Donkey Punch

July 31, 2008

Terrorism Season.

I am sitting here in my office on the 9th floor of an office building in downtown Seattle, listening to the annually occurring, soothing sound of war planes roaring around.

That’s right, it’s Terrorism Season in Seattle.

Every year the Blue Angels come roaring into Seattle for Sea-Fair, an month long celebration of… summer? The Blue Angels appear every year and wow the crowds with two days of highly choreographed aerial acrobatics. To prepare for this display, they practice for about 2-3 hours on Thursday and Friday prior to the performance.

A few years ago I was working at a sales job that just happened to be two blocks from the end of Boeing Field, the airfield any military aircraft coming into Seattle proper use to land and take off. It was then when I first realized how terrifying these machines are. They are all speed, sound, and fury.

When I was young we would go to the air show at Forbes Field in Topeka, Kansas and watch the Blue Angels. The fascinated me. I just couldn’t get enough of the spectacle. It was then I decided to be a fighter pilot. What could be cooler?

I was a perfect candidate for pilot. I’m medium sized (5′ 8″), generally healthy and fairly intelligent. I even visited the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and dreamed of multiple-g maneuvers and various acrobattery. An Air Force recruiter recognized this in High School, and was pretty aggressive in trying to recruit me.

Somewhere along the way I decided that I could not be a military pilot. Maybe it was because my grandfather died in WWII and I understood, deep down, that war sucked. Maybe it was the pencil drawing in my bathroom when I grew up that had a picture of a Vietnam-era soldier sitting on his helmet, head in hands, bearing the caption, “War, when you are at it, is horrible and dull.” Or maybe it was because the tone-deaf recruiter liked to call me around 9 am on Saturday mornings (Keggers were de rigueur Friday night entertainment at Topeka High School). But somehow, I realized that no matter how fun it would be to fly those birds, at some point the leadership may ask me to rain death on people, many of which would be innocent. I was fairly sure I could not do that with a clear conscience, so I let that dream go. I still harbor a small wish to pilot a vehicle that can go close to 2000 MPH, but we all have unrealistic wishes.

Back to Sea-Fair. Yesterday there was a ‘parade’ of Navy vessels in Elliot Bay featuring some kind of small battleship shooting its deck guns at downtown Seattle. I realize they were blanks, but WTF? Couldn’t they point them at the Kitsap Peninsula or something? I could not help to think of the Soviet-era parades featuring all manner of terrible killing machines. And today we get the ultimate terror display, the impossibly nimble, loud and effective F/A-18 Hornet.

When I was working at the end of the airfield I invited a beautiful friend of mine to stand on top of a nearby building and watch them take off and do their thing. When I wasn’t distracted by her beauty (I wonder where Morgan went…), I kept thinking about how the impression of these flying machines must change when you are aware that they could unleash their fury upon you or your loved ones at any time. They come up over hills with no warning. They move so quickly you have to constantly adjust to keep up with them. And they are loud. Extremely loud. Once you see and hear one of these drop its payload, just the sound of those engines must incite abject terror. These planes are relics of a time when nations fought nations. What is their purpose now except to remind everyone how powerful and violent we are as a nation?

So now we fight a faceless enemy, The Terrorists. But how many places in the world fear the mere sound of these Terror Machines? How many parents’ blood runs cold at the first echoing howl announcing the presence of the Hornet? How do we claim any moral superiority to The Terrorists if we do what they do, only ten times bigger and ten times worse? Not to mention the fact that our government regularly terrorizes its own population, like some kind of Al-Queda proxy, with all sorts of thinly veiled threats, colored alerts, unnecessary and ineffectual security measures, and bold pronouncements of imaginary threats (Remember the run on duct tape?)

So Fuck You, Blue Angels. Take your terror show somewhere else. I’m more interested in displays of peace.

Here’s Tom Tomorrow‘s take. I hadn’t even thought of this angle:



  1. Well said!
    I hope everyone reads it.
    I’m glad my uncle told me the truth about war when I was very young.
    I will defend myself , my family and my country.
    But, blatant aggression, well, I no use for it.
    “War what is it good for-absolutely

    I hope the citizens of the USA and Canada wake up soon. If not,
    “Papers Please”.

    Never forget – History repeats

    Take care

    Comment by atomcat — July 31, 2008 @ 11:11 am

  2. You think these guys are loud? Wait until they get the Super Hornet (I used to work at the end of the runway where McDonnell-Douglas built – and test flew – them.).

    I don’t think I can disagree with anything you’ve said here. But I must confess that some technophilic part of me still thinks that they’re awesome… Tonight, on the Discovery Channel – when hardware fetishes go awry…

    Comment by protected static — July 31, 2008 @ 11:53 am

  3. Wow. Fucking Blue Angels. They make everyone on the roads retarded. Fuckers. Go Sparky!

    Comment by grindchopblend — July 31, 2008 @ 11:55 am

  4. I was going to say something to that effect, because I would still love to get into the cockpit of one of those, but my conscience says otherwise.

    Stupid conscience. Why can’t I just be some d-b clueless fratboy?

    Comment by t4toby — July 31, 2008 @ 11:55 am

  5. Excellent post!

    Comment by Cangrejero — July 31, 2008 @ 6:47 pm

  6. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

    John Stuart Mill, 1873

    Comment by Rob — August 1, 2008 @ 5:43 am

  7. I can see Mr. Mill’s point, but I have plenty I would fight for. Try threatening my family or friends in some way that doesn’t involve bogey men, straw men, or fake assertions and see what you get.

    One more time:

    War, when you are at it, is horrible and dull.

    Comment by t4toby — August 1, 2008 @ 9:48 am

  8. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

    Guess what? The entire “war on terror,” or whatever they are calling it now, is predicated entirely on the idea that nothing is more important than our personal safety. The only ideology behind it saving our own miserable hides from some vaguely defined enemy just around the corner.

    Sure there are things worth fighting for, but in the last 5+ years our government hasn’t shown me a single one.

    Comment by Cangrejero — August 1, 2008 @ 1:15 pm

  9. Morgan probably realized what a liberal pussy (pardon the redundancy)you are and left you for someone with something that resembles manhood. You’re a wanna-be that never was, always in the rear with the gear and hence you’re bitterness.

    Comment by Howy — August 2, 2008 @ 10:27 am

  10. Dude. This isn’t Top Gun, Ice Man. When hurling invective is all you have, I guess it makes sense that it is all you do.

    Comment by t4toby — August 2, 2008 @ 11:49 am

  11. Toby said cock

    Comment by ;-0 — August 2, 2008 @ 1:42 pm

  12. Cock me!!!

    Comment by grindchopblend — August 2, 2008 @ 1:44 pm

  13. “some technophilic part of me still thinks that they’re awesome”

    yeah, sometimes i get amazed by technology too. divorced from any context, lots of things i find pretty abhorrent are actually awesome.

    i once toured the nevada test site (the most-bombed piece of land in the continental united states) with a group that was mostly progressive catholic seminarians. at several points on the tour, they allow people to get out of the tour bus and look at demonstration structures that were built to test bombs on.

    our group was split: some of us jumped out to look at the twisted wreckage of bridges and bomb shelters, and enthusiastically gee-whiz!ed everything; some of us huddled in the back of the bus and wept.

    and i understand why each person responded the way they did. nuclear weapons represent a tremendous feat of human ingenuity and skill. some of the world’s most talented scientists devoted their careers to inventing them. nuclear weapons were born in america’s best universities.

    and they incinerate human bodies, turn trees to carcinogenic dust, and poison land forever.

    thanks for calling out the blue angels for what they are. even if, on some level, they are totally attractive.

    Comment by sarah — August 6, 2008 @ 9:51 pm

  14. There is a very special hot, savage joy at killing when you are a young man. I can assert to the soaring, pounding madness of desperate combat at eyeball range in the sputtering shadows of illum flares and artillery. The pounding of the guns, the screams of fear, the involutary vocalization of survival. Another day. Another night. Another hour. Now, who to fight next, who to kill?

    Whether it’s a fighter pilot or a Cavalry grunt, you measure yourself every time you fight. You fight not for SOMETHING, just because they made you, they LET you, and you kill because the alternative is unacceptable, and we’re hard wired to want to WIN, not lose.

    In combat, you accept the deal. You could die, you could kill, you might go home, you might get an unmarked grave in a stupid place you never heard of and can’t pronounce. So it was five thousand years ago, so it is today, and sadly, so it will likely be five thousand years from today…


    Comment by mikey — August 15, 2008 @ 7:13 pm

  15. well, a little late to comment on this post but Mikey, I’m sorry you had to go through that. And I will never understand why it has to keep perpetuating..

    Comment by grindchopblend — August 18, 2008 @ 10:11 pm

  16. Because when you get right down to it, we’re stupid, little monkeys, huddling together in stupid, little troupes, flinging poo at other stupid, little, monkey troupes who Are Not Us.

    Except that thanks to our funny brains and thumbs, our ‘poo’ can be anything from a rock to a multi-megaton nuclear device. Oh yeah, and our troupe size can number in the billions.

    Comment by protected static — August 19, 2008 @ 7:04 am

  17. I never know exactly how to respond, mikey, except to say thanks, and I’m sorry.

    P.S. – We are very advanced poo flingers. Have you seen the presidential race?

    Comment by t4toby — August 19, 2008 @ 7:35 am

  18. Have you seen the presidential race?

    I was thinking more along the lines of the Knoxville UU church shooting, but yeah.

    That’s some really advanced poo flinging, right there.

    Comment by protected static — August 19, 2008 @ 9:10 am

  19. The old ‘meta-fling’.

    Comment by t4toby — August 19, 2008 @ 10:17 am

  20. You are absolutely right. These planes are loud and violent and they are out there to terrorize people. However, they terrorize the people who would kill you and your family at the drop of a hat. And for what reason? Because you have the freedom. The freedom to do what you please and say what you please. The thing that Osama Bin Laden hated most about the United States when he visited was the grass. He hated that people would keep the grass around their house green and mowed. They would kill you just for living in this country. Just because you have the freedom to object to our military (or grow grass).

    Brave men are out there every day risking their lives such that you can be allowed to show your disapproval of our military. They don’t necessarily want to be there. War is an ugly thing. It is gruesome. It is, quite frankly, stupid. But it is necessary to protect our way of life.

    You also mentioned that gone are the days of countries fighting each other. Isn’t that a good thing? Countries fighting each other over such trivial things as border disputes, that is utterly pointless. We are only protective ourselves and our way of live. To do this we project power. Would you punch Mike Tyson knowing full well that he would immediately knock you out if you did?

    With the constrictions that Congress and the head military men put on our troops through rules of engagement, civilian casualties are at an absolute minimum, even at the risk of our own troops. Unfortunately accidents do happen, and it is sad, but it happens.

    I am immensely sorry that you did not live out your desire to become a fighter pilot. Not everyone is cut out for it and sometimes dreams change. But I hope that you can at least support the troops risking their lives such that you can live yours in peace.

    Comment by ScottyP — October 31, 2010 @ 9:10 pm

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