The Progressive - May 15, 2020
And I’m glad, because every summer there’s an event in Chicago called the Air and Water Show. A big part of the show is precision-flying teams like the Blue Angels or Thunderbirds performing stunts in the sky above Lake Michigan.
I never attend this event. But there’s no escaping it. All weekend long, war planes soar through the sky, and the roar rampages through the skyscraper canyons. It sounds like a giant, fire-breathing, mechanical Godzilla creature releasing a mighty exhale.
Some people find this whole spectacle to be exhilarating. That’s the main reason I don’t go to the Air and Water Show. I don’t want to be a party pooper, but I think the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds are based on the premise that within every single human being there is at least a glimmer of militarism. And it is their job to stir it up, even in the most hardened pacifist. That’s the exhilaration we feel.
Believe me I know, because when I was a boy I was the most militaristic little cuss anybody ever did see. I looked forward to that glorious day when I could join the Army. I had an impressive collection of toy soldiers and accessories. I wore my militarism on my sleeve. And I always felt like standing at attention with my hand over my heart whenever I saw the Blue Angels and/or Thunderbirds, even if it was on television.
I give myself a pass for all of this because I was just a boy whose dad was an army sergeant, and you know how kids are. Fortunately, by the time I could join the Army, it was the last thing I wanted to do. I was exceedingly grateful that being in a wheelchair probably gave me an ironclad exemption should the draft ever return. I realized how fortunate I was to have come to my senses.
But, like I said, I believe some militarism is inherent in all of us. So I know I haven’t annihilated it within myself. I’ve just suppressed it. And I could easily relapse at any time. It’s a day-to-day proposition. So I stay away from the Air and Water Show for the same reason an alcoholic stays away from bars.
The squatter currently occupying the White House says the flyovers are meant to pay tribute to the medical professionals on the front lines of the pandemic. But if he took a poll and asked them how the federal government can best help and support them, I don’t think the first response of these first responders would be to please dispatch the Blue Angels or Thunderbirds ASAP, unless they were going to airdrop critically needed PPE. So maybe the squatter is really trying to revive us from our quarantine malaise by igniting our militarism.
But I’m probably overthinking it. The squatter is probably just honoring the first responders in the same way those of his political ilk honor military veterans—with empty gestures that are just a lot of sound and fury.