The Machines

Here is my first memory of the Seafair weekend in Seattle. It’s late summer and I'm on Capitol Hill volunteering at Lifelong AIDS Alliance (I loved volunteering here). We are outside breaking down boxes and shoving them into the recycle dumpster when I hear a low rumble making its way toward me. I stop, look around and see nothing.

Then, as if appearing from thin air, four Blue Angel Fighter Jets blast their way across the sky leaving nothing but smoke and ringing ears in their absence. The first thought that comes to mind is of my father and how he would nearly be jumping for joy at seeing all this flying machinery hurling through the late summer sky. My dad has always loved jets, f-16’s, f-18’s, you know, jets!

Just a few weeks ago when I was back in Georgia visiting my family I asked my father a question I already knew the answer to: what's something that you’ve never done yet always wanted to do? His answer after 2 seconds of mental deliberation: Fly in an F-16. If only you could be there to see my fathers face when he says this you would understand why I love talking to him about jets. The years of worries stored up as wrinkles fall away from his face and he is suddenly 12 years old again. His blue-green eyes flicker and his voice takes on that quality you only hear when someone is recalling a memory they very much enjoy.

But then this thought in front of the recycling dumpster is silenced by the director of Lifelong. He stands next to me glaring up at the blue sky and the planes with a look of utter disgust and says, “Oh god, the war machines have returned.”

I balk at this. I do not balk at his opinion but at the fact that what he thinks of when he sees these machines is so different from what I think of (or what my father thinks of). Where he sees a terrible machine of war designed to destroy and instill fear my father sees adventure and a sense of something beyond himself, something stronger than he is.

It’s been a few years now since I first saw the jets razing the city. My feelings are now mixed. I understand that these machines are designed for death, constructed to destroy life. But I also carry these memories of my father and his love for these machines. He doesn’t love them for any of the wrong reasons. He does not love the potential death, destruction and fear these machines are capable of. No, my father is no warmonger. He is a dreamer who talks of how alive he would feel while careening through the atmosphere at 1,000 miles per hour.

And so I stare up at the sky, waiting for my fathers dream to pass overhead well beyond the speed of sound, waiting for these horrifically beautiful machines to make their march across the mid afternoon firmament.


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