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Worshipping the Death Machines

It’s Fleet Week in San Francisco, and even here, the alleged capital of liberal resistance in the United States, people observe the annual ritual and flock to the shoreline to worship the death machines, more commonly known as The Blue Angels.

In far too many places around the globe, anyone hearing the thunderous, searing roar of these machines dives for cover, trembling in fear for their lives. Any animal of the forest or plains would freeze in apprehension before bolting wildly from the unknown terror.

Yet here the true believers turn their adoring faces to the sky and thrill to the stimulation of their fight or flight response, like what you get in the safety of a movie theatre watching a cheap slasher movie. It apparently fails to register that these are weapons of mass destruction. They are designed for one purpose only: to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible.

These hellish apparitions have been darkening my windows here in SF for several days now, blasting a scant, vulnerable-feeling, 200 feet above my roof on their practice runs for the Sunday main event. When they break over Russian Hill coming in low from the north over Alcatraz, the sudden onslaught of the high-pitched whine surrounded by rolling thunder hits about the same time the jets do. The old windows rattle, the 1908 wood frame house shakes down to its foundations, and you jump out of your skin. It’s not a decision. It’s a natural, instinctual reaction originating well below and before the slow-assed reactions of the conscious mind. It’s panic. For a second. And then you figure it out again and swear at the heavens and go look for the cat that’s been hiding under the couch since the first strafing.

This fine Sunday I went down to the Fort Mason’s farmer’s market around noon, and the faithful were flocking down to the water’s edge. Gangs of techies are throwing out blankets and brewskis on the Green at Fort Mason as I cross it to get to the steps that lead down an old sandy almost cliff to the market below by the piers of the old fort. These piers are now run by a non-profit that provides a home to many community orgs and events, along with stuff like the Renegade Craft Fair and the library’s $1 book sale. There’s an old duo playing old timey French street music, and it’s a peaceful scene amidst all the veg vendors and the food trucks.

I’m on foot, because I walk a lot in this town, and you can’t get anywhere around here in a car right now anyway, cause of the Blue Angels.

I leave when a stunt plane starts carving smoke circles in the sky and before the Angels come back. I don’t want to see them and I don’t want them to see me. Hell, they’ll be close enough an hour later to see me through my dining room window.

They pass me as I’m leaving. The young couples pushing their toddlers down to the bay to begin their indoctrination. These kids aren’t going to like these banshee shrieking monsters. But they’re damn well going to get used to them, I can see. And you wonder where it all begins, the process of normalizing the profane, getting the yung uns all accustomed to the benign nature of our weapons of mass destruction. What ARE they teaching these kids these days? Well, I can’t say, but I know for sure what they’re not teaching them: the true nature of these machines, and what they do to everything around them, and what kind of culture would glorify and be proud of these kinds of creations.

O right, the kind that just placed a raving partisan asshole in the position of chief dispenser of justice in the entire land. Yes there is a connection between the existence of the Blue Angels and Brett Kavanaugh, and it’s not just that flyin a f-ing jet would be a bitchin thing to do, bro. But connections to anything other than the bromance of war are discouraged here today.

We don’t talk about the trillions of dollars that have been sunk into the military lo these past many decades – enough to have had pretty much the best of everything for everyone in the country if we’d spent it wisely, enough that our education system just mighta been effective enough to fend off the rise of an angry, entitled charlatan like Kavanaugh.

But instead we bought guns and bombs and aircraft carriers, with the minor collateral damage of a stulted political culture with a level of awareness that can’t tell the difference between a death machine and a pleasant afternoon in the park, nor between an entertaining air show and military propaganda. 

People don’t wanna hear it. Don’t be a spoil sport, man. It’s all just in fun. And there it is again. The failure to make the connections, to understand the true nature of and workings of this culture, to get what machines like these are really used for, and how it’s happening right now in our name all over the world, and how it’s already blowin back on our lives in so many ways. No, even here in San Francisco a display of military force can be perceived as all in good fun.

And that’s despite all the fear-mongering our leaders spew from the pulpits of power about weapons of mass destruction – WHEN they’re in the hands of savages like dem over dere in Iraq and Afghanistan and Syria and Libya and the others. Yet here we exult in the power and the glory of our own weapons.

So later the Angels painted a heart on the sky (so touching), one lobe red and the other blue, and then laid down a white slash across the front of it. (I didn’t watch it. I was already home. A friend told me about it later. That’s in case you were thinking that maybe I don’t despise the Angels as much as I do and watched them anyway.)

Would it be too far to go to say that such unquestioning admiration implies a confidence that the generals and politicians who control the application of these death machines actually have your best interests at heart. What do you think about that idea, I mean, now that Kavanaugh’s about to start lording it over the Supreme Court? 

Surely many will scoff – you’re taking this waaaay too seriously. Of course not too many people seemed to take the venom coming from the Republican snake pit too seriously, until, OMG, we were poisoned by Trump and now Kavanaugh.  Not too many seem to take our military worship too seriously, until we have military installations or providers in nearly every congressional district and military bases all over the world and missions in damn near every country we can get into without starting a bigger war, and we have the Blue Angels getting a warm welcome in San Francisco, home of peace and love.  Hell, and then we’re The United States of War.

By the way, only a severely degraded culture worships its own machines of death.

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Jeff Sher is a journalist specializing in the health care industry. He lives in San Francisco.

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