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The Blue Angels buzzed the Castro Street Fair on Oct. 7, one of the planes missing the top of Twin Peaks by what looked like a few feet. And almost nobody seemed to notice.
The roar of the jets couldn't possibly compete with the energy onstage, where Cookie Dough and the Monster Show were acting out a Wizard of Oz sketch to the sounds of "Boogie Oogie Oogie." I only saw one guy in the crowd even looking up, and he was just kind of shaking his head. Sailors are, of course, always popular in the Castro, but the United States Navy really isn't.
A former Naval officer I know understands exactly why. She was drummed out years ago; the Naval Investigative Service followed her to a lesbian bar in New Orleans, and suddenly a talented and successful ensign who had just been promoted to lieutenant (junior grade) was tossed ashore, all benefits lost. She can joke about it now, but she's still pissed.
The crazy thing of it all, she tells me, is that the Navy is "by far the gayest of all the services, and everyone knows it." If even this one branch just gave up the pretense and allowed queers to serve openly, she says, Fleet Week would take on a whole new meaning in San Francisco. But that's not the only issue with Fleet Week, obviously. Like a lot of people in this town (and much of the queer community), I'm not terribly into the military, and I don't like turning San Francisco into a giant, expensive recruitment ad. Besides, as we used to say about nuclear weapons, one Blue Angel can ruin your whole day: a few feet lower, a tiny mistake, and that F-A/18 flying toward Twin Peaks loaded with explosive jet fuel could have taken out hundreds of homes, killed thousands of people. It's not as if it doesn't happen; twice in the past year members of the Navy's expert precision flying team have crashed.
There's also the fact that this is a city overwhelmingly opposed to the war and to military adventurism in general. San Francisco's idea of supporting the troops is bringing them home and giving them honorable discharges, medical care, and education benefits.
I'm always astonished that more local political leaders don't just come out and say that. In fact, I'm astonished (although I probably shouldn't be) that Mayor Gavin Newsom and Rep. Nancy Pelosi act as if Fleet Week is a wonderful San Francisco event, with no mention of the issues involved.
In fact, on June 11, after Sup. Chris Daly tried to ground the Blue Angels, Newsom wrote directly to David Winter, the secretary of the Navy, rolling out the red carpet. "My office and the community could not be more supportive of the Navy and their representatives, the Blue Angels," he wrote.
Nothing from Mr. Same-Sex Marriage about don't ask, don't tell. Nothing about the war. Nothing about San Francisco's long and noble history as a center of the peace movement. Just praise for military might. He's sounding a lot like Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
And by the way, on the contradictions beat: San Francisco is poised to give a huge, lucrative contract to Clear Channel Communications, one of the worst corporations in the country. Labor leaders are pissed, and they should be. I wonder: If there's a lot of money to be made selling ads on bus shelters, why doesn't the city just run the program itself? Why share the profits with the likes of Clear Channel?