Dancing on the Bridges

A Reflection by Randall Major
Novi Sad, Yugoslavia
April, 1999

The informed world is astounded. The crazy Serbs have turned out en masse, to stand in the dark on their bridges, disregarding the air raid sirens, to sing and dance, to shout cries of rebellion at NATO, the most incredible superpower ever to exist. Are they insane? Are they just victims of a propaganda war? What is, indeed, wrong with these people?

As a Texan, as someone who lives among the people of Novi Sad, I can claim with confidence: there is nothing wrong with them.

Imagine for a moment that, for whatever reason, a massive air armada was threatening YOUR bridges. Stop and think. If someone were to demolish London's Tower Bridge, how would your lives be affected? How would the people of New York feel if some horrid force destroyed not only the Tri-Burrows Bridge, but also the Brooklyn Bridge? How would your lives be changed then? Or the Golden Gate Bridge. How would you feel if a MIG suddenly appeared and shot out the center section?

As a Texan who grew up in a family of hunters, I must admit: my first thought would be to take the .243 Remington my daddy gave me as my first hunting rifle and go stand on that bridge. To shoot at whatever terrible flying machine that might approach it. Or the .270 Winchester my brother and I both used to hunt deer in our childhood. By God, even my daddy's old 16-gauge shotgun. I would defend those bridges with my whole heart, lay down my life if necessary.

Take a map. Look for yourself. Where would you have to go to reach your destinations if those bridges were suddenly gone? How would you get to work, return home, or go shopping? Then understand. These people are fighting for their bridges, because their bridges are their lives.

Is the Brooklyn Bridge a "military target"? A similar bridge in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia, was proclaimed so. It is now a crumpled mass in the swirling Danube. Is travelling to see loved ones in Mill Valley a military operation? How many times have you seen tanks on the bridges of your town? Ever? The very same is true here. In thirteen years here, I've never seen even a military jeep on those bridges. Never.

It is not that the people of Yugoslavia don't have guns. They do. They are hunters and sportsmen very much like many of the people of my native Texas. But they leave their guns at home. They sing and dance, they celebrate their bridges, fighting against brute force with their love for life and for their bridges. Are these the "Serb butchers" as proclaimed by NATO and the mass media? I hardly think so.

As an American, it just makes me stop and wonder. Where would WE be without our bridges? The next time you drive over a bridge, think of it laying crushed by a Tomahawk missile. How will that make YOU feel?

The very fact that NATO is blowing up Yugoslavia's bridges is symbolic in a way. Each time a bridge goes down, a tie with the West is broken. A childhood memory is obliterated. Loved ones are separated. And anger grows towards the ones who have done it. By blowing up the bridges, NATO countries are cutting all ties between themselves and the ordinary citizens of Yugoslavia. How will those ties be reestablished in the future? And who will rebuild the bridges? How long will it take? Every bridge and each victim in this nonsensical war widen the gap and extend the time it will take for the wounds to heal, for the bridges to be rebuilt.

Randall Major
Novi Sad, Yugoslavia