For more than two centuries, the United States of America has stood as a shining beacon to people the world over. Immigrants flock to our nation's shores to drink from the cup of liberty and partake of our bounteous freedoms. But, as the saying goes, freedom isn't free. These privileges we hold so dear are not simply granted to us; they must be diligently maintained by each successive generation. Which is why, from time to time, the great tree of liberty must be refreshed with the nourishing, crimson blood of air show pilots.

My friends, it is the price that must be paid for our American way of life.

You see, democracy is more than just a great idea. It is a living, breathing system that must be actively preserved to ensure it remains not only functional but vital. After all, no one ever said this great experiment we call America was going to be easy. No, sir! Preserving our country requires discipline. It requires a brave few sacrificing for the many. And, twice a year or so, it requires the engine of a Grumman F8F Bearcat to stall in mid-loop-the-loop, causing said plane to corkscrew wildly through the warm July air before finally smacking into a crowded county fairground in a maelstrom of fire and air-show-pilot blood.

For those who say this cost of freedom is simply "too high," well, sorry, but to be part of a democracy—a real democracy—one must accept the fact that safeguarding life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness can be a messy task. The wheels of history are merciless and cannot be deterred, and therefore must be greased with the thick, viscous blood of classic aviation enthusiasts. So, if that means that, periodically, a panicked air show pilot or two must pull up on his stick in vain after a piece of rudder shakes loose from a beautiful old 1950s T-28 Trojan and scream for mercy before eventually crashing in a billowing fireball that a horrified crowd can feel from a half-mile away, then so be it. We must accept that our republic depends upon such acts.

We must also watch, and re-watch, these gestures of selfless patriotism on YouTube.

If you don't agree with me, simply pick up a history book. Our Founding Fathers, those great geniuses of revolutionary America, knew the system of government they devised would not be a passive one. That's why they, more than anyone, saw the crucial importance of a man in a vintage Red Baron outfit suddenly becoming disoriented, losing control of his replica WWI tri-plane, and slamming it into a food truck as hundreds on the ground frantically capture the event on their cell phone cameras.

They also knew, seemingly in their very bones, that an F-16 fighter jet pilot in tight formation jumping his cue, bumping into his wing mate, and causing both planes to trail red and blue smoke as they spin toward the runway of the Tampa Air Show in a nauseatingly balletic display of mechanized carnage was not only inevitable, but a democratic imperative. And who are we to argue with the logic of Franklin, Jefferson, and Adams?

Obviously, I realize this essential truth is upsetting to some, but I think we would all be wise to accept that we live in a world based upon certain core realities: People make mistakes; human nature is imperfect; decommissioned P-47 Thunderbolts experience engine failure during choreographed dogfight routines and plunge into helpless crowds of Midwestern families. It's the way of the world. All we can do is remember the sacrifices made by those terrified trick pilots frantically trying to eject themselves from the cockpits of their antique Spitfires, and be thankful they are out there, ready to lose consciousness as they plow into an entire troop of running, screaming Boy Scouts on a day trip from Albuquerque. It is they who keep the roots of this great tree of liberty strong.

God bless our fallen air show pilots and God bless America.