Whenever I pass a Bombers sign here in Macomb, I wonder how the word Bombers and the image of WWII airplanes that dropped bombs can represent us, our community, our high school student-athletes, today in 2017.
I say this as a member of this community not as an outsider. I have lived in Macomb for 15 years, longer than I have ever lived anywhere else in my entire life. This is my home. These are my people.
I’ve been attending Macomb sporting events for two years now and I am proud of all our student-athletes because they work hard and they support each other. I feel myself swelling with pride when they high five each other and make sure all team members feel valued no matter what. They lose gracefully and win humbly.
Why would I have any issues with the Bombers when I’m the one yelling “Go, Macomb, go” until I’m hoarse. And I’m the one learning all the students’ names so that I can cheer for them individually to let them know that they are supported. I wear my orange and black t-shirt proudly. Really, I should not have a problem with the word Bombers. It’s only a word, right?
Well, not for me.
Bomb is the root word of Bombers and I have a really hard time thinking of a bomb as a good thing. The mascot image of the airplane is from WWII but the bombs that stand out in my mind are not the ones that came raining down on Hitler’s regime. The bombs I think of are the two nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima on August 6th, and just three days later on Nagasaki, August 9th, 1945. I have images of the results of those bombs seared into my brain, black-and-white photos I have seen that I can never forget.
I have those images not because I was alive during WWII but because I grew up during the Cold War, when nuclear bombs were all we could think about. I remember Sting singing about “Oppenheimer’s deadly toy” in 1985 and I remember that the possibility of the Soviets dropping a nuclear bomb on us was real. There were made-for-TV movies like The Day After which came out in 1983 imagining what it would be like for us after a nuclear war. I remember that fear well, even today. I don’t need history books to tell me about it. I lived it, the fear of the bomb, the nuclear bomb.
Now, I understand that I don’t live in 1940 when I would have had an ongoing genocide of Jews in Europe as a reason and a justification for bombings. And I also don’t live in 1985 anymore either. There is no Soviet Union. But it’s not like Russia has stopped bombing people. In fact, in 2017, civilians are regularly bombed in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. I know. I’ve seen the images of bodies at hospitals, at schools, and most recently, at a shrine where worshippers were killed by a bomb detonated by a bomber.
Today, the word bomber isn’t only associated with military soldiers who are at war sometimes and at peace other times. In 2017, we are in a state of perpetual war and the word bomber is also associated with suicide bombers. In 2017, it is really hard for me not to visualize children as victims of different kinds of bombers.
Now that I’m older, I think a lot more about children, everywhere. Compared with the young woman I was in 1985, I love so many more children now, not just my own or my family’s but also my friends’ children, the ones in Macomb schools. There are children here in Macomb that I’ve known since they were born because I was friends with their parents. I used to volunteer at the library at Lincoln school where I would watch children between the ages of 5 and 8 pick out books to read and listen to stories. I got to the point where I knew which one would pick the animal book and which one would pick the fairy book. Now I watch those same faces getting older and becoming teenagers with their own ideas and their own sense of self. I am not who I was in 1985 because now I love a lot more children. So now, I worry about bombs and violence in a different way. I worry for them.
It’s a contradiction, really. My pride in Macomb student-athletes is great. Watching them grow and struggle and achieve has been a joy. But, at the same time, I just cannot associate our glorious teenagers with the words: Bomber Pride.
Shazia Rahman is a professor of English at Western Illinois University.
The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the University or Tri States Public Radio.
Diverse viewpoints are welcomed and encouraged.