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.