Last week, my wife, 23-year old son and I took a family trip to Sioux Falls South Dakota to celebrate my father-in-law’s 90th birthday. I was surprised to find that coincidentally the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels had descended on the local airport for an air show, titled Power on the Prairie. Ugh! For me, this was a pointless show of military power turned into some kind of entertainment for the unanointed.
It featured three all-time DOD money guzzlers: the McDonnell Douglas/Boing F-18 Super Hornet, whose Program cost was $48 billion, unit cost $66.9 million; the USMC/McDonnell Douglas AV-8 Harrier, whose Program cost was $6.5 billion, unit cost $23.7 million, and the one and only Lockheed F-22 Raptor, Program cost $66.7 billion, unit cost, $150 million (for one plane), budget busters all.
Despite the fact that my father-in-law was in the US Army Air Force and flew on D-Day as a navigator, helping to drop paratroopers on Normandy Beach, he wasn’t very excited about the Blue Angels spectacle. Perhaps it was his experience with war or flying, or with the scorching heat of the prairie’s ongoing drought that browned the grass and crops, killing corn, wheat, and alfalfa that worried him, first as a citizen then as perennial gardener, a man who with his wife Sally, love to grow their plants and feed the birds. They know how this ongoing heat could ruin crops and bring food shortages, as well as take down prices farmers were counting on to stay alive and in business.
On the Saturday of the show, Grandpa chose to stay indoors, as he put it “To preserve the energy left to me.” Other family members took me out to some godforsaken park several miles from the airport to witness these airy predators climb to Mach I speed straight into the light cloud cover, turn over and drop down almost as quickly and level off, streaking into the distance in pairs or alone and turn back like arrows shot at you. Yet, the skill of the pilots was dimmed by the flaming heat.
Moreover, the thought of what these futuristic fighter planes were all about: war, bombing, the notion of sudden death they could bring to human beings didn’t help, nor did the state of the economy. I didn’t feel much to cheer about. In fact, maybe it was the heat, but I wanted to get back to my in-law’s apartment in a senior residence, and the AC. I felt ill.
As we drove back, I wondered if anybody “upstairs” ever considered the destruction one of these babies could bring if they crashed and burned. Sioux Falls does have 150,000 people living in its immediate area. Guess not, for on the flyboys boomed.
I thought, too, of the outrageous cost of developing and producing just these three planes in the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression, both of which my father-in-law and mother-in-law lived through as it turned into WW II and she a “Rosy the Riveter,” building planes for the men at war, including her own. There was an arsenal full of these planes. But this was the sunny tip showing its power with a ground-shaking smack through the sound barrier at 768 mph. Their noise of their flight made me shudder. I thought of being in Iraq, these babies soaring over, shaking the sound from the sky and earth, an awesome shock and awe indeed.
The picnic in this run-down park for the working people was sad, the families waiting idly in aluminum chairs, the children half-playing, half-bored; mothers offering snacks, everyone just waiting amid the parked cars. All weekend long the sounds and sights of these jet jocks filled the skies. They got on my nerves big time, especially with the $200,000 in fuel they were burning up.
Tragically, at the same time, the largest mass murder in America had occurred the night before at the premier showing in Aurora, Colorado of The Dark Knight Rises, the last of a trilogy of Batman movies. It seemed that the CNN coverage took on a life of its own, anchored by Wolf Blitzer and some young anchorwoman. By now, most of us know the horrible details. But what we don’t know is why this bringer of apocalypse chose now to strike. After all, 24-year old James Holmes of Aurora was a Ph.D candidate in neuroscience at Colorado State University, yet for some reason he withdrew last month.
Still, his arsenal included two semiautomatic Glock handguns, a 12-gauge shotgun, and an AR-15 style assault rifle with a 100-round drum magazine. And 6,000 rounds of ammunition. He bought the handguns in gun shops and the ammunition online. There was little to no monitoring at either the gun shops or online. So this angel-faced 24 year old turned into an angel of death.
He used this arsenal to kill 12 individuals and wound dozens of others; ironically, he warned the police that his apartment had some 30 grenades wired to explode when first responders would enter. Was he a schizophrenic off his meds, out of his head? Had he taken some drugs he shouldn’t have while experimenting in neuroscience. Was he a Manchurian candidate manipulated for whatever dark reasons apply?
All of the same sort of questions came up and will come up as they did in the West Virginia Tech massacre, as in the Columbine High School massacre, the Colonel Hassan disaster at Fort Hood, the Phoenix shooting of Gabby Giffords disaster and as far back as the University of Texas Tower shootings. In all cases, the killers had easy access to weapons and ammunition and a need to kill and do it in very theatrical style. They wanted to be noticed or were programmed to do so. And in two weeks their stories are gone and we never hear of what happened to them.
Perhaps that all adds up to why America is cursed with these tragedies? Perhaps that’s why billions of dollars of high tech jets are flying over the scorched skies and land of the heartland? Are they recruiting for The War Against the World? Does the DOD or Pentagon consider this fit entertainment for families? Jumpers leaping in tandem from the planes pouring orange smoke, their white parachutes ballooning into oblivion. Doesn’t this penchant for faux bravery and mass violence start at the very top, replete with the condolences of the President and Mitt Romney?
Why couldn’t the Sioux Falls event be a science fair or an agricultural conference to cope with weather changes? Why couldn’t it be a festival of local musicians? Why did it have to be a viewing of these instruments of death, the same that called the indomitable Batman and his director Christopher Nolan to build a film architecture of super graphic violence—and then write letters of apology to the victims’ families. Just as military officers will write that letter home to mom and dad that Johnny got his gun and ran into the fray and the fray turned and devoured him like those flying Blue Angels devoured the sky.
But, these are Wall Street’s Raptors as well, devouring the economy, creating an untold debt with the 1,000 military bases and 250,000 military we have around the world, and its proclivity for human destruction as blindly as this yo-yo Holmes has killed the innocent flesh of those around him? Is this our judgment day? Has deity or any notion of higher powers given up on us and left us to destroy each other?
Was this James Holmes’ act a strange kind of protest against the Batman series itself which has profited so richly from previous films like this? I’m positive the box office receipts will draw Batman from retirement again and again and as long as there is a chance to make a buck off his metallic warrior costume, Batmobile, etc.
Yes, bottom line, war is good for business. It’s a growth sector diminishing the planet’s people. It even brought the sweet-looking James Holmes into a court hearing with bright red hair, symbolic of his bizarre transformation. Could it do the same for you if you’re frustrated with your job or unemployment, your student loan, your broken labor union, your defaulted mortgage, lost savings, the lack of respect accorded you as a human being, whatever the reason was that you quietly withdrew from your life to create some awful act like Holmes did.
And how complicit are we who do not speak, who do not demand that the violence from the top down of this government stop draining the blood of the human race. New York’s Mayor Bloomberg proclaimed that police everywhere should go on strike because they don’t have big enough guns or force lethal enough to take on James Holmes and those like him.
Yet the police in New York City already comprise a police state power. When are they going to get a grip? And Mayor Bloomberg, the self-elected “Wipe Handguns off The Street” voice, but keep the stops and frisks promoter—when is he going to call his blue dogs off the Occupy Wall Street kids? Yes, the insanity starts at the top and trickles down like blood from the felled Towers of 9/11. We, as a species, are devouring each other. Darwin is having a field day with us. Get out of the cornfields you sonofabitch. I don’t need CNN to tell me that either, as it tries to hold a huge share of audience for days trumpeting this same catastrophe, taking our minds off of everything else in creation that’s being ruined.
And there are my nieces, their boyfriends, my son, going to see this same movie the night after the event? How bored must they be to need this industrial-strength junk film to give them a jolt? Give me the real-life marches of the ’60s and ’70s against the Vietnam War, and the Occupy Wall Street group. Wall Street means war because it means money. The Rothschilds built the greatest fortunes in the world underwriting wars for several centuries now. Read all about it!
My father-in-law knows. He’s a voracious reader. He can talk politics for hours and make total sense. His children, grandchildren and friends love him dearly for his unflinching interest in life, honesty and integrity. He was honored by us at a party that went on for hours, in which we each spoke and reminded him of what he did to strengthen us all, even my humble self. In his Western drawl, he calls a fool a fool, a brilliant person brilliant. And he is deeply troubled by the lack of commitment to honesty and public service by people in high places.
In his 90 years, he’s seen it all, including what’s behind it all: the advancing army from his own past, taking the next hill, the next country or oil field, and living on the next LIBOR or bailout. Though I truly believe he’d like some peace at last—and for he and his dedicated wife (at 87) to tend their own garden, which this world could be, if only the simians could back off.
Back off and take their instruments of death with them. In the years I’ve been visiting the folks in Sioux Falls, I’ve seen one too many gun shops, gun and pawnshops, and practice firing ranges pop up. And I just don’t get it. America, can you just stop playing Empire and enjoy what the universe provided you? It would be so much better. It would be life, sweet as fresh corn, and the morning breeze.
Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer, life-long resident of New York City. An EBook version of his book of poems “State Of Shock,” on 9/11 and its after effects is now available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. He has also written hundreds of articles on politics and government as Associate Editor of Intrepid Report (formerly Online Journal). Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.