Wednesday, July 10, 1996 - The Michigan Daily - 5
m GONNA SAY IT Now
rockets = America
I took part in a wonderful tradition this past
weekend - I got to blow stuff up in celebration of
I stood up on a hill, with a friend and his father,
and launched rocket after
rocket of explosives into the
Our audience consisting
a friendly cast of neighbors,.
applauded after each projec-
tile exploded, showering the
twilight sky with phosphores
cent reds and greens and
blues. Add a few serious fire-
crackers and a Roman candle
or two, and we had ourselves a
fireworks extravaganza. GREG
Specifically, we were cele- PARKER
brating the declaration of
Snerica's independence from imperial England.
But more generally, we were participating in a tra-
dition so overtly "American" that it nearly made
me snap to attention, salute and break into a cho-
rus of "God Bless America."
The wanton use of explosives on July 4th is per-
haps the greatest caricature of America. America
purports to have the richest, loudest, biggest and
most of anything - be it an automobile or a sky-
scraper. And what better way to commemorate
,America's birthday by exploding the most expen-
e, loudest and biggest fireworks.
Echoing the spirit of competition that runs so
fervent in America, it's interesting to see neigh-
borhood competitions based on who has the best
fireworks. After all, we all know that whoever has
the loudest fireworks on the block is the most
Fireworks also capture the American attitude of
haste, and often the American attitude of destruc-
tion and lack of concern for safety. Year after year,
we hear of injuries and deaths from ill-use of fire-
rks. These range from Johnny innocently
"uching a "sparkler" (whose temperature, even
when dark, is similar to the sun's surface) to bottle
rockets in the eye to deaths from misfired rockets.
And who hasn't messed around with bottle rock-
ets? Some people go to the extreme of firing the
mini-missiles at their "friends," while others con-
centrate on targeting the family pets, and still safer
people fire the rockets at stationary objects, like
their favorite neighbor's garage door.
I find it nauseatingly amusing that the legisla-
Wn surrounding fireworks sales is so lax. Does it
make sense not to have an age limit on fireworks?
One must be 16 to operate a motor vehicle in most
states, but I've seen tots with fireworks. Most
decent fireworks materials are not legally avail-
able in Michigan, so many of us have to travel to
Indiana to get the "good stuff" - one of the
places I recall is called "Uncle Sam's;" and has
insane amounts of fireworks. These places are not
bashful, and they are usually located in the first
exit over the Indiana state line, with a myriad of
billboards leading to their location. Of course, the
*ores that sell the "good stuff" also make cus-
tomers buy a $2 license and pledge to use the ordi-
nance in a legal area. I really don't think any com-
ment is needed for this trust clause.
What is it about fireworks that so attracts
Americans to them? I think it stems from that fact
that Americans simply like to blow up stuff.
Couple this fact with the propensity of Americans
to compete for the biggest explosions, and their
wanton use of the fireworks, and you have a
latile situation. And this doesn't even take into
'ccount the pyro-Americans who have a few beers
before lighting up the sky a la Budweiser. Indeed,
this is a scary thought.
- Greg Parker can be reached over
e-mail at glparker~dumich.edut.
"Every time I see that Nike symbol, I think about the
University of Michigan and I think about child labor."
- University Regent Deane Baker (R-Ann Arbor), voicing his concerns about Nike
Inc.s use of child labor in the production of its athletic wear; Baker has requested an
investigation into the employment practices of the athletic gear mogul.
A2 OAK protest p'i action
By Paul Lefrak
and Barbara Pliskow
Media coverage of the June 22 Ann Arbor
counter-demonstration against a Ku Klux Klan
rally was distorted, and omitted almost all men-
tion of the widespread police brutality that took
place against counter-demonstrators. Ann Arbor
Organizing Against the Klan (A2 OAK), a com-
munity coalition of sixteen local groups and
many individuals, wishes to set the record
There were numerous incidents of unprovoked
police violence against not only the 600 or more
assembled counter-demonstrators, but also
bystanders and passersby. Tear gas was randomly
shot into the crowd with no order to disperse ever
given. Protesters who did nothing illegal were ran-
domly maced. Several of the eight people arrested
were beaten and maced while they were already
handcuffed and in police custody and were offer-
ing absolutely no resistance at that time. In reality,
it was this widespread use of police violence that
provoked counter-demonstrators to anger, not the
other way around.
All told, 200 police from several different police
departments were deployed to protect the KKK, a
group whose history of murder and racist terror is
well-known. This deployment consisted of tens of
thousands of tax dollars spent on erecting fences
around City Hall, blocking and re-routing traffic,
paying for overtime for the police, providing trans-
portation for the KKK to and from the rally site,
and allowing the KKK access to the second floor
terrace of City Hall as a staging area for their rally.
Apparently one has to advocate genocide in order
to be afforded these amenities.
This goes way beyond any issue of "free
speech." The police did everything possible to
ensure that the Klan had a successful rally.
However, despite the unprecedented display of
police protection for these advocates of mass
murder, including police statements prior to the
event calling on local citizens to avoid the anti-
racist demonstration, 600 plus people were able to
successfully drown out the message of hatred of
the Klan and outnumber these fascists by more
than 30 to 1.
Furthermore, the media inaccurately reported
that "protest groups" had been threatening vio-
lence "all week" before the rally. This is patently
false. As a broad-based community and campus
ad hoc coalition of diverse groups and individuals
- black, white, Latino, Asian, gay, straight, reli-
gious, non-religious, young and old - A2 OAK
encompassed a variety of political and tactical
Our plan was for a massive anti-fascist demon-
stration to be held at the same place prior to the
appearance of the Klan so that these proponents
of lynching and the torching of black churches
would think twice about organizing for racial ter-
rorism in our city. That would have been the least
violent of all the alternatives. Instead, the police
thwarted this by militarily blockading City Hall
with fences and 200 police menacing anti-racist
protesters, issuing provocative statements
designed to scare potential counter-demonstra-
tors, and brutalizing protesters who courageously
resisted these police threats and stood up against
a group organizing for political power based on a
program of genocide.
Paul Lefrak, a Rackham graduate student,
and Barbara Pliskow, an Ann Arbor resident,
are members ofAnn Arbor Organizing
Against the Klan (A2 OAK).
goes the planet
"Independence Day," the blockbuster movie
event of the summer, exploded into theaters every-
where last week, showing audiences how to blow
up the world -with style.
The media has snatched it
up and will not let go -
"Independence Day" will
earn over $100 million at the ,
box office. It earned $85
million its first weekend.
Wy? America wants to
know. Are the perfo ances
Oscar-caliber? No. Is the
direction flawless? No. Is
the plot stunningly clever?
No way. The writers seem ERIN
to have been irked that oth- MARSH
ers got the fun job of
"exploding" things while they were left with the
menial task of Scotch-taping together the action.
Unfortunately, they took it out on the script (and
audiences), because the story is buried beneath
knee-deep layers of schmaltzy dialogue.
With plot, script and acting eliminated from
the "'Independence Day' formula for multimil-
lion dollar success" what the heck is it that's
causing all the fuss?
America simply wants to see things blow up.
KABOOM! There goes the White House.
KABOOM! There goes the Empire State
Building. KABOOM! There goes Los Angeles.
In a matter of moments, audiences can watch
the destruction of famous landmarks and major
metropolitan areas. They're eating it up. Little
Unabombers-in-training are squirming with
delight. "YEEEEEEAH!" screamed the cute
10-year-old kid next to me in the theater. "Blow
it up! Blow it ALL UP!!"
What's next for these kids? What will surprise
them after this? The entertainment industry keeps
pushing the envelope on "unprecedented" action.
In 1993, "Jurassic Park" - a film hyped as much
as "Independence Day" - brought dinosaurs
back to life. After a kid has watched actors frol-
icking with brontosaurus and has seen entire cities
blow up --all before she or he graduates from 5th
grade - what will thrill her or him?
"Independence Day" advertising campaigns
can probably account for more media attention
than the 1996 presidential elections. Everyone
connected with the film is seeing dollar signs.
Endorsements are probably forthcoming, as is
the line of action toys that has become standard
in the age of action films. The tykes are in for a
treat - this picture could spur the creation of
such gems as "The 'Independence Day' Massive
Destruction playset (With genuine glass shards
and sharp-edged brick chunks! Not for children
under age 23)" or "The 'Independence Day'
Blow Up Your Hometown playset (Bring the
power of the mother ship to your very own
backyard!)" The potential to elevate America's
penchant for destruction knows no bounds. And
the money ain't bad, either.
The film is, admittedly, pretty entertaining. It's
pretty wacky to see the White House blow up (but
they could've saved that move for a while, in the
frightening event Dole wins in November). It's
pretty amazing to see a spaceship cover
Manhattan. The special effects are nifty, and the
whole "alien invasion" concept is interesting in a
purely mindless, fantastical way.
Hut why couldn't the stinking aliens have tar-
geted Notre Dame's football stadium? Now that
would've had me jumping on my seat, throwing
popcorn and hooting just like the explosion-
happy 10-year-old next to mke.
- Erin Marsh can be reached over
e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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