Sunday, July 8, 2007

Blue Angels Over Willow Run

Today the Blue Angels thundered over Willow Run in a show sponsored by the Yankee Air Museum. The full title for the event was: 2007 Chrysler Jeep Superstores Thunder Over Michigan Air Show, an ironic name given the presence of the GM Powertrain facility in the former WWII bomber plant just west of the airport.

I hadn't planned to see the show, but stopped on the way into Detroit. Joining the dozens of other cars parked along the service road north of the airport, I was amazed and awed by the spectacle.

Admiring the excellence, precision, and daring of the pilots, I pondered our unending involvement in Iraq--the lives lost, bodies maimed, hearts broken, psyches permanently altered by battle trauma. These jets were breathtakingly beautiful flying low and high, defining the space above us.

The website for the event offered free tickets for youth between the ages of 18-24, plus an opportunity to meet the pilots. The show served as a Navy recruitment opportunity, of course.

If you see the Blue Angels in action, you will admire them. You must. They are athletes, artists and warriors commanding powerful machines defying gravity -- and they are loud. Their speed booms in your ears and chest. You want them to be fast, to shake you to your core. They will and you will be safe because this is not war. This is a demonstration event for the Navy.

Along the road, with airplane enthusiasts, veterans, families with small children, shirtless nascar fans, I thrilled at the raw might above. I was completely drawn in by the engineering marvel and flying prowess.

If only it were a demonstration of excellence and mastery for peaceful purposes. But we are fully engaged in Iraq, doing something variously called fighting, rebuilding, occupying, reconstructing. Fighting there so we don't have to fight here. It's rather a blur at this point. We now understand that the war was unjustified--that the conflation of 9-11, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, alleged yellow cake deals and Saddam's tyranny was a stone soup of excuses and lies. We broke it; we own it. That was Colin Powell's warning (read his account of trying to talk Bush out of the Iraq war in the Times Online, 7/8/07). I've always heard a different version, more apt: if you break it, you pay. We're going to pay for this for many years to come.

The Blue Angels are amazing and worthy of admiration--like so many of the soldiers and support staff serving in Iraq--performing whole heartedly. The servicemen and women in Iraq must believe in their work, for their sanity and survival. We at home have the privilege and responsibility of discernment from a safe distance. Hate the war, love the warrior.