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: