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Everett and Boeing: Perhaps we should celebrate?

A Scandinavian community is not inclined to boastfulness. But the Everett plant will be at the center of work on the new refueling tanker.

We lurch from bed, we stare in the mirror (with acceptance, not narcissism) and we whisper memento mori, remember you are going to die. It's the Everett catechism.

Everett's defining sensibility is a mix of manic optimism and the Scandinavian humility of Jante Law, the first rule of which is don't think you're anything special.

And so this afternoon's news about the aerial refueling tanker unfurled like the French tricolor. Not. Rule number four of Jante Law and its pattern of Scandinavian group behavior: Don't convince yourself that you're better than the rest of us.

Is it possible to act prideful and be without sin? No, we're never without sin, so sinfully we celebrate Boeing's unexpected windfall.

The collective letdown was tangible after the Pentagon's decision three years ago to award the $35 billion contract to a consortium of Northrop Grumman and EADS, the parent company of Airbus. Back then it was as if the serotonin god had turned down the rheostat. Neighbors shuffled. Playgrounds emptied.

We didn't anticipate a Boeing victory, so conditioned are we to bad news. It feels like a slow earthquake that doesn't register until it's over. In 2008 we presupposed that the company's implosion traced back to the hubris of Phil Condit, to the 1997 merger with McDonnell Douglas, and ultimately, to the 2003 Darleen Druyun procurement scandal.

In 2008, the political hand-wringing combined boosterism and shock with an emotive country-first appeal. "We are outraged that this decision taps European Airbus and its foreign workers to provide a tanker to our American Military," read a joint press release from eight members of Washington's congressional delegation. "This is a blow to the American Aerospace industry, American workers and America's men and women in uniform."

Fast forward three years and here's what Governor Gregoire had to say today (Feb. 24):

“What a great day for The Boeing Company, and for the 11,000 aerospace workers in Washington state alone that will play a role in assembling the NewGen tanker. Following an open, transparent process, the Department of Defense realized what I’ve been saying all along — and that is that Boeing has designed the safest, most cost-effective tanker to serve both our military and our taxpayers well."

All communities have a creation myth and a defining sensibility. Everett was conceived as the Pittsburgh of the West, with street names like Rockefeller and Colby and other East coast investors — who quit and pulled out. Once in a while, on an afternoon like this, we buck defeatism and the sun filters through.

Everett doesn't think it's anything special, mind you. But we won.

Pete Jackson, is a journalist with deep ties to the Northwest and a former gubernatorial speechwriter. You can reach him in care of editor@crosscut.com.


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