Presidents, Patriotism & the Blue Angels

The Blue Angels were in town for San Francisco’s Fleet Week in recent days, along with assorted presidents for the President’s Cup golf tournament and planners for the 20th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake, all of which made for a patriotic sort of time. Not to give away the punch line, but two out of the three fell victim to the famous San Francisco fog, which little factoid offers too many metaphors even to think about.

The Blue Angels bring with them, it has to be noted, a lot of ambivalence. Something about all that military might, ear-shattering noise and expensive fuel, plus the radar that lets them know when anyone is considering a quick nap… but then, they are incredibly good at what they do, and strangely beautiful streaking around up there.

Letters to the editor, however, poured in. Against the warrior culture, the display of power, the celebration of aggression and militarism, pollutants in the air. In favor of flyover celebrations and tradition. Nobody mentioned interruption of naps. I remain ambivalent.

A flag-waver to the core, I find myself resentful that flag waving has been hijacked by those who mean God Bless America and the hell with everybody else. I’m even resentful of the hijacking of God Bless America, which is a beautiful song and shouldn’t mean please don’t bless anyone else, Ma’am.

By the end of the weekend, Tiger Woods had come off a hero again, the skies had cleared just enough for a few aerobatics, the spectators had spent a lot of money on extra San Francisco sweatshirts and foot warmers to get them through the festivities and the planners were still planning for the impending earthquake celebration, all proving that Nature bats last. And a few flags of all sorts were out.

Patriotism used to feel good. I yearn for the day when it can feel good again, and we patriots are too busy promoting peace and goodwill around the globe for other stuff. And earthquakes and tsunamis and hurricanes are more to be feared than somebody else’s nuclear missiles. It could happen. Nature, sports and celebrations notwithstanding, does bat last.

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