Last summer I was enjoying a day at the beach in Oakledge park with my family and some friends. Our four small children were thrilled to be in the water and combing the short stretch of sand for little treasures. As I stood where the bike path terminates along the back of the beach, I looked out and surveyed my brood thinking like a lifeguard… how long would it take me to get to my three-year-old who was wading in beyond bellybutton depth… what if my wife slipped and dropped our newborn in the water… typical father duty.
I can’t begin to describe then the shock when a fighter jet exploded through the air just above our heads. The earth shook. My ears rang. The jet, flying so low that we had no warning before it burst over the trees a hundred feet behind me, was on us in an instant.
I didn’t have one second to protect my family… not even an instant to lay a comforting hand on my oldest son who sat in his wheelchair next to me. Just BOOM!
Welcome to Burlington’s waterfront air show 2006.
For the past couple of weeks the messages against the air show have been multiplying across a number of neighborhood forums. This is a great use of Front Porch Forum. Other members have responded in support of the air show. Most of the comments break down along predictable lines… anti-war = anti-air show and vice versa.
Perhaps the growing number of people against the Iraq war who find the air show objectionable, and therefore wish it canceled, miss an opportunity. I still shake when I remember that instant… I had no idea what was happening, only that some terribly violent power was exploding over my children. I was powerless.
So, while my family was in no real danger, this facsimile of modern warfare in the homeland was a deep-felt reminder of what the U.S. military is doing to people in Iraq (and elsewhere) for longer than our involvement in WWII. My wife and I were able to comfort our kids as they all sobbed, terrified, with “it’s only the air show.” What do parents say in real war zones to their surviving children?
Thus the opportunity. Don’t protest the imitation; rather, use it to protest the real thing. While the military jets streak across the waterfront next summer, excite the local population to imagine that this isn’t a patriotic celebration of our might… instead, use it as a sobering moment of solidarity with humans caught up in war.
Imagine Burlington under attack. Imagine missiles from those jets slamming into the hospital, the water treatment plant, the power plant… bombs dropping on neighborhoods, schools, bridges. Those are our jets after all. Our guns (made in Burlington), our neighbors and relatives in uniform. Only seems fair that we all get an annual reminder of what we’re visiting on other communities half-way around the world.