Saturday, September 4. It was a picture-perfect, blue-sky day for showcasing the Blue Angels, a precision flight demonstration squadron, at the Great State of Maine Airshow. People in the crowd were in fine spirits to enjoy the show, which last came to town four years ago. They “oohed” and “aahed” during the warm-up acts: Fat Albert C130, the L-39 Albatross (a Soviet-era fighter jet), the jet engine-powered “Jet Car” and the Red Bull Air Force jumping team. And then they marveled as the Blue Angels flew their breathtaking formations with nary a flaw.
Tasty snack bar offerings, such as hamburgers, jumbo hot dogs, fried dough (natch), popcorn and ice cream, added to the festive atmosphere. Happily, volunteers from local non-profits ran the concessions, and the organizations benefitted from the proceeds. As a former Boy Scout, I was pleased that part of the money for my cheeseburger went to support an organization that meant a lot to me as a boy growing up in West Virginia.
What’s not to like? Well, a few T-shirts worn by spectators caused this observer to look beyond the majesty of the day to the underlying messages conveyed by scores of Airshow celebrants.
How about, “Stomp on this flag and I’ll stomp on your ass.” Consider the costs of that type of braggadocio, which led to our 20-year Afghanistan war: $2.3 trillion dollars; 2,448 American servicemen killed and 66,000 Afghan civilians killed, among many many others. According to the Watson Institute for International Public Affairs at Brown U., about 241,000 people have been killed in the Afghanistan and Pakistan war zone since 2001. Could that $2.3 trillion have been better spent on addressing problems at home, including health care accessibility, educational costs, child care, infrastructure, etc., etc. etc.?
Sadly, politicians all along the political spectrum seem afraid to say, “Stop spending on needless wars,” or “Trim the defense budget,” because they might be criticized for being unAmerican or unpatriotic or weak on defense.
What would President Dwight Eisenhower, the hero of D-Day and someone who could never be accused of being “weak on defense”, have said about the cozy alliance between the military and the defense industry today? Shortly before leaving office, Eisenhower warned, “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.” Bingo.
Here’s another T-shirt: “I love the smell of fuel in the morning. It smells like freedom.” We’re experiencing the major effects of climate change more than ever — hurricanes, fires, floods and rising temperatures — yet millions of Americans (and their Congressional representatives) seem convinced that burning fossil fuels doesn’t harm the environment or threaten our future.
Again, too many politicians seem afraid to take action to slow down the effects of climate change, lest they be accused of being anti-business or tree-hugging worrywarts. Our children and grandchildren will pay the price if we don’t take radical steps to ease the effects of climate change.
And then there was: “These numbers work faster than calling 911: AK 47, 22, 45, etc.” This shirt, worn by a man sporting an NRA cap, obviously celebrates gun ownership and vigilante justice. He’s not alone.
The Small Arms Survey reveals that U.S. citizens account for 393 million small arms or 46 percent of civilian held firearms in the world. On the other hand, 48 percent of Americans view gun violence as a major problem in our country. Does having more guns reduce gun violence?
(In next week’s column, I’ll continue my reflections on the Blue Angels Airshow.)
David Treadwell, a Brunswick writer, welcomes commentary and suggestions for future “Just a Little Old” columns. [email protected] (David’s latest book co-authored with Anneka Williams, who graduated from Bowdoin College this past May, is entitled, “A Flash Fiction Exchange Between Methuselah and the Maiden: Sixty Stories to While Away the Hours,” is available at Gulf of Maine books (Brunswick), Mockingbird Books (Bath), Longfellow Books (Portland), Paul’s Marina (Brunswick), the Bowdoin Bookstore or on Amazon.