Tuesday, July 19, 2016


I remember, some twenty years ago, coming home from my job schlepping books around a warehouse, cresting the hill next to the street where I lived with my new wife. On my way home, coming over that rise, I saw it: A B2 bomber. This great big, bat-wing beast of an aircraft was making a low level pass over my neighborhood. And several dozen other neighborhoods around the Bay Area. It was Fleet Week, and the Navy's best and brightest were on display. On the sea. On the land. And in the air. It was an awesome sight, this great hunk of metal roaring past, just above our heads. It was also terrifying. There was this war machine hanging over my home. It occurred to me then: what would it be like to see two or three of these things, knowing their purpose was all business?
This moment comes back to me over and over again, whenever there are shots fired in anger. Or bombs. Here in America, we are profoundly fortunate in that when B2 bombers fly over our heads, it's a show. Helicopters are seen in ones or twos, with the occasional swarm of news choppers. Drones are in the air to spy on the new Apple campus. More often than not, when troops take to the streets here in the United States, it is in response to some sort of natural disaster.
That's not the way things work elsewhere in the world. Like in Turkey, for example. Friday night, as a great portion of the world was tuning into the news to get updates on the massacre du jour in France, breaking news told us that factions of the Turkish military was staging a coup while their president was on holiday. The eighty-four victims of the Nice truck killing were suddenly upstaged by the one hundred sixty-one dead as tanks blocked bridges and the sky was filled with combat aircraft, jets, helicopters and bullets. Shots fired in anger, and in attempt to claim the government by force, as opposed to the democratic elections that brought President Erdogan into power fourteen years ago. When the smoke cleared, and the sun came up, the putsch was over. The coup had failed. Order, or what resembles order after a night of chaos, returned.
Which is to say: If you are having trouble deciding whether or not to vote in this year's election, because the choices are so bleak, consider the alternatives.

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