This summer in Chicago, there was a dazzling display of air technology and skill: the annual air show, during which crowds blanketed the city’s shoreline to watch extraordinary machines perform feats of wonder in the air.
These planes were magnificent. They were a marvel of human ingenuity. They were a testament to the skills the pilots developed over hours of effort to hone their natural talents.
And yet, these were machines of war. Designed to kill, destroy, bully through might. It is perhaps the greatest failing of our modern times that these machines remain necessary.
Still, it is not their use as weapons that was most striking. It was their capability to inspire joy and awe, rather than shock and awe. That they could have such a strikingly contrary impact compared to the purpose of their creation, has to do with the immense power of peace.
The crowds gathered at the shoreline of Chicago were a lucky people. The sight of a fighter jet screaming above your city at top speed and riotous noise would inspire terror in other contexts. Yet, here we were, hundreds of thousands of us, looking up in wonder and bliss.
We could be thus moved because we don’t know conflict, the horrors of war, the destruction that we are capable of inflicting upon each other. In the reassuring context of peace, these weapons of the sky were beautiful, not an ugly reminder of our failings.