Honor; Courage; Commitment: These are the virtues proclaimed on the opening page of the official website of the Blue Angels, the magnificent official flight demonstration squadron of the United States Navy. Honor; Courage; Commitment: each of these has been shamefully and repeatedly besmirched, abandoned, and shirked by the city of San Francisco, which has wiped the name of the city’s famous Army Street off the map, refused docking rights to the historic World War II battleship Iowa, passed a ballot measure calling for the exclusion of military recruiters from public high schools and colleges, and now banned the Junior Reserve Officers Training Program from the city’s schools. (For more, see Jeff Jacoby’s “Antimilitary bigotry,” and my “San Francisco to Army: Drop Dead.”)
The freedom the city of San Francisco takes for granted depends upon the protection, sacrifice, honor, courage, and commitment of the men and women of America’s armed forces. Up to now, San Francisco has been getting a free ride: insulting and expelling our military while taking advantage of its protection–and even taking advantage of military spectacle when that spectacle adds to the city’s prosperity. Now it’s time for this bad bargain to stop. There is something that can be done–small in itself perhaps, yet large in significance–to begin the process of exposing San Francisco’s free ride.
The Blue Angels need to stop going to San Francisco. With but one or two exceptions, the Angels have performed in San Francisco for over 20 years. About 135 communities across this country request the Navy’s finest each year. Yet only around 34 communities actually see the Blue Angels perform. The city of San Francisco has had the distinct honor of being one of the few fixed, yearly appearance sites of the Blue Angels. This is so, even though many far more supportive communities across the nation–communities that offer much better recruiting opportunities–go years between visits from the Blues. Just this past October, the Blue Angels were a featured attraction at San Francisco’s Fleet Week. As I understand it, the 2007 Blue Angels schedule is now in the chain of command for approval, with the results likely to be announced at the International Council of Air Shows Convention in the first week of December.
San Francisco needs to be permanently removed as a Blue Angels destination. That should not change until the JROTC is brought back to the city, and until Measure I (the “College Not Combat” call to bar military recruiters from schools) is rescinded. True, the public in Northern California as a whole should not be deprived of the opportunity to honor our military during fleet week. Fleet week should go on. Yet San Francisco must pay a price for its grievous insult to our military by seeing its last of the Blue Angels.
The withdrawal of the Blue Angels from San Francisco should be only a part of that price. Congress needs to expand the Solomon Amendment, and the recruiting provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act, to see to it that universities and high schools that block ROTC and JROTC lose their federal funding. (See “SFO v. JROTC.”)
Is it realistic to expect that the Blue Angels would end their regular visits to San Francisco when that city is the home of the soon-to-be-elected Speaker of the House of Representatives? Considering its dependence on congressional appropriations, the Navy will be loathe to cross Speaker Pelosi on a matter of financial interest to her city. (Given San Francisco’s clearly and consistently expressed hatred of the military, how could the city’s interest in the Blue Angels be anything but financial?) Yet this is a case in which honor, courage, and commitment must trump other considerations. By training a spotlight on the outrage in San Francisco, the public at large can support the Navy as it withdraws the Blue Angels from future appearances in the city of San Francisco. With only a couple of weeks left until the likely announcement of the Blue Angels 2007 schedule at the International Council of Air Shows Convention, the public needs to communicate its views to the Navy without delay.