Thursday, October 02, 2003

On the Road Again: Bumper Crop

SUPPORT OUR TROOPS,” reads the bumper sticking on the car ahead of me, “IMPEACH BUSH.”

Now, on one hand that statements seems to underscore the kooky, kicky, crazy attitude of that gosh-darn liberal Seattle (and I have seen bumper stickers that say “RE-DEFEAT BUSH in 2004” already) but it also underscores something that a lot of people don’t realize about the Puget Sound area.

This is a military town. In fact, its more militarized than any place I have ever lived, with the immediate effects of military decision have great influence on the neck of the woods in which I live.

I’m serious. Growing up south of Pittsburgh, the only immediate military presence I remember was the NIKE site (missiles, not shoes) on the hilltop horizon while walking along Washington Road to high school. In SE Wisconsin, army trucks were often convoyed along the interstate from one destination to another, but other than that (and the mysterious giant radar station north of town) there was very little obvious military presence.

Not here. McChord Air Force Base. The Bremerton Naval yards. Whitby Island Naval Air Station. Fort Lewis army base. Bangor Naval Base, where the boomers are parked. And those are just the ones I can name off the top of my head without a map. Large chunks of land out here are militarized, along with former military areas that have since been turned over to civilian hands, like Sand Point, where used book sales are held in old Navy hangers, or Discovery Park, where beachwalkers pass beneath the foundations of old gun emplacements from the World Wars.

Its more than just land. Boeing is the second largest munitions-maker in the world (Lockheed is #1 by most accounts), and ranges from military aircraft airframes to cruise missiles in the Puget Sound area. Microsoft may seem be dedicated only to the driving computer-users crazy with their software, but has contributed a month of work in the past year, company-wide, to the task of software security. And even Boeing field, where the Museum of Flight is located, is right next to a couple hump-backed spy planes, which disappear on a semi-regular basic, only to be back the next morning.

And there is the people. Now, part of it is because I tend to work and hang out with young people, but I know a lot of recent veterans. I play poker with vets. Kate plays D&D with reservists. I have former co-workers who were in the last Gulf War. I have co-workers and friends with immediate family in harms way. There is a word for people like me in the Seattle area – Typical.

So military decisions have a lot of effect our in this neck of the woods, whether it be deployments, or reductions in benefits, or just the mule-headedness of bureaucratic thinking. Seattle is a lot closer to the front lines than any place I have lived, and its effects show on our people. There are a lot of local families worried about what is happening, and what they can do. There are way too many “local stories” in the papers about separations and deployments and losses. Our military decisions are personal to a lot of the population.

So the person driving in front of me could just be a fuzzy-headed lib. There seem to be more of them every day. Or it could a person whose sister is in the Reserve, or a parent with a child in the Navy, or just someone with a friend or even a friend of a friend in the National Guard. And if they’re not watching out for them, who is?

Support our troops.