Friday, December 02, 2005

The Blue Angel Campaign and Basement Art

I went to San Francisco's City Hall this week to see about the mechanics of putting a measure on the ballot.

The measure is to politely disinvite the U.S. Navy Blue Angels from flying over the city of San Francisco on its annual Fleet Week visits for the next 10 years. I've written about this issue before here and here.

The nice lady at the Elections Department office gave me a schedule for the November 7, 2006 election.

There is also a June 6, 2006 election scheduled earlier next year, but the deadline for the submission of 10,486 valid signatures is February 6, 2006 which wouldn't give me enough time to collect them.

In the City Hall basement where the Election Department has its offices, two new photo exhibits had gone up on the walls.

One exhibit was a polemical series of photos and true-life tales...

...that documented the poisoning of Amazonian Indians by large oil firms.

I had difficulty with this exhibit for a number of reasons, one being that it felt very much like well-intentioned "outsiders" photographing the exotic South American Indians being victimized.

At least they have municipal marches with banners that say "Texaco Never Again" unlike communities around the San Francisco Bay Area such as Pittsburg, Martinez, etc. that are being poisoned daily by some of the same oil companies.

On Kit Stolz's "A Change in the Wind" blog (click here), he quoted the novelist James Lasdun writing in Granta, and one part stuck with me:
"Our apocalypse may be more reputably accredited than theirs [scientists over evangelicals], but my guess is that the susceptibility to either vision has the same psychological basis: guilt. Precisely because there is still intact wilderness in this country, still visibly in the process of being annihilated, you cannot live here without an overwhelming sense of the destructive nature of your own species. You can explain it in terms of divine purpose or human folly, but you can't pretend not to be part of it: you drive, you fly, you live in a heated building; one way or another you are implicated. We expect to pay a price. Depending on one's temperament, this will articulate itself either in terms of the Book of Revelation or the science pages of The New York Times."

This photo exhibit sets up the familiar scenario of the Evil Multinational Oil Company oppressing the poor, brown victims of the world. What it leaves out is that we're all implicated.

We can't even begin to control the oil corporations here in the United States, where they currently own the federal government. So how are we supposed to help people in the Amazon? Maybe if our society didn't burn up so much precious fuel driving children to schools and having Blue Angels air shows, we wouldn't be poisoning ourselves quite so quickly and completely.

However, that would require serious, systemic change and that scares the hell out of people.

There was another photo exhibit nearby that included a book where you could write down your greatest fear.

The photos were quite wonderful...

...and even at their most pathetic...

...the photographer displayed his human subjects with serious respect for them.

It made for an interesting contrast with the Amazonian Indian photos...

...where the people were mostly presented as simply victims...

...rather than as people who can fight back for themselves.

When I have the Blue Angels petitions ready to go in January of next year, I'll put out a call on this blog for some volunteer gatherers. This is going to be a lot of work, but why not? Let's tend to our own garden for a bit.


p said...

Dear Mr. dude,
Congrats on your blog once again, I like to see so politically active. Just a quick note, I don’t quite get your take on the photos, it’s a common practice in our capitalistic society (UE in the same boat) to basically enslave the 3 rd world countries. I ‘ ve found that most Americans have a real problem with(including my better half) that fact. The fact of the matter is that for everything single item we purchase, whether is the materials, etc or the item itself, it has to come from somewhere (like your Nike shoes made in Singapore by 12 year old, and preferably cheap, remote and with no civil liberties or any echo logical concerns whatsoever. Check what’s going on in China at the moment as an example, or the role of Unocal in Iraq or east Timor, etc…and the list goes on…. Just to as foot note how about Jack Abramoff?

p said...

oh, and I've find your flock pictures much more interesting then the actual thing.

AlbGlinka said...

All very interesting...

I know what you mean about those documentary-style photo exhibits from an outsider's perspective.

As for the Fear Exhibit-- frankly, I doubt that most people would write down their biggest fear HONESTLY and pose for a portrait with it, to be exhibited in the basement of City Hall. Quirky photos though.

janinsanfran said...

Please contact me when you have the Blue Angel petitions!

cedichou said...

Was that the star wars jacket mentioned in the previous blue angel post on the 4th picture? I was hoping for something more light saber-y.

Not a citizen, so cannot sign the petition.

Here is a question: do you have to be a citizen to get a measure on the ballot? I want to vote in school boards and local elections.

sfmike said...

Dear ced:

I think you do have to be an American citizen and registered in the City and County of San Francisco in order to vote.

As for "Star Wars" jackets, I have a number of them because my domestic partner used to work at Industrial Light and Magic for a number of years and we bought a bunch of logo'd clothing because it was easy and we both hate shopping. Frankly, I could care less about "Star Wars," but the mythology is very powerful for some other people. When I wear one of the jackets around town because they're the only warm things I own, I keep being accosted by strangers who want to touch it, longingly. The penitents in "La Forza del Destino" were actually more light saber-y than the jackets.

cedichou said...


yes, Iknow you have to be a citizen to vote. THhat's why the measure I'd like to see on the ballot is: the right of vote for foreign citizen in the local elections. So what I'm wondering is if you have to be a citizen to start a petition drive.


sfmike said...

Dear Ced:

You have to be a registered voter of the City and County of San Francisco to actually start a petition drive. There was a measure allowing for foreign citizens to vote in local school board elections some time ago, but it was defeated resoundingly, so it's probably not going to happen anytime soon.

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