Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Fried Chicken Wednesdays: When the Sun Finally Sets

I swear, even though I am an American and don't give a hoot about these things, I totally plan to set my clock to wake up earlier on May 6, and I might even set the DVR for the pre-game commentary. Of course I am referring to the long-awaited coronation of the one and only King Charles the Third, a party the likes of which most of us haven't seen in 70 years. So, as I have done for other British Royal events, I will fix myself a spot of spiked tea, maybe find a cute fascinator to wear along with my bathrobe, and then I will scroll through Twitter to read all of the chatter about Meghan Markle, who won't even be there. 

Yep, because I am 100% sure that her name will trend even though she will be at home in her bathrobe drinking spiked tea while making treat bags for the kiddies who will be at Prince Archie's birthday party later that day. And if I'm wrong about her absence being the story, then the presence of her husband, Prince Harry the Prodigal Son, will give them plenty to twat on about instead. It will be quite ironic to see how a day that has been in the planning for decades gets upstaged by a kid's fourth birthday party all the way in California.

In this latest installment of #RoyalNewsYouCantUse, I am stating at the outset that I expect the worst from the British tabloid media these next few weeks because everything, and I mean EVERYTHING to this point has proven that the Sussex Royals were right to jump ship when they did. I remain convinced of that position since the last the time I declared that I haven't read the book; nor watched any of the press interviews that promoted the book; nor listened to more than a few minutes of the podcast; nor bothered to get the password from the Hub to watch the Netflix special. None of that has changed. I don't make it a habit to peruse the tabloids for information about the British Royals, and I've even stopped watching my old favorite Brit-coms on PBS. I wouldn't say that I lost interest in all things British after Queen Elizabeth died; however, to be honest, I have been preoccupied by the potential loss of democracy and rapid descent into authoritarianism in my country.

Yet, as we have all learned in the seven years since Harry met Meghan, she is the most interesting person to become associated with that stodgy family since Princess Diana. The fact that she sells more papers on rumors of stuff she didn't actually say as opposed to anything anyone else does is proof. Like why have there been daily articles and opinion pieces written about her in the weeks since it was announced that she would stay home from the coronation? Literally, no need to mention her name, let alone dredge up some ridiculous story to suggest that Meghan ought to be grateful to Kate Middleton's long dead ancestors for freeing hers. (Trust, we'll circle back to address that foolywang in a bit.)

Since the Muskrat has been pushing buttons at Twitter HQ without adult supervision, my algorithm gives me more information on the British Royal family than I care to know. That suggests that I have clicked too many times to see why certain names are trending (true), but it isn't like I spend a lot of time thinking about them the way they (the BRF) would like for people to think about them. Why should we care whether Camilla is referred to as the Queen or the Queen Consort (as if there is a discernable difference)? Does it matter that the real Queen has barely gone cold in her grave...what would she think of being succeeded by the woman who almost destroyed the monarchy? Oh wait, we already know, but I guess now that Charlie is the King, he can do whatever he wants without any royal rebukes from his dead Mummy.

Furthermore, why does it matter that Meghan opted not to attend? It isn't like she and the kids have a place to stay anymore since the King evicted them from the cottage and seems unlikely to put them up in one of his palaces. And anyone who has been paying attention to how shitty she's been treated by the British press should have known that she wasn't going nowhere near that coronation, not even just to stand by her man. The way she and Harry broke camp right after the Queen's funeral made it clear that Meghan ain't neva going back to England unless there is a compelling reason to subject herself to that nonsense. I can imagine the conversation and how she probably broke the news to Harry that he would be traveling solo: "That's yo Daddy; send my regards," and then followed up with "and these kids are staying home with me, so you can go if you want." Poor Harry probably tried to appeal to Mama Dee, who in classic Black matriarchal solidarity, put her hands on her hips, glared back at her beloved son-in-law, and said icily, "my daughter said what she said". And for the first time Prince Harry slept on the couch. 

It should have been obvious to everyone that we didn't even need an explanation for her absence other than she's not going. Clearly, she understood and accepts that all attention should be on the King and the day he has been dreaming of since he was a kid. Why take the shine away from him when she can watch the festivities at home like the rest of the world in her bathrobe and a fascinator? That's exactly how Joe Biden plans to participate. As will a slew of others who either declined or weren't invited, like Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York. She'll be at home with the Queen's corgis she inherited, dressed in beefeater hats and drunk by noon. 

If anything, the story should be about why several other very important people opted NOT to attend. Since I mentioned President Biden, it is significant to note that his motorcade and security needs practically shut London down when he attended the Queen's funeral, so perhaps choosing not to cause a similar ruckus by attending the coronation is a good thing. There was some grumbling from the folks who live (or get paid) to be offended, but that quickly died down when it was also explained that U.S. Presidents don't attend British coronations. Ultimately, Biden understands that his presence would be an unnecessary distraction, so he is sending Dr. Jill. Then there is the fact that two of the headliners for the entertainment portion of the festivities are judges from American Idol...because several British acts are too busy to move things around on their calendars to perform for their King?

Paddington Bear found time to have tea with Queen Elizabeth last year, and a few years prior to that, she and James Bond made a cameo appearance at the Olympics in 2012. Adele and Harry Styles are both booked on this final week of the Late Late Show with James Corden. But the only person returning King Charles' phone calls is Katy Perry? And somehow that is also Meghan's fault because Elton John and the Spice Girls were previously booked for Archie's party? If I'm interpreting this correctly, the British people aren't all that enthusiastic about this coronation either; therefore, it is highly probable that the relevancy of the British Monarchy died with Queen Elizabeth. 

Not my problem because as an American, the only reason why I find all of this so fascinating is the anachronism of monarchy in the modern era. My intrigue with the British Royals began with the wedding of then-Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer some 40+ years ago when I was my daughter's age. Having read plenty of myths and legends about princesses and knights in shining armor and wizards and other mythical beings, I didn't believe any of those things were real until I learned about the enduring British monarchy. Instead of existing in some kingdom long ago and far far away, they were live and on television! Watching them over the years never rose to the level of an obsession for me; thus, if it all went away tomorrow, I imagine my life would go on just fine without their soap opera running in the background.

However, I read somewhere that the British Royals generate billions in revenue, BILLIONS. So for every random article that is written about their every move, somewhere a cash register bell goes off, and somebody can rent a summer estate or go sailing that week. Too bad not enough of that trickles down to stimulate their economy. It is a brutal reality that nothing really changed in the wake of Princess Diana's tragic death--just the subjects of the media frenzy. After years of trying to sell us on Camilla Queen-to-be, Prince William and his brood of heirs and spares, and even lesser royal cousins, other than the late QE2 herself, no one else in the royal orbit has been as compelling as Prince Harry. Ever since he placed that letter atop his mother's coffin and bravely marched behind it, he opened his heart to the world, and we've responded in kind and remain besotted with him. We've watched him come into himself, unbound by duty and free to chart his own path. So when love struck him like a thunderbolt in the form of an American actress, of course we were riveted.

Who was this woman, not quite an A-list starlet, but definitely an up-and-coming standout on an ensemble cable TV show? How did they meet? Who are her people? Why her and not some well-bred Lady of the Glen?

We got the answers to those basic questions, and then some as their courtship evolved into a royal engagement and wedding, and then eventually into another branch of the royal family. Until they decided to step back from senior royal status, I doubt most Americans had any idea how vicious the press and the courtiers had been to her. Although I had detected the shift in the narrative from that of who's that lady to who do you think you are, I also assumed that finding favor with the Queen would have nullified the haters. 

Hating Meghan Markle is more profitable and beneficial to the Firm. It sells more papers, it gives cover to the scandals of the lesser royals (Prince Andrew), and it improves the public perception and press coverage of those who had not yet won the hearts and minds of the people (Camilla). Sensing that his parents had finally grown too weary to weather more family drama, Charles did what any man in his position would have done--nothing. He had waited too long to let a few unflattering headlines about some woman ruin everything he had waited his entire life to claim, so in order to protect his crown, he allowed the wolves to have at the one member of the family who was most expendable.

The Spare. Let them feast on Harry since he was no longer needed to fulfill duties that could be farmed out to others. His charities and patronages could be reassigned. Although he spent ten (10) years in the British Army, he had retired from Her Majesty's service, so those military honors could expire with her. If his strong Black wife couldn't handle life in the gilded cage like the other birds, then that's her problem. He should have allowed the Queen to pick out some dull English girl for him to marry, some naive little peasant who knew to be grateful for the privilege of becoming a member of one of Europe's oldest monarchies. Harry brought all of this on himself for marrying an American (and another bloody American divorcee at that)!

Michael Fassbender as Macbeth (2015) 
So why am I making plans to watch the coronation of such a man? I am almost 50 years old, and I still like to read myths and legends. I know that not all of the men who are crowned King are benevolent--some are ruthless and two-faced. Fairytales are full of evil stepmothers and queens, trolls, jealous courtiers, scheming rivals, and fire-breathing dragons. There are also noble knights in shining honor who perform their duties for their sovereign, especially if there is a lovely maiden whose love he believes is worth fighting for.

Both children of divorce, H&M know how to navigate being pawns in the squabbles between parents. Often this requires making adult choices and sacrifices, such as Prince Harry having to attend this coronation that was knowingly scheduled on his son's fourth birthday. But it is important to his father, and like King Charles, Harry has been awaiting this day all of his life as well. He has a duty to be there to bear witness. If his mother Princess Diana was still alive, he would still have to be present, not only to support his father but also his older brother, the future King. The tabloids are already stirring the pot by quoting "royal sources" about the seating arrangements and VIP family who will get to appear with the newly crowned King and Queen on the balcony. But like the good soldier he is, Harry will do his duty regardless of the snubs and slights.

I'll be watching to support him and to see the beginning of this new story arc in the House of Windsor. Surely some unexpected plot twist will bring new drama (perhaps a stare-down between the future Queen and another Lady-in-Waiting to become mistress to the future King). I'll be watching to see how long Harry keeps a stiff upper lip and how many of the predictions made by royal "insiders" prove to be true. And since Meghan is on the West Coast, I'll be watching just in case she oversleeps (but more for Mama Doria since we know she's not getting up at 3am for these people). 

Finally, I'll be watching to see if King Charles finally gets what's been coming to him. What will happen in that moment when the Archbishop of Canterberry places the crown upon his head? I have this image in my mind of Charles transforming into a modern-day King Midas, endowed with everything he ever wanted but also cursed with donkey's ears that pop out on either side of his head. Other than that, I expect this entire affair will be a snooze fest, like William and Kate's wedding.

Which brings me back to that particular revelation that no one asked for regarding the ancestors of the two wives of Windsor...and if there had been any doubts that all of this back and forth is the fault of a fame-seeking missile called Meghan, believe what you want. But to prove some inane point of privilege and moral superiority, somebody went Henry Lous Gating through the past to come up with that bit of information and published it. Are you effing serious???

Of course it was seriously intended to put Meghan in her place, because there has been no supply-chain shortage of gall coming from the folks who feel the need to show us who they are in every possible way. Between that and the alleged leak of the correspondence between the Duchess and the King from two years ago, this kind of nonsense is why Meghan and Mama Dee said they are sending a Hallmark card through Harry. 

Signed on behalf of the entire Diaspora. And the late Princess Diana.

Kevin Kline as Nick Bottom in
A Midsummer's Night Dream (1999)
After the final benediction, let's pray that Harry gets out of there in time to make his flight back to the States. For my part, I will take a nap, upgrade my drink, adjust my fascinator, and wait for the Kentucky Derby which Charles surely knew was the same day, especially since horse racing was a passion of the late Queen. (And with that, I hereby concede that I know way too much about these people.) Yet, he and Lady Macbeth forged ahead with their plans anyway, so yeah, I'm tuning into to see which other ghosts come back from beyond to watch him fully transform into the ass he's always been.

 God Save the King

Friday, April 21, 2023

Something to Cry About

I swear, every single day, somebody gets on Blue Ivy's internet to complain about having to put up with something, such as other people's children in public spaces, and well...I understand. Truly, I do since I have a child who is the absolute most on her good days. So yes, there are times when want to I release her into an unsuspecting world, and just walk away like Angela Bassett in this scene because some of y'all deserve ALL of this smoke.

But I know better.

I have written on this topic several times, and I already know that I won't say anything that will convince any of these bitter lemons and short-tempered man-babies that there are times when kids will be kids and sometimes, you just need to join the madness. Not in every situation, but more often than not, this demand that children be seen and not heard in public is unrealistic. Ask me how I know.

Currently, I am holed up in our hotel room writing because it is quiet up here. I would like to chill poolside with a beverage and watch my daughter play, but there are several factors that make that expectation impossible. For one, we are staying at a hotel that allows pets, and after ten minutes of exposure to that the other day my allergies went into overdrive (even after I had taken my meds). The only available pool is indoors, and because it is Spring Break, there are other people staying here with their children and dogs (it isn't warm enough for them to play in the outdoor pool). After I got splashed several times, the last thing I need is a new computer because somebody's cannonball got a little too close. And finally, since I am writing, I need to situate myself in an environment conducive to that, which is not in a room full of screaming children.

So let me rewind that for you so that I make a few things clear: (1) yes, I should be able to sit poolside to get some work done if that is what I want; (2) and children also should be allowed to play in the hotel pool as rambunctiously as they like because that is why it is here. In weighing my rights versus those of the children (while not even addressing the pet issue and why y'all feel the need to impose them into every situation), the bottom line is that I will be just fine if I opt to stay in my hotel room. I have a lovely view of the Bay from the balcony. There is no need for me to complain or to get indignant because this is one of those scenarios when I have to accept the situation for what it is and deal. 

That is called being an ADULT. If you are above the age of 21, you are legally required to get used to having to do this on a daily basis.

I saw that video of the passenger who got upset about the crying baby on a plane, and I read some of the predictable commentary about bad children/parents, and I read the sympathetic commentary about traveling with children (including those with special needs). Well, I have an opinion to share on the matter because there are broader points that needs to be made. We live in a society. We have public venues and spaces where all kinds of people are going to interact and engage. If you can't handle a few minor inconveniences without losing your shit, then YOU are the problem!

Let's chat a bit about how folks traveling on airplanes have all of these issues with being considerate of families. When did we become so self-centered? Like why all of the resentment towards someone who asks if you would mind switching seats so that they can sit with their kids? You are allowed to decline the request, and I certainly do not condone what happened to this person. However, I do have to ask if this is the hill you want to plant your flag on--the one where you insist that you would rather sit next to my squirmy kid for two hours while I am seated two rows back? Alrighty...

I have read treatises on social media about how annoyed people get when asked, and how they believe that saying no makes them some kind of hero to other self-righteous assholes. Bravo. Let me offer the alternative perspective of what it entails to travel with children (or adults with special needs) and the absolute nightmare it is to try to arrange for seats together. A few years back, I had to find an affordable flight for my parents and me to fly out to Las Vegas for my brother's wedding. At the time, my Mom was still mobile, but definitely beginning to have more cognitive issues due to the progression of her Alzheimer's. It was important for us to have a layover, because at the time I thought that would help us manage her needs. 

I began my search for tickets a few months in advance, including the fare watcher so that I could buy at the right time. And that was a game of cat and mouse because there were times when the flights were affordable, but the layovers were ridiculous (like flying to Boston from DC, then flying to Chicago, and then to Las Vegas in a 10-hour stretch). Other times, I found the right flight, but not one with the seats together (only middle seats). Literally one month before we needed to travel, I finally found the best accommodation, which included an acceptable layover but with only two seats together. I took it and figured that was better than nothing. I do not recall that I had the option to pay extra for a third seat, which is sometimes available atop the other fees I paid for checking my bags; however, on all four flights it was occupied by a solo traveler who wanted a window. It worked out for me to sit with my Mom while my Dad sat by himself, but I still was anxious the entire time both ways. 

A few years later, we had a similar issue in trying to book three seats together to travel with the Kid, who was still in baby carrier mode. Again, the best we could get was two seats together. So this claim that parents (and caregivers) have to do better at planning is the kind of entitled booshay that grates like nails on a chalkboard. Like yeah, I can plan my life around watching airline fares and seat assignments or I can look after my parents, raise my kid, and hope that we get seats together on the plane. I've never felt entitled enough to ask that someone change seats for me to sit with the Hub, but I would think that if someone asked me, I would consider it a small kindness that might get repaid in some karmic way.

Of course, I know that ain't how Karma works. I could write a book about the rudeness and nonchalance I was subjected to when the Kid was still stroller-age from people standing in the curb cuts to having to heavy doors not held open for us. Most relevant to airline travel, there was the unforgettable flight home from Chicago on September 11th when I was subjected to additional TSA searches because of the snacks I had packed for her in my carry-on. I followed the guidelines, but because of the date and heightened airport security upon our return, her applesauce and Cheerios set off every red light on the monitors. After they went through every single thing in my bag, they took the stroller and had me carry everything that would have been attached, including her in the baby carrier. The Hub took what he could, but that still left me with a backpack, a 50-lb carrier with a crying child, and about 5 minutes to reach our gate. NO ONE helped us, except for the gate agent who allowed me to board with the priority group of passengers after I asked (but just me and the Kid). Of course, our seats were at the back of the plane, so when I got back there in the vicinity, I put the carrier down in an empty seat and loaded our stuff into the overhead. I thought I was at the right row, so I settled in to try to calm my child, who at this point had been crying since the TSA drama.

As the plane filled with people, the Hub boarded in what must have been the last group. Ahead of him was this woman who stopped at the row where I was seated with the baby. She glared at me and complained that I was in her seat. Apparently, my seats were one row back, but she insisted that I needed to move with the baby carrier from the seat that she had paid for. And guess what happened? The flight attendant made us move, even after some kind Samaritan offered to switch seats with her so that I could stay put and try to calm the baby. That kind-hearted person then offered the Hub his seat so that we could sit together, and once we got re-situated, the Kid calmed down for a bit when she saw him. But as soon as that plane took off...baybee it was a long two-hour flight. 

I had snacks. I had toys. We tried using music and apps. We held her. I tried to nurse her. When the plane hit turbulence, we had to put her back in her seat. Anyone who knows anything about me knows that I had ALL the things and NOTHING worked. She kept crying until the plane landed in DC. So I can imagine that someone on that plane could relate to how the shouting guy felt, because I heard the other passenger grumbles about why we couldn't get our child to calm down. I can also relate to any humiliation felt by a parent or caregiver in that same situation.

In my child-free era, I recall taking a flight from somewhere back to DC and there was some kid (not a baby) who made a ruckus the entire time. I mean, he was non-stop active and it was super annoying. I need to search through my old tweets to see what I said about that because whew, it was a lot. And I remember thinking how his mother should have made more of an effort to keep her kid from being that kid...but then Karma showed up in 2016 on a two-hour flight from Chicago to DC.

And let me tell you, that was bad, but my daughter's meltdown in the Atlanta airport in 2020 was 10x worse. I am surprised we didn't go viral from that drama.

So if you want to judge me for not being the kind of parent your Big Mama was, go back and ask her how she handled travel with your family on long trips. I had to think back and guess what--we didn't fly anywhere when we were kids! My Mom flew to Michigan with my brother and me one time (more than 40 years ago), and since I can't ask her how that went, I can only imagine it must have been a nightmare she refused to repeat. All of subsequent our travel was by car, and I remember how she would pack everything--snacks, books, puzzles, etc., to keep us from complaining of hunger and boredom. And it didn't matter because we were kids, and that meant we were always hungry and bored. Because of that, I'm pretty sure that your family probably didn't travel by airplane as much either. 

There are plenty of other reasons why there are not many comparable travel scenarios from my Gen-X past, but suffice it to say, kids have always been annoying on trips. There is an entire genre of movies about road trips and Dads on family vacations because that is how we rolled (yes, Black families too). Rest stops, weird roadside attractions, and regional amusement parks were integral aspects of those trips so that we could burn off that excess annoying energy. How and why the world shifted towards more airplane travel is beside the point, but it is a more efficient way to travel long distances so that means more children commingled into more public spaces. Why that is so much more of an inconvenience than people's need for emotional support animals is beyond me...

And here is where the people who don't have children or whose children were allegedly perfect angels chime in with their two cents to opine on the obligation of parents to intervene to protect the quiet enjoyment of other adults in public... And yeah, you can throw those pennies in the fountain and make a wish, lady! So that you can enjoy your flight in peace, YOU need to be better prepared. You paid good money to be on that flight in that window or aisle seat, so it is not my problem that you didn't anticipate the various scenarios you might encounter on a public mode of transportation.

If the only person you have to worry about is yourself, then do that. If you forgot your anxiety meds or didn't buy an adult beverage when it was offered in-flight, that isn't my kid's problem. I'm not drugging my child to calm your nerves. If you didn't invest in noise cancelling headphones or didn't bring your tablet with your favorite movies/shows downloaded for the duration of the flight, that sucks for you. In addition to packing, I was up half the night making sure that I had various entertainment options, electronics fully charged, and had generally planned for every possible contingency. AND, I had to pack for two people in one suitcase that needs to weigh less than 50lbs to avoid paying another fee. So if you can't accept that there are reasons why a baby might be crying for 45 minutes straight despite a parent's best efforts to soothe them, and your reaction is to match that energy by shouting expletives, thereby forcing the plane to land in a different city, YOU deserve all of the infamy that comes from being that dude.

No, the world does not have to accommodate any of us. I would be a lot less miserable if people didn't assume that everyone wants to be around their pets, but apparently that isn't realistic anymore. So I take allergy medication with me everywhere. Because I know that my child can be a lot, I load up my ginormous Mommy bag with puzzles and games to keep her occupied. I recognize it is my responsibility to manage my stuff, and the only assurance you have is that I will try my best. Deal with it or call the manager, Karen, but just know that there might be a day when you will be in my shoes. I pray that someone extends you a bit of grace instead of a load of grief.

Final word, bruh YOU are the reason why everyone had to de-plane in Orlando, not that inconsolable baby! As annoying as 40 minutes of crying must have been, nobody expected the plane to land in a whole different city to calm a child, but they had to do that in order to shut your grown ass up. So I don't care how many people offered you virtual high fives in defense of your tirade after the fact, because if I had been on that plane, I would have been pissed to have ended up in Orlando instead of where I was supposed to land. Here's the key difference between you and the baby--crying is the worst thing that child did. An unruly adult passenger on an airplane post-9/11 poses a far greater threat, so you deserved to have been arrested on principle even if all you did was yell profanities. YOU created an unsafe environment for everyone on that flight by refusing to control YOUR temper.

Even if the crying was excessive, your "adult" response was to bully the flight attendants because you couldn't yell directly at a frantic mother with an inconsolable child. None of these folks coming to your defense on social media would trade places with you nor would they contribute to your bail had you been hauled off to jail.  I don't know what you deserve for being an asshole, but may you be forever known as a Cowardly Lion who woke up cranky from his nap, undone by the cries of a baby.

Friday, April 7, 2023

Hamburgers from A Golden Calf

I wrote an entire mini-blog on the Facebook page about last week's mass shooting in Nashville, then erased it. Lately, I find it hard to express my feelings succinctly; yet, I know that most people couldn't be bothered to read a rambling long-form piece either...but I press on, hoping that maybe this isn't all an exercise in futility.

We are broken as a society. 

That is my short take. We are screwed. We are doomed. And all because we place more value on the things we acquire than on the blessings we have been given.

Life is a blessing, but if you spend it in the unending pursuit of acquisition, what is the point? A couple of weeks ago, I started to watch that documentary about that couple in Florida that tried to replicate the French royal palace at Versailles, but I fell asleep midway and now it is no longer available on Amazon Prime. I did look up the family because one little detail got stuck in my head--how the husband had been involved in the Florida election debacle of 2000. Hmm, I thought, right before it dawned on me that instead of probing into the machinations of his election frauds from behind bars, he's the subject of a movie about his unfinished house. His wife is starring in a reality series and they will soon be featured in a Broadway musical, because why not? It's the American dream...

I saw enough of the documentary to be introduced to the eldest daughter, Victoria, who has since died from a drug overdose. That is tragic beyond words, so upon reading that in her memory the family set up a foundation that distributes Narcan and engages in other prevention advocacy, I won't center her as the object of my criticism. However, it is her death, as well as the other senseless and avoidable deaths of children and innocents that bring me to my central premise: we are broken because we aren't more mindful of what we value.

Do we value life or things? Because it really comes down to that. We are given ONE life, and during its course, we are presented with various choices of how best to live. Some people are blessed with circumstances that allow them an array of options while others have to struggle for every crumb. Many of us fall somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. And most of us are deluded by thinking that we would be better off if only we had more, including those who already have more than enough. 

The title of this piece is a metaphor of how we can have everything, but in the end, it amounts to very little. What does it mean to amass everything and still have nothing of value? I thought of a video I saw during the pandemic of a 24-carat gold-encrusted steak, and how utterly ridiculous and wasteful it seemed. If gold is one of the world's most precious and valuable metals, then who thought it was a good idea to ingest it? Of course, once someone utters these three indulgent words, because I can, it no longer matters if they've ordered a steak or a hamburger, because it's still going to be shit in a few hours.

This latest school shooting is just another poignant example of how our society chooses its things over life itself. What life or death battles need to be fought in the aisles of Walmart or at a Subway sandwich shop? Most of y'all allegedly live in these nice suburban neighborhoods where you claim life is so splendid and wonderful, so why do you need an AK-15 to carry out your daily errands? Nobody in this country needs a military-style combat weapon for personal protection, but when asked to explain what purpose it serves, you all stumble through the same jumble of words about Founding Fathers, freedom, liberty, Donald Trump, and then ultimately arrive at because I can. Yet, when it comes to considering any kind of compromises aimed at preventing mass tragedy, you suddenly become powerless

It isn't as if gun violence is some unpredictable natural disaster or act of nature. Guns are manmade tools, and each lethal incarnation is someone's intentional creation. The entire point of having a gun is to shoot something (or imply that you will). For the sake of argument, let's agree that gun collecting is an acceptable waste of your hard-earned money. Your priceless collection isn't just piled up on a tacky TV tray; it is inside some kind of display case or it is locked away in a safe. It is protected, because the last thing you want is for Junior to take your antique Civil War era pistol to school in his backpack to pass around for show and tell. 

You choose to secure that which you deem priceless and valuable. So why can't we think of better ways of keeping people safe in public places? Because we choose not to do so.

Some of you know this, but I have been around these debates over gun control for a long time. I have been taking note of how our country responds to these incidents for even longer. My first vivid recollection of a gun massacre took place at a McDonald's outside of San Diego in San Ysidro, California in 1984. I was ten, and I read every gory detail that had been published about the shooting spree that left 21 workers and patrons dead. I remember how it would be weeks before I felt comfortable going into a McDonald's restaurant. It was a well-known fact that certain locations were more dangerous than others, which I knew first-hand from having been warned most of my life which ones to avoid after dark.

Of course, I came of age in a city wrecked by the crack epidemic that resulted in a daily tally of drug and gang-related murders. If you took the time to watch that Nightline clip, just know that I grew up in one of the neighborhoods that was identified as a warzone. Notice that they didn't interview any community leaders from that West of the Park quadrant, because none of them had to wrack their brains for solutions to urban gun violence. Their kids did drugs too (ask me how I know), but as I got older, it became clear to me that safety was a function of access--on the one hand to the resources that could keep one's home and streets secure, and on the other hand to the instruments that made another person's neighborhood unsafe. As long as the danger was confined and kept off their streets, our problems could and were avoided. We weren't worthy of attention until the crime in DC became a national embarrassment. 

Marinate on that point, because it needs to be emphasized: It was embarrassing that our murder rate was high. Not tragic, but embarrassing, the same word used to describe what it feels like to have a zit on the tip of your nose on picture day.

I referenced the San Ysidro Massacre because I keep seeing all of these heartfelt pleas from families to protect the lives of our most vulnerable, but we weren't moved by the picture of a dead child lying next to his bicycle, nor by the descriptions of how the gunman indiscriminately shot babies and seniors alike. That was nearly 40 years ago, and none of the subsequent mass tragedies moved the needle. NOT A ONE. I was a Hill staffer during the gun control debates after the Columbine High School massacre, and I have never forgotten how then-Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) recounted the personal tragedy of having lost her husband in the Long Island Railroad Massacre just a few years earlier. No one changed their votes. When that gunman opened fire at Mother Emmanuel AME Church in South Carolina, the Confederate flag finally came down (allegedly), but no reforms to gun laws. Sandy Hook Elementary, Tree of Life Synagogue, Route 91 Harvest Music Festival, Pulse Nightclub, Tops Friendly Market...

I guess no one is embarrassed enough yet.

The claim that none of those incidents could have been prevented is patently false when we've taken decisive action to prevent subsequent tragedies. Perhaps we could not have stopped the Kennedy assassination, but we no longer allow the President to go anywhere without sufficient security, not even an ex-President going to his arraignment. When a gunman killed two Capitol police officers in the Rotunda, they erected cement barricades and built a Visitor Center to screen entrants to the Capitol. Because there used to be an explicit ban on firearms, the January 6th Insurrectionists had to resort to flagpoles and bear-repellant spray as weapons. And all of us are familiar with the various security measures implemented after 9/11, with not nary a shoe bomber.

However, because you can, you claim that your Second Amendment rights are more important than safety at the grocery store, at church, on the Vegas Strip, at a nightclub, and for children while at school. Yet, if you were to demand that Jerry Jones grant you a waiver to bring your guns into his skybox at AT&T Stadium, I'm 100% sure he wouldn't even entertain the thought. Because he can.

In response to more senseless and preventable death, the people with power can spin the wheel to choose who lives and who dies. Drop permitting and licensing requirements (so now any and everybody can claim to be a "good guy with a gun"). Arm the underpaid teachers (and shift the liability to them for failing to save lives). Post the Ten Commandments in every classroom (to blame the godless atheists when bad things happen for their disbelief). Refuse to feed any hungry children at lunchtime (too expensive to feed them in school, so we'll wait until they're incarcerated). Sanitize the retelling of history so that the 'bad guys' are always the people who were enslaved or annihilated, or who protested against enslavement and annihilation (everything that isn't old-fashioned America-is-exceptional patriotism is Critical Race Theory and communism). Turn everything inside out so that people are more upset that drag queens are reading to children than they are that the protestors against these events have come with loaded guns.

In another reminiscence from my childhood, I recall when John Lennon was killed in the doorway of his Manhattan apartment building. Apart from not knowing who he was at the time, I later saw a political cartoon that had a line-up of various notable people who had been assassinated that included the Kennedys, MLK, and Gandhi with the caption, "Guns don't kill, people do." While I have never been able to track down that image, it has stayed with me all of these years. The slogan itself has morphed into a perpetual meme, with different phrases added such as 'men with mustaches', 'Dads with daughters', and whomever your political enemies of the moment might be. This 1980 editorial by Mike Royko accurately satirizes the sentiment that we would rather choose to preserve and protect gun rights instead of people. 

Because we would rather have ALL the things, the choice to protect guns is just like the greed of King Midas in requesting the golden touch--already blessed with abundance, but still not satisfied with anything. It took the loss of his daughter for him to realize what was worth more than his possessions. In the 40 years since San Ysidro, the only people living with the nightmare of what happened were those who were there. It's the same with every other mass shooting and any weekend murder tally from Chicago, especially now that tragedy strikes with such regularity that the media can only devote a few hours to each in a 24-hour news cycle. As long as the threats don't get too big or too close (to adapt a phrase that my Dad often uses when commenting on how white people feel about Black people in the South and North, respectively), this is DC in the 80s all over again. The statistics and body counts won't matter unless and until those chickens come home to roost.

Having lost so many lives and seeing no desire to choose differently from the people who have been in power, we're at this inflection point: either doomed to wander in the wilderness until we perish or choosing to demolish our idols and false gods in order to be saved. To briefly revisit the Siegels, note that they aren't donating their fortune to provide Narcan to prevent other addicts from dying like their daughter; they're trying to figure out how to resurrect the remains of their American Versailles. Because they can... 

What can we do? Keep fighting like hell. Getting back up when we get knocked down. Showing up. Speaking out. Standing up. Sitting in. Refusing to take whatever they give us as a consolation for not keeping us safe. Fighting for what we believe is worth more than hamburgers ground from a Golden Calf.

* I've been mulling over this piece for a few days, while paying attention to the shenanigans on the ground in Tennessee. First it was the proposal to arm teachers (cited above), then the threat to expel three Democrats for staging an "insurrection" by using bullhorns on the floor of the legislature out of turn. Last night, the two Black Members in the trio, Justin B. Jones and Justin Pearson, were expelled. While everyone, myself included, had a visceral reaction to the optics, I would like to add that my reaction now isn't just anger and resignation, but resolve. Yes, these young men are Black, and it should be noted how attacks and efforts to curtail and undermine the rise of Black lawmakers is not new. This is 21st Century Redemption, wherein the rules are being changed and enforced to disempower...because they can. Not unless we allow it.