

    Plus, my inner five-year-old likes loud things that go fast.

  • Richard Ciccarone

    I agree somewhat with Jason on the “problematic” nature of my argument, but I would like to point out that San Francisco permits, once a month, an event that “pollutes the business district”: Critical Mass. And while I support the efforts of the bicyclists to raise awareness of their presence, I also think that if we can inconvenience every motor vehicle one day a month, this too can and should be embraced.

  • meherenow

    Fleet week should be a time of private contemplation of national shame. Yes we have aggressive instincts and a desire to take by force what we cannot have otherwise. This is something we should be discussing with our psychiatrists, not flaunting in public like it was a good thing. If we must have something for the children, how about a kamikaze assault of one Blue Angel into one aircraft carrier? The pilot could bail out at the last second and parachute into a field of poppies.

  • Christine Borden

    I like things that go fast.

  • Babe Scanlon

    The Blue Angels are like a rape fantasy. Finding anything at all titillating in the whole thing makes you feel gross and awful but you can’t deny there’s something there.

  • PhilD

    I think the safety and noise concerns are trite and unconvincing. My only aversion to Fleet Week is its underlying jingoism. If this was a non-military air show I’d have absolutely no problem with it – in fact I’d love it! As it stands I do enjoy it, but only nervously. It’s one thing to maintain and even revere a strong military in a violent world, but it’s an entirely different issue when you are flaunting weapons of war for entertainment purposes.

    Bottom line: I will be attending, so I suppose that says it all.

  • antfaber

    I think we should rename it Colonic Irrigation Week. Face it, enemas are old-fashioned. Colonic irrigation is hip and trendy. Also, I don’t think that the City and County should be promoting a specific brand of enema.

  • raqcoon

    we’ll see if god will even permit this show to happen, as the clouds and fog have returned with a vengeance.

  • LibertyHiller

    I’m generally pro-Navy and I’m happy that we host Fleet Week, despite the Navy’s decisions to close its shipyards and other facilities in the area. I object only to the Blue Angels stunting over land; the safety issue is an important one, or am I the only person who remembers what happened at a little airshow in Ramstein? Yes, the Angels are serious about safety, but all it takes is one slipup and we could have a tragedy that makes that the casualty list from 1988 look like a walk in the park.

  • Jason Bentley

    Oh don’t get me started on Critical Mass. 🙂

  • Charles Hanes

    Though I have enjoyed this show in the past, I have changed my mind on its importance.

    It is time for this annual glorification of the military industrial complex to end.

    Defending our country is an important goal, but doing that is not the same thing as our current practice of spending billions upon billions of dollars on ever-more-expensive weapon systems.

    In fact, one can argue that all this spending is making us less secure, not more.

  • jmkelly

    I get it! These articles were each written by a representative of the extreme opposing viewpoint as preposterous caricatures of their nemesis. How else, for instance, could someone who claims to love this city’s irreverence use the Blue Angels as an excuse to make it sound like Rush Limbaugh’s lamest stereotype of “a constant freakshow of absurd parades and protests, ad retardum” where “we traipse down Market Street, traffic be damned, on our roller skates with our dicks dangling out of our tutus, celebrating, protesting, cavorting…”? Really? That’s what’s happening here on the regular? If that were the extent of our city’s anti-establishment heft, George W. Bush would’ve visited by now. Sounds more like a weeklong Mardi Gras than a way to characterize one of the planet’s most influential municipalities. In short, your ploy was revealed when you tried to simultaneously validate the argument that the only people who hate the Blue Angels are cross-dressing buffoons and the argument that the city’s residents are all just that.

    Your counterpart, lampooning the pro-Angels viewpoint, probably offends members of the military, or just people who like airplanes and flying stuff, with his steretypical myopic logic and stilted language. But at least he doesn’t offend my hometown.

    Anyway, nice try with the little “trading places” conceit. But these both ultimately fail to be funny partly because they’re not very true, but mostly because they’re such hackneyed, played-out stereotypes. Play it straight next time – there’s probably a real argument to be had.

  • HDPerkeo

    How much does it cost to fly those jets? How would you like to be a 9- year old kid who only know those planes as the ones that bomb? How about and air show wo fighter jets? Would you even know the difference if non military planes were painted blue and yellow? Would you miss them if they didnt come next year? How many recruits actually see the cockpit of a fighter?