The Insider’s Guide to Life: Blast from the Past

ColumnThe Blue Angels and the Blue Asses who love them.

I’ll say it: I hate the Blue Angels.

I don’t hate the pilots, especially since one in 10 dies in these shows. Their skill is impressive, but so is ibuprofen’s power to eliminate the headache I had all weekend.

What I hate is the hypocrisy and denial from otherwise educated, progressive folk, or what those outside of San Francisco like to call elitists. How can a typically, or at least stereotypically, intelligent and engaged population possibly think the annual Fleet Week celebration culminating in a fuel-guzzling spectacle of mind-melting noise and nostalgic military might is cool?

Every year, the local media love to report on the inevitable controversy. There are those who adore the Blue Angels (the majority), the hippies who hate them (the minority) and the people who know they shouldn’t go in for such things but mumble about “civic pride” and “feat of engineering” before dashing down to the Embarcadero. Reliably, some outlet, usually a small weekly, will publish a complaint about this celebrated collective embarrassment – with politically-correct emphasis on the noise, never the navy! God no! – and the controversy flares up in the comment box.

This time around, when SF Weekly had the commie audacity to grumble about the deafening 150 decibel levels of the jets whizzing by their offices (“deafening” as the categorization for 150 happens to be an actual scientific fact), a keyboard-enabled denizen of San Francisco promptly attributed such grumbling to “carpetbagging transplants” who would dare deprive children of the fabulous experience of having class interrupted by the noise of the jets. No child of the Bay Area should grow up without that experience, he railed. I think it’s reasonable to venture someone still takes his PB&J without the crusts when no one’s looking.

This isn’t a video game. You can’t check into the Blue Angels on Foursquare. If you want to honor a great American marvel of technology, go bike across the Golden Gate Bridge. Fart all you like along the way, while you’re at it – you’ll put out far less toxic gas than the jets scorching overhead.

In short, I’m disappointed in my Berkeley-marching, Marin hot-tubbing, Haight-Ashbury pot-smoking brethren. (I’m also disappointed that sistren is not a word, but more on that another time.) Not because I out-smug them. Quite the contrary. I don’t attend rallies, I’ve never marched in protest, I wouldn’t wear Birkenstocks even if Birkenstock paid me in Manolos to do it, I eat meat and – wait for it – I don’t believe in sacrifice as a strategy. This hardly endears me to many a resident treehugger, but then I’m hardly enamored of an otherwise green population that mindlessly shows up once a year at the pier to cheer an outlandish and outdated display of sky-high dick swinging. Why must patriotism and pride always come wrapped around a weapon?

No one’s arguing that what the Blue Angels do isn’t enormously impressive. It is. The atom bomb was impressive. The many dams that have upended vital ecosystems are impressive. American feats of engineering, all. And you can argue for their necessity quite convincingly to many people and for many decades we have.

We are living in precarious times – thrilling times, to be sure. Our economy and our environment are in shabby shape, and that’s being generous. So for me, getting excited about a jet show is about as mature as getting excited about sandwich crusts. It’s just so entirely out of touch, and I have yet to hear a coherent defense.

I suppose this makes me a carpetbagging transplant and possibly a commie and definitely a curmudgeon, but in my opinion it’s time to put the Blue Angels on the shelf next to Formica, meatloaf TV dinners and Mommy’s Little Helper. We have much more fascinating “feats of engineering” going on, ones that might save us here and now, in the real world, in the true time and space we are all actually in and must face whether we want to or not. Escapism can be fun, but that doesn’t make it right.

The Insider’s Guide to Life is your editor’s weekly column exploring topics such as media, culture, sex, living, and anything else, including high decibel ranting. Cheers and spellcheck!

Image: (matt)