Monday, March 3, 2008

Et Tu, Toledo; No Semper Fi

We expect San Francisco and Berkeley to be anti-military and anti-Marines, but Toledo? Yes, Toledo best known for its Toledo Scales and John Denver’s great parody, Saturday Night in Toledo, Ohio, has joined the Bay Area cities in a anti-military troika.

San Francisco in recent years has reaffirmed its peacenik reputation, and forgotten its rich military legacy: naval bases at Hunters Point and Treasure Island, the Presidio (home of the 6th Army and Lettermen Hospital), Forts Funston, Mason, Point, and Scott, and Fort Miley VA Hospital. Its maritime history is down to Fishermen’s Wharf and Pier 39, both tourist traps.

The Board of Education voted 4-2 in 2006 to end Junior ROTC in the city’s high schools.

More recently, the City barred the Marine Corps Silent Drill Team from filming a commercial on the Streets of San Francisco in September 2007. The Marines were allowed though to film an empty street – truly a symbolic act.

Earlier the Board of Supervisors refused to let the U.S.S. Iowa become a floating museum in the City, representing the maritime and naval history of Baghdad by the Bay. Hunters Point Naval Shipyard and Treasure Island were large navy bases. The City was a large shipping out port in World war II.

San Francisco’s bigger problem is not the Marines, but middle class flight, especially by families with children, from the City. It has the smallest percentage of children under 18 (14.7%), of any major U.S. city. The enrollment in the City’s public schools dropped from 62,000 in 2000 to 59,000 in 2005. It’s not investing in education since it has cut the budget for the schools in recent years.

Berkeley is, of course, in a league of its own. The City celebrates Indigenous People’s Day in lieu of Columbus Day. Yet the University refuses to release 12,000 Native American remains to their tribes for burial.

Both the City Council and voters voted in 2006 to impeach President Bush and Vice President Cheney for “high crimes and misdemeanors.” The Council also voted, shortly after the tragic events of 9/11, to end the bombing of Afghanistan.

The Marines opened a recruiting Office a year ago on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley.

The City’s Peace and Justice Commission presented a resolution to the City Council. It stated that if the Marine stay, “then they do so as uninvited and unwelcome intruders.”

The council approved it on a 6:3 vote on January 29, 2008. It also voted to give a protest group, Code Pink, a parking space once a week for six months in front on the Marines recruiting office, as well as a permit to make noise. The Council voted to have the City Attorney investigate whether the City’s anti-discrimination law applies to the Marines because of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell policy.”

After Republican Senators and Congressmen introduced bills to cut off funding earmarks to Berkeley, the Mayor and Council quasi-apologized on February 13. The Proclamation would no longer be sent to the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and they say the Marines are now welcome in Berkeley.

Berkeley believes in free speech. Those of us from the 60’s remember the Free Speech Movement. Yes, Berkeley believes in free speech, but not for the military.

We are not surprised by such actions by Berzerkley, but Holy Toledo! Toledo, Ohio, the Heartland of America! Ohio, the home of eight Presidents, Buckeye football, and the crossroads of America. Toledo, next to the site of the famous 1794 Battle of Fallen Timbers, opening up the Northwest Territory to settlement.

John Denver sang about Toledo decades ago in his classic “Saturday Night in Toledo, Ohio.” He crooned “Saturday Night in Toledo, Ohio is like being nowhere at all.” He sat in the park and watched the grass die. When asked how he knew, John Denver replied that he "spent a whole week there one day."

Company A, 1st Battalion, 24th Marines had conducted urban warfare exercises in Toledo in 2004 and 2006. The exercises include mock firefights, ambushes, and blank ammo. They had received Police permission in advance of the planned exercises on the mostly empty downtown streets and mostly vacant Madison Building over the weekend of February 9, but then Mayor Carty Finkbeiner abruptly denied them permission. The Mayor’s representative stated “The Mayor asked them to leave because they frighten people.”

Frighten people on Saturday Night in Toledo, Ohio! Saturday Night in downtown Toledo, the same quiet Saturday Night of John Denver.

When they arrived in Toledo after a four hour drive from Grand Rapids, Michigan they received not a police escort but a police blockade.

Toledo needed something to get back on the nation’s map. Michigan and Ohio in 1835 called up their militias to settle their claims to the Toledo Strip. Some pundits claim Michigan won and received the Upper Peninsula.

Toledo has hemorrhaged industrial jobs in recent years, but has managed to hang onto the Jeep factory. Jeep, the same vehicle that was designed by Bantam Automobile Company, in response to an army contract to develop a utility vehicle as World War II was breaking out. Jeep, the ubiquitous Jeep, which played a critical role in the battles against Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo, not to mention Korea and Vietnam. Without Jeep, Toledo would have no industrial base today.

The City Council unanimously apologized on February 12 for the Mayor’s action. A related problem for the City Council is that they are seeking an extension of a ¾% income tax.

Both Berkeley and Toledo sometimes forget that they exist in a capitalist society, in which consumers can vote with their feet. Merchants, hospitality industries and the Chambers of Commerce in both cities reported a substantial loss in business. Never underestimate the power of the purse in a capitalist economy.

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