Fleet's in, but students think it should be out
AS anyone over 30 knows, anyone under 30 is not to be fully trusted. It's a fact: The younger generation just can't match us. The kids aren't as smart as we were when we were their age, and certainly not nearly as smart as we are now. Their taste in music is terrible. Their clothes are worse. They are much too easily impressed by the wrong things and the wrong people. We'd be in big trouble if they were running the world.Skip to next paragraph
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Ah, but would we, really? Consider a scene that was played out recently in San Francisco's City Hall, in the office of Mayor Dianne Feinstein, one of the nation's most prominent municipal officials.
It was a confrontation. On one side was the 53-year-old mayor, a middle-of-the-road Democrat who is as representative of the older, supposedly wiser, generation as anyone you could possibly find. On the other side were eight local high school students, none older than 17.
Mayor Feinstein had invited the students into her office to speak for 100 others who had marched with them into the marble halls outside. They carried petitions more than 700 students had signed to protest the mayor's officially proclaimed support for this year's ``Fleet Week.''
The Navy celebrated the week, which marked the Navy's 211th birthday, by sending into San Francisco Bay a flotilla of 14 ships led by the huge aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. Screeching overhead were the Blue Angels, the Navy's ``spectacular sextet of precision-flying jets,'' as one of the city's newspapers admiringly described the noisy fighter planes.
A ``Peace Navy'' of some two dozen small boats did take to the water to protest ``the growing militarization of the bay.'' But the boats were kept under close surveillance by the Coast Guard and their protests were scarcely noted, if they were noted at all, amid the welcoming cheers of thousands of Bay Area residents who lined the shores. It was precisely what the Navy wanted it to be, a ceremonial effort that was hailed by Adm. James Lyons Jr., commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet, as ``symbolic of the renaissance of the marriage between the Navy and the city.''
It was a prelude to the coming, in 1989, of one of the four ocean-based ``battle groups'' being deployed around the US by the Reagan administration. The San Francisco group's flagship, the battleship Missouri, will probably be the most heavily armed vessel in the world, fitted with launchers capable of delivering at least 32 nuclear-tipped missiles to targets as far off as the Soviet Union.
The students wanted no part of such insanity. They objected strenuously to the lobbying by Mayor Feinstein that was instrumental in the Navy's decision to bring the Missouri to San Francisco. They called ``Fleet Week'' a glorification of nuclear weapons and the ships that carry them.
``As young people,'' the students' petition declared, ``we do not want to make nuclear arms part of our future.''
The mayor told the students, however, that ``Fleet Week'' was no more than a demonstration of gracious hospitality.
``When the day comes when Americans don't want to thank the people who serve in the armed forces,'' said Mrs. Feinstein, ``the country is in a lot of trouble.''
But, said Staci Biden, a senior at San Francisco's Lowell High School, ``I don't think I'm un-American because I'm opposed to the Navy.''
Another student complained that the noisy warplanes which maneuvered over the city by the Blue Angels with such crowd-awing skill were the same type of planes that were once used to bomb Vietnamese.
Yet Mayor Feinstein didn't see anything wrong with that. She was much more impressed with the ride the Blue Angels had given her.
``I've flown with the Blues!'' said the mayor, enthusiastically. ``I learned what it is to experience 5 Gs!''
She actually said, ``I don't see it as a symbol of war.''
Now, which generation is it we're not supposed to trust?
Dick Meister is a San Francisco author.