Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Terror Within

Last Friday I took my son to a local water park in the boonies. First, a lot of Michiganers are fat. I mean, almost bizarrely out of shape. You see this all year round, but it really shows in the summer, for obvious reasons.

It's one thing to see an adult let him or herself go, but it's incredibly sad and depressing to look at kids, mostly preteens, sporting huge guts, flabby arms, several chins. And the eating doesn't stop, evidenced by the long line at the park's concession stand where hot dogs, chips, soda and ice cream were doled out to the pale, plump mass.

I say this not to be mean or denigrating but to set the actual mood. At a time when our "liberation" of Afghanistan has done zilch for the starving and dying there, obese Americans, some of whom were wearing pro-war or pro-military t-shirts, cramming junk food into their mouths was a pretty sickening sight.

But the boy was having a ball. He focused solely on the many watery diversions, laughing and leaping with pure joy. So I tapped into his happy vibe. It served as a protective bubble of sorts as we flew down slides, rode large waves, got hit with numerous kinds of water sprays and showers. The bubble protected for only so long, however, as we kept having to deal with rude, obnoxious adults, some of whom encouraged their kids to cut in line and laughed as some of the more aggressive youth punched and put in headlocks smaller or thinner kids -- all in good clean fun, of course.

The boy and I were diving through a chlorinated waterfall running down a faux rock face when I surfaced and saw a Nazi tattoo on a big white arm. I couldn't believe it. Open militarism is one thing, part of Americana; but an actual swastika is a deeper statement.

The guy wearing it was large and muscular, looking like a bodyguard or bouncer, head shaved, goatee closely trimmed. The swastika was surrounded by two tiny American flags with an eagle atop. I simply froze and stared at it. The guy paid me no mind, but his wife glared back at me as she rushed their little blonde boy along to the water slides.

Cheque please!

By this point, we'd been swimming, sliding and splashing for nearly three hours, so I told the boy we had to leave. Naturally, he groaned and pleaded for another round of inner-tube riding, but I insisted. He smiled, grabbed his towel and t-shirt and walked out by my side, his eager eyes still on those water slides.

We moved through the parking lot choked with SUVs, Hummers, and pick-ups, many boasting "Support Our Troops," "These Colors Never Run" and "USA Number 1" bumper stickers. I couldn't wait to get home, lock the door, and drain a stiff drink. But my son strolled along, oblivious to the raw nationalist sentiment on all those gas-guzzling symbols of our collective arrogance and greed, and thanked me for taking him to the park, saying "This is one of the best days ever. I had a blast, Dad!"

This filled me with happiness, love, and fear. Poor kid. Look at the world that awaits him.