Sunday, July 31, 2016

332. Names

If I hadn’t known better, I would have said it was John Wayne in a navy officer’s outfit who joined me in the backyard of the farm. He pulled up a lawn chair and dusted it so as not to soil his crisp white uniform and sat.

“You are a Navy veteran, I understand,” he said.

“So have you heard the latest?” He crossed one leg over other and looked at me with despair in this eyes.

“Heard what latest?”

“Our Navy is going to name a ship after the late Mayor of San Francisco.”

“First of all, C.W.,” I said, “it is not ‘our’ Navy. I’m not even sure they would claim me and I’m sure they wouldn’t claim a deranged alien. Second, I have indeed heard of plans to name a ship after Harvey Milk.”

“Isn’t it a bit odd to name a ship after a …”

“A Californian? No, they named one after Ronald Reagan.”

“That man who secretly sold all those weapons to our arch-enemy Iran?”

“That’s the one.”

“Odd,” he said. “But back to our late friend. Wouldn’t it be strange to name a ship after …”

“A naval officer? No, they do that all the time, and he was one.”

”But Harvey Milk was also a ..”

“A mayor? He may very well be the first mayor to have a ship named after him. I think Grover Cleveland had been mayor of Buffalo, New York and there were reports that the Navy’s first fully submergable nuclear aircraft carrier would be named after him. But that turned out to be a joke.”

He thought. “What was the joke?”

“I think the whole thing was a joke, but one could certainly go broke from dismissing wild ideas about what the military might build.”

He began to swing his crossed leg slightly. “But really,” he said, “don’t you think it strange that the United States Navy would name a ship after a man with a different …”

“Political background? Lord no, they’ve named ships after Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson for goodness sake.”
I understand that many American
sailors are ecstatic about the news. - C.W.

“After all the Americans they had killed?”

“After all that.”

“But,” he said, “this Harvey Milk was active in the fight for …”

“Human Equality? So was Caesar Chavez. They named a cargo ship after him, though he probably wouldn’t have approved. I seem to remember his saying that the two years he spent in the U.S. Navy were the worst two years of his life.”

“Was that true for you too?”

“No,” I said, “the worst two years of my life were the two weeks I had to spend in Vacation Bible School while my friends were playing Navy on the bayou.”

“Sad story,” he said. “But listen, let’s get down to the real point. Now when all is said and done, don’t you think would be the saddest thing imaginable to see, on a United States Naval vessel, the name of a man who was …

“Assassinated for his beliefs? No,” I said, “that would be the USS Abraham Lincoln or the USS John F. Kennedy.”

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