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Nov 18, 2007

Your Turn: War Time America

(click for larger view)

My first association....

Right after returning from Spain in August, I remember turning on the TV to watch a bit of the U.S. Open tennis tournament.  Having been away from the States for nearly a year, I remember being jarred by the super-sized and jingoistic display of the session's opening festivities.  An American flag was stretched out that literally spanned the footprint of the stadium court.  Liza Minelli was called upon to ring (wring?) out a painfully long and overwrought rendition of America the Beautiful.  Then, a squadron of fighter jets blew violently over the top of the stadium in perfect coordination with the end of the song.

In her continuing look at militarization and the security of the homeland, contributer Nina Berman offers us a set of images tied to Atlantic City's "Thunder Over The Boardwalk" air show this past August.  As she writes:

There are many of these shows all around the country done by all branches of the military.  They are huge productions costing millions of dollars and usually have a very robust, aggressive energy.  They now also have a big recruitment component.

I am interested in your reflections on the photo, as well as either or both of its companions (1, 2).  Because Nina was more interested in the areas of the beach which were off from the main viewing ground, there are elements here that lend a particular twist to the themes of power and defense.  In general, however, I feel the shot conveys a unique mood and aura of post-9/11 America, America under the "terror war," or what the Administration constantly refers to as "America at war."

I'll be happy to join you in the discussion thread.

(image: ©Nina Berman.  New Jersey.  August 2007.  Used by permission)


The decrepitude of the building in the foreground contrasted with the hi-tech, triangular jet makes me think about how this country is falling apart at the seams but still has a thirst for military toys. There's a real element throwing resources away while our country dissipates on literal (infrastructure, New Orleans, etc.) and figurative (the news that global warming is worse than we thought while we waste lives and money on a war that should be increasingly irrelevant) dimensions. If you changed to paintball sign to another language, the picture could easily pass for a scene in a "Third World" country.

Your description evokes the dread I had, within minutes of the attacks on 9/11, that very bad things would come of it. Flags everywhere, "God Bless America" playing everywhere, "United We Stand" all over the place, fear of being unpatriotic. I was horrified at the attacks and the death, but the dread that we would become what we have become was pretty strong.

I often wonder if the next administration will undo the pageantry and lessen the military state nature of what's accumulated in the last 6 years.

This passes for a "Third World" country, because the USA is becoming a Third World country. That is all there is to that. I have read enough history to know that everything has a beginning, a middle, and an end. I just never thought that I would have the poor luck to live to see the end of the USA. Yet, here I am watching my the political and economic leadership of my country turn their backs on 200 plus years of history and tradition. Small minded people with "Master Of The Universe" egos longing for a past that never existed. Selling the future to fund two wars they are losing and maintain an empire we were never destined to have in the first place.

A little perspective. I was at that show as one of 500 or so guests of the Borgata. The air show was an all day affair with stunt flying and some NJ National Guard trick flying, parachute jumps a sea rescue by the Coast Guard and other common air show fare. The finale was the show by the Air Force Thunderbirds which lasted about 30 minutes. The might of the US war machines is frightening and awe inspiring at the same time. You marvel at the weapons until you realize they are basically designed for efficient mass murder. The Thunderbirds show is just an amazing precision flying demonstration. Anyone who has the opportunity should check it out just for the entertainment value. Two of the six Thunderbirds pilots are women and I was really proud of them and the US for that.

FWIW the tricks are basically the same as when I saw the Thunderbirds as a young Airman at Sheppard Air Force Base in 1965 and I could watch them every day.

The thing that hits me immediately is how hardly anyone seems to be paying attention to the jets flying over head. This is just another day on the beach. Nothing strange. Nothing out of the ordinary. Waves, warm breezes, and, oh yeah, military armament flying over head. But no one seems to be absorbed by it. Even those int he first image that might be looking at it, do so with a rather tired nochalance ... and it is by no means clear that that is what they are looking at. In the additional pictures the point is magnified, for in them, and
despite what would be rather loud noise (even against the wind and the surf), the entrainment of planes flying low and in formatin, no one .... NO ONE ... is directed to it. Of course, it might well be because it has been an all day event ... but still, even at that it marks the naturalization of war and the military that seems to be engulfing the American "war culture" -- and it is of course disturbing.

i, too, was struck by the fact that folks in the pictures are not even looking up.

Having spent time as an activist in several war zones, since my return home i have found when i hear jets overhead my eyes always fly to the sky, my mind pauses, and after a moment, the adrenaline subsides.

Many Americans simply have no idea what these planes are- not what they represent, not what they symbolize, but what they actually are. What an incredible waste, what an incredible lack of imagination, what an incredible absence of love we as human beings have cultivated in our lives.

i look at the photo of the children in shadow, bending to the water as the jets thunder overhead and i contemplate our renewal and the myriad possibilities hidden right before our eyes, and i hope one day we remember who we are.

On first glance at the picture I thought the plane was a kite, and the commentary was about how we are lounging around doing normal things during wartime. Then I read the post and considered the picture again. I agree with Karen; even in my first erroneous glance I was struck by the dilapidated building, the bent umbrella, and a general oppressive grayness to the image.

Maybe I'm just been overly attuned to it, but I've been suprised by the number of articles lately about militarization of space, missile defense systems, and the like. (Then, of course, there is the steady talk about bombing missions in Iraq and, potentially, in Iran). That, and the fact I still can't help but do a double take over the other-worldly shape of the Stealth makes me interested, and a little confused about the nonchalance John and Johhny are talking about, and maybe also alyssa's mistaking the plane for a kite. Could also be the resonance from the news over Dennis Kucinich's belief in UFO's, but I find this photo very scary. My gut reaction, mostly a primary process one, is: I don't know if that object is "ours or theirs," or even from this world. The fact that about half the crowd seems attuned to it while the two bathers moving right-to-left, in line with each other, seems oblivious makes the photo even stranger, like I can't trust anyone in the picture to cue off of. Reading this back, and factoring the "Beirut-ish" feeling Karen and Gardner hit on, which hit me on first pass, and I come up with a sort of paranoid feeling.

Sign of the times? What Nina was pulling for? More my projection? Combination of the three?

that's a kite? sure looks to me like a B-2 Stealth Bomber..??

Activities of Stealth

A deteriorated warehouse, a motley crew, an unappealing breach, is this a 'Workers Holiday Resort' (USSR circa 1970)? Nope not with a 2 Billion $ B-2_Spirit (stealth bomber) overhead, a 'Paint Ball' arena nearby for stealthily combating a 'Live Target', it must be the USA where war games are readily available for all to watch or to play

Photograph of Advanced Paint Ball Warriors

Interesting, Bag. When I look at all three pics again, I'm struck by "militarism is something that happened while we were distracted." I'm not that old, but I feel like a geezer when I wonder about how we got where we are today and if it's too late to stop the momentum.

... like sheep at pasture, or antelope in the field, instictively conditioned to be unalarmed by the stalking lion, until the lion charges and seizes its first prey. Then, painc ensues and everyone runs for their lives. The law of large numbers. If you are one of 300 million, and only 3,000 have been harmed in the last six years, it does just become a glimpse of the most remote possibility.

You know,... for my part, I can't help but wonder why nothing nas happened in this country since 9/11. I mean, no simple suicide - such as the ones that happend several times daily in Iraq. ... ... Nothing.

I wonder if there is a gathering storm. That the fist is out there tightening, the anger and rage is building, ... What - ? Do you really think that Bush has protected us. That he is fighting them there so we don't have to fight them, over here. Would you really be surprised?

... and the sheep graze, and the antelope drift, and the lion plots, and the aggrieved take comfort in knowing that their day will come................. Today is not the day, but tomorrow, or some special other day.


Loot from Gaul helped end the Roman Republic, and usher in the Roman Empire. Loot from Mespotamia...?

Building and defending an empire requires soldiers, lots of them. I should think the farmboys and the poor kids of the city would have been as enthralled at the polished helmets and cuirasses of the First Legion as they are today at the B-2; and no doubt the recruiters were right there to feed them stories of glory at the edges of the Empire-- as they are now.

If Caesar's legions had been stealth equipped, would they not have used their equipment as a recruitment tool?

Empire. Coming soon to a planet under you.



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