How to Reach Herd Immunity

We found out this week that Jackson will be eligible for the vaccine soon! In fact the CDC is meeting today to approve (fingers crossed) the emergency use of the vaccine for 12-15-year-olds and we are eagerly awaiting the news. Until then we have been discussing how this might help get us closer to herd immunity, which seems like something that we will never reach as a country. That is sad and a bit scary, but at least we know that our closest friends and family trust science and the process and they will be safe and protected. As for the others, well we will be sending them good juju each year and shaking our heads in dismay behind their backs.

Anyway, Jackson said the other day that if we would just, as a country, start calling it “The Trump Vaccine” and promise to Fox News watchers that it was just bleach being injected into them, they might do it! We all laughed and laughed at this, then we got quiet because well, it’s the truth and that makes us sad. Then I said, “Throw in a coupon for a free Filet-O-Fish and it would be a winner!” More laughter. Because you know, laughter eases the stress. Which is why we have come up with more ways to reach herd immunity, for laughter purposes only, please do not try at home.

Ways to Reach Herd Immunity Quickly

  • Give away leftover MAGA hats
  • Two for one shots (Viagra and COVID) in men’s bathroom at the airport
  • Let the My Pillow guy do the branding
  • Slip the vaccine into “Long Island Iced Teas” at all Florida bars
  • The words: “Trump, All Lives Matter, Vaccines” in one flag that fits perfectly in the back of a Ford pick-up
  • Offer it up in low, easy-to-make, monthly payments via HSN
  • The SlapChop Guy becomes The SlapShot Guy
  • Sell it at cost to mini-capitalists interested in becoming the next #PharmaBro
  • Give away free suitcases of Busch Light with every injection
  • New banner at CVS: “Every vaccine fights funds the police!”
  • Give to all women who have been hit on by a married man
  • A military parade if we reach herd immunity by the 4th of July
  • Promise microchips in the shot that links to your bank account to send $12/month to the Trump 2024 campaign
  • Buy three AK-47s engraved with “Fuck Masxs, I Got Vaxed!” and get one free with proof of your shot
  • Let Texas secede as long as they get vaccinated
  • “Jesus was Vaccinated!” Stickers
  • Hold “Fight ANTIFA” rallies, require them to get vaccinated at the door
  • Give sex workers authorization to administer the vaccine

Whew

I have been walking around for weeks now saying, “Whew” and making animal-like noises or holding a long sigh, or shaking my head in disbelief like a cartoon character. Seriously. I’m sure my family thinks I am tad bit crazy, but I am and this semester has really done a number on me and more than one time in the last month I have yelled, “This is bullshit and I don’t want to do this anymore!” Then I keep doing whatever it is I am doing. Because the truth of the matter is it isn’t just grad school that is knocking me down, it’s life. And it isn’t just me that is repeatedly being knocked down by this life. And some days it feels easier to stay down then to grab hold of something and hoist yourself back up, and then other days you pop right up by using just your own abs, still there are other days where you throw your arms out wildly trying to grab hold of someone else to stop you from falling. Or maybe it’s to bring them down with you? Either way it isn’t your best day and you know that.

What are you saying, Missy? I’m not 100% y’all, but I think I am saying I know what you are feeling right now because if it can happen to person it has happened to one of my family members, friends, neighbors, cohorts, or me in the last month.

I’ve witnessed a loved one lose their partner, their driving force, to cancer. I have listened to a friend desperately try to save her marriage. Waited for news about a grandma in the hospital, a child battling Covid. I have watched more gun violence in my community. I have went to bat for people who come to find out didn’t deserve it. Worried for a friend and a new job prospect. I had an icky reaction to my covid shot. I have been told that I am not a good person from people who have no idea who I am. I have watched heartache on the news, and heartache on my street. I’ve spent so much time trying to not worry, trying to make everyone happy, trying to be involved, but not too involved. Trying to stay connected to people. I have worried about what the next year will look like. If I am safe and comfortable doing things that were so normal and easy a year ago. I have lived my life on that thin line between anxiety and hysteria and I keep pushing back against toppling over that line and don’t like it.

If any of this is resonating with you, then it’s probably time we both take a step back. Stop spinning for a moment. Breath in, then back out. Focus on some good. Watch some doggy videos. Take a hot shower. Plan a trip. Look for the goodness that is still out there. I know it is. It is in your life, just like in mine, but sometimes the not so good tramples over everything else and we are left with those bleak feelings. Very bleak.

What has been good in your life? I’ll go first.

Jerimiah and I had our second covid shots last week.

We leave for Disneyworld in a week.

I have started planning J’s 40th birthday, and so far it rocks.

Jackson was invited to stay in the STEM program for 7th grade because even though he’s a virtual kid still, his grades, attitude, and personality shine through the screen.

Did I mention the new baby? It’s a girl and she’s my great-niece and she’s healthy and happy.

There is one week left of my semester and I start my thesis in the fall and all that is squared away and as of right now my grades in all four classes are: 126%, 100%, 107%, and 100%. I’m doing okay.

My dogs are becoming socialized and barking less at the mail carrier that they see every, single, day.

My mom is doing okay.

My friends are checking in.

My husband and son love me and show me in little ways every, single day.

Did I mention our first vacation in more than a year is next week?!

Now it’s your turn. What are you thankful for today? How are people showing up for you? I hope you have a hundred things on that list, but if you don’t, if you can’t conjure it up today, don’t worry. Don’t get down on yourself. There’s always tomorrow. And I’m always around. You know where to find me. And if I’m not there it’s probably just because I’m crying in the shower. I’ll be out in a minute…

Stay safe and sane, y’all.

Be grateful. It helps, I promise.

M.

Fireworks for Christmas

On Christmas Even Jerimiah and I had just gotten Jackson to bed when the fireworks started. I immediately remembered the very long, very loud fireworks from the Christmas Eve before, the one that took us totally by surprise. Last year we were a bit annoyed, asking each other, fireworks for Christmas?! Who would do such a thing? The truth is though, it isn’t horrible people who just want to keep your kids up and your dogs terrified. Bringing in Christmas with fireworks is actually a Latin America tradition and honestly we’ve just lived such sheltered lives (read: such white lives) that we have never encountered this before. But here in Atlanta, where the diversity kicks it up into double digits, we have been exposed to numerous things we never have been exposed to before and honestly, I wasn’t even mad this year. All I kept thinking was, it’s been one shitty-ass year and if people want fireworks, let them have their damn fireworks!

Of course the people on Next Door were not so thoughtful.

I was perusing the site for sale items, something I do a lot at night when I am trying to fall asleep. Occasionally, between Craigslist and NextDoor I find some gems, and people were bitching about the fireworks. As I lay in the dark, my phone screen illuminating my face and the sound of fireworks bursting around me I read:

“I don’t care who celebrates this way, I’m trying to sleep!”

“This is America! They can go back to their own country to do that stuff!”

“How dumb are these people? Dumb and tacky.”

“Call the cops, it’s illegal!”

The truth of that last one is no, it isn’t. Christmas Eve is one of the nights here that fireworks are legal because we have so many transplants from other countries that they made it legal here. That got me to thinking about all the calls flooding DeKalb’s Police force on Christmas Eve and how mad these nasty, white people are when the dispatcher on the other end tells them they won’t be sending a police officer out. I smiled in satisfaction.

Because the truth is last year when I first heard fireworks on Christmas Eve I Googled it, as any of the people on NextDoor are capable of also doing, and I found out all of this information.

The other truth is this: What the hell is wrong with you people? You white, privileged people? What makes you the superior people? Oh, you don’t have to answer that we already know the answer: Structural racism makes you believe that.

One of the things I have always loved about America is the diversity. The learning of other cultures I would not know about if I didn’t live in a melting pot of a country. As Americans, as such a young country, we don’t have many traditions. The ones we do have are from other countries, brought here by the immigrants who are still coming to the “Land of Opportunity,” so to have the audacity to say some shit like, “This is America, we don’t shoot fireworks on Christmas Eve” is crazy. Because yes, this is America and those people shooting off fireworks are American, so yes, we do shoot off fireworks on Christmas Eve.

So fucking deal with it.

M.

Why Would Someone Do That?

Crying alone in my bed isn’t the best way to end Christmas, but it’s the most honest way. It’s not all bad. And in fact, my life is fine. It’s not really my life I’m worried about. Right after we finished opening presents yesterday I got an alert on my phone that said a bomb exploded in Nashville, a city that I love. I tried to ignore the news a bit longer, but I kept being drawn back to that story. I just couldn’t wrap my head around what had happened, and honestly I figured it was some sort of mistake. That maybe something benign happened and it would come to light later in the day. I saw that no one had been seriously injured and I shelved it for the rest of the day.

Then, as I crawled into bed last night I pulled up the news and there it was. I watched a couple of videos. Saw the video of the blast. Looked through photos on social media. It was like a war zone. That’s when the tears came. I just kept shaking my head, saying aloud, “Why would someone do this?” Why indeed.

It’s not hard to see that this year has been capital-B Bad for a lot is us. Most of us, I’d venture, unless you’re filthy rich or completely ignorant. It’s been a bad year. We just mucked it up, as grandpa Clark would say. We mucked it up big time. But I can’t for the life of me work my head around this Nashville bomb. I know many of us are trying to figure it out today. The FBI, sure. The Nashville Police, yeah. But there’s also an awful lot of us shaking our heads in disbelief at the images and videos.

How completely terrifying to live through that. What comes next for those people? What do they say to their children who woke up Christmas morning expecting to be met with Santa’s gifts, and instead were rushed off to Nissan Stadium to hide from a bomb. Then to top it off it was a real threat and now their apartment is gone. Destroyed. Or their small business. Or the heart of their vibrant city. It’s all so much. It’s too much. It was too much for me last night.

I hope there are some answers as the days drag on, but more importantly I hope that we don’t let this year break us. This year, this pandemic, this dark, dark light that seems to be growing across our country. I hope that the new year ushers in some humanity back into our hearts. But I know banking on a new year to change the world is a bad bet. We have to start banking on each other and ourselves. We have to rise up with the light. Shine it into those dark spaces and places and hearts. Turn it around. Quickly, y’all. Quickly.

I’m thinking of Nashville today. I’m thinking of the city and the people and the children. I am thinking of the law enforcement and the morning cashiers at Starbucks. The day shift at the local Honky Tonks and restaurants. The bomb squad and the candy store clerks. The moms and dads and sons and daughters. I’m thinking of you all today. I believe in you.

M.

Post Office

A weird thing happened at the post office the other day. I stopped in to mail a package to a friend, when I noticed a guy in front of me with a stack of flyers to be mailed. He had what looked to be small (just bigger than a postcard) stacks of the flyer separated into bundles most likely by zip code. I don’t know what the flyers were for, but they looked very organized, as did he, and they were nice looking. They appeared to be, from what I could see from six feet away, printed on thick, glossy paper. Some money had went into them. Maybe it was a lawn service, I wondered.

When he was called to the next plexiglass station, he said he needed to get these out, and pushed the stack across the desk to her. It seemed to be a normal transaction. It never occurred to me before, but I suspect when businesses send out mass mail this is how they do it.

The postal clerk smiled and said no problem. She kept them all bundled together and weighed them. After she weighed them she started asking him a series of questions. The questions were asked in that standard post office kind of way. Like when you’re shipping a box and they rattle off a list of questions they have memorized while they click through screens. I don’t remember them because they seemed inconsequential and repetitive, then she asked, “Are these political in nature?”

She stopped. He looked confused, and said they weren’t. They were for his business. She never took her eyes off her screen and said, “That’s weird. Has anyone ever asked you that before?” The man shook his head no. “I’ve never seen that before,” she mumbled, then she frowned and clicked away.

The man paid, they exchanged pleasantries and he walked out. She took the stacks and set them in a bin next to her and yelled, “I can help the next person,” and I walked up.

“That was so weird,” she said, as I approached. I sent her a quizzical look. Then she smiled as I slid my package over and she asked, “Any explosives, liquids, fragile materials…”

M.

Apropos Andalusia

Jerimiah sent me an article yesterday: “Apropos your paper,” he said. It was from the New Yorker, it was titled: “How Racist was Flannery O’Conner?” Great, I sighed toward him, sitting across the room from me. Thanks for this. He smiled. Seemed appropriate. He’s not wrong. I’ve been assigned Mary Flannery O’Conner for my presentation next month in my Southern Fiction class, and I’ve decided to use “A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories” as my in, as I also have to do a scholarship review of her work, and a semester-long paper on her as well. I’d been debating, as late as this morning, whether I’d hit the road for Andalusia this week.

Andalusia is O’Conner’s estate in Milledgville, Georgia, a two-hour drive from my house. I’ve decided, as I approach my 39th birthday and await the test results for this autoimmune disease I’m battling—likely Lupus (O’Conner died at 39 from Lupus), that I should make the pilgrimage. But I’ve been dragging my feet, for reasons above, and now this.

I’ve always been a fan of O’Conner. Always stood up for her, always sidestepped any unseemly information, but this time I can’t. What I can’t decide, and what the articles ask us to consider, is whether O’Conner was just a product of her raising. Or if something more sinister went on there, between her writing about racism, and plucking along among the peacocks.

I read the article. I looked at the stack of scholarly reviews I have sitting on my desk. I tapped my fingers on my chin. I cursed my husband. Misdirected anger.

I’ll go to Andalusia because I want to see for myself. Because I’m just curious enough to want to turn the knob on the old farmhouse door, just naive enough to believe an old cotton plantation in central Georgia will fill me in on the past.

Besides, it appears I have a deadline now. And it’s coming up fast.

M.

It’s Just a Swimming Pool

“Which pool do you belong to?” Is a question that has popped up more than I’d like to say since we’ve lived in Georgia. I didn’t know the pool you belong to, sets you up for success or failure in Atlanta. I didn’t know a pool membership could set one up for success or failure. I didn’t know pool memberships were even a thing. But I didn’t know much about the Deep South until I got here.

Back home in the Midwest, and even just a few states North of here in Charlotte, pools are just public watering holes you pay a couple bucks to go to for an afternoon of fun. All the best subdivisions have them, but there’s no membership forms, a key fob just comes with your HOA dues. And I know y’all weren’t around back then, but we used to have a 31,000 gallon pool in our backyard, so your pool has to be top-notch to impress us. But, here. Well here the competitive summer swimming pool racket is crazy. With some pools touting swim teams, and three level slides, and chili-cook offs (in this southern heat?!) and meal swapping, and babysitting, and new cars! Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating, but what I’m not exaggerating is the cost.

We were quoted from one “neighborhood” pool a price of $1,200 for our family of three to enjoy their amenities for three solid months. A “wise investment” the membership woman told me, at the start of a global pandemic. Think of the money I’ll save. Save from what? From whom? How? What is happening?

If you’re confused about what I’m saying right now, welcome to my life. This is a real thing, y’all. Just another way for people to judge you, I suppose. Which pool do I belong to?! I don’t. Not yet anyway.

That was a really long intro to say that we got invited to a pool party this weekend and we went and we had fun and it was with good people at a nice pool (that doesn’t cost $1,200 to join, and you don’t have to make reservations at because it’s not crowded because it isn’t a “cool” one.) It was quiet. It was carefree. People social distanced. Disinfected the tables and chairs. Kids jumped off the diving board. The crowd cheered. Libations were shared. It felt almost, for a split second, like summer. It was magical.

So I dunno. Maybe I’ll join a pool, after all. But until then, no, I don’t want to hear about your membership dues and no I don’t care if your private-school kid meets his friends under the purple umbrella, and nah, I know your kind and I’m good. You stay in your swim lane, I’ll stay in mine.

Jesus, y’all. It’s just a swimming pool.

Missy

Alone

I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve been watching an abundance of television the last couple of weeks. I guess I’ve reached the point in quarantine where nothing satisfies me for too long. That coupled with the fact that I’ve been out with this back/muscle/joint pain and haven’t had a much energy, so television has been my friend. I started this new show called “Alone”. Have you watched this? It’s stupid. And bizarre. And addicting.

Okay, so I started with season six because it was the newest one that was “trending” so I had no idea what happened. Turns out they take like ten people, drop them in the wilderness with 10 “survival” items, a 60-pound pack of cameras and recording equipment, and a picture of their loved ones. The contestants then record themselves as they try to survive. Or get eaten by a Grizzly. I dunno, I haven’t watched all the seasons.

I was trying to explain this show to Jerimiah, in a way that sounded appealing, but he wasn’t having any of it. “I can’t do survivor shit” he said. Oh, okay. I didn’t realize you had reality television standards, you Tiger King lovin’ MFer.

Then I tried to explain it to Jackson, hoping I’d get him to sit down to one episode with me and get hooked, like Barry, contestant #7 who didn’t eat for nine days then snagged a Lake Trout. But he looked me directly in the eye and said, “Do they not have internet in the Arctic Circle?”

So it turns out my new favorite show “Alone” is something I’m forced to watch alone. But that’s okay, I don’t mind. I’m too busy shouting through the television at Lucinda who keeps cutting herself with her own arrow. Jesus, Lucinda.

M.

Maybe It was the Tequila

A weird thing happened last weekend. Well, a couple of weird things happened. On Friday I had to take a Covid-19 test because I woke up with body aches, chills, and a fever. No doctor would see me, so I had to do a Telehealth visit with Atlanta Urgent Care at Emory, then visit a drive-thru testing site. The doctor treated me with antibiotics and steroids starting Friday, because I am susceptible to sinus infections, which I also had symptoms of, and the steroids were because they have found that starting Prednisone at the first symptoms of Covid-19 helps you stay out of the hospital, so it was a preventative measure. After my drive-thru testing on Friday afternoon, I was instructed to self-isolate until my test came back in three to six days. So I did, except for Saturday afternoon.

I was still feeling achy on Saturday so I suggested the hot tub to see if it would help. It did! But while we were out there Jerimiah drank a pitcher of margaritas. Which would be fine, if we didn’t have a Kroger order to pick up that evening. I mean, one of us had to drive to pick up the birthday cake I had planned on getting the day before, but ended up sick in bed instead. The best laid plans, or something like that… So I said no big deal, I’d just drive us both up there. It’s a simple process. You just open your trunk, they stick the bags inside, then it closes. It’s a contact-less pick-up so I felt okay about being in the car, with my mask on, even though I was self-isolating. And it would have been fine, had we not witnessed a hit-and-walk-away accident on the way.

Ten minutes later we were at the busy intersection of Lavista and I-285, which is the perimeter that runs around Atlanta. We live about a mile from The Perimeter and were headed into Atlanta, which is where our Kroger store is, when we were stopped at the stoplight while the traffic coming from the interstate was merging onto Lavista. A sudden noise caught our attention and we looked over to see an SUV smoking, its fender barely hanging on, the driver sort of sitting, while the cars bottlenecked behind him. There was some honking, everyone was kind of wondering what was happening. Then just as our light turned green and we started to go, the SUV also went (he had a red light). He realized his error, I suppose, but instead of stopping he turned into oncoming traffic. Everyone stopped their cars and watched the next few moments unfold.

The SUV was headed straight toward the oncoming traffic, while on the overpass above the interstate. The northbound traffic had no idea he was there, as they were now merging onto Lavista from the interstate, so he quickly tried to get back onto the correct side of the road, where he slammed into another SUV who was merging from the interstate as well. It was a mess. By this time we had slowly but surely made our way up through the next light and were the second car behind the accident, so we saw everything. Jerimiah immediately called the police, which several other people were doing. I instinctively jumped out of the car and ran to check the woman who had been hit. As I approached she gave me a thumbs up. She was already on her phone, presumably to the police or her partner. While I was walking up I noticed that the man who was driving the SUV got out of his car, he seemed fine, and started to walk to the woman he had hit, then stopped for a moment, and turned and walked the other way. Like, he just walked away from the scene.

Fortunately several other people were out of their cars at this point, and someone who was on the phone with the police actually followed the man as he walked away. He never ran, he never even hastened his footsteps. It was a bizarre thing to see.

At this point I heard yelling and a man was crossing the highway running toward me (I was directing traffic at this point) telling me to chase the guy. The man approached me quickly and I didn’t have to time to respond or ask him to back up. He was very close to my face. Too close. I could smell the tequila on his breath. Ironic, as I could smell Jerimiah’s too. This man, however, wasn’t talking quite right and he was making wild gestures with his hands. I caught a glimpse of his teardrop tattoo below his eye and I asked where he came from. “The Interstate,” he said. I didn’t know what to make of that, but he seemed like he was trying to be helpful, at first. Then a few minutes of following me around while I was pointing at cars, and informing people of what was happening, the man with the tear drop tattoo started talking about, “The Black man” who was “getting away…” and how he was tired of “Black men getting away.” Luckily Jerimiah came up to us at that point and the “Interstate Man” walked away.

The police were there rather quickly, I had time to move our car, and make my way back to see Jerimiah giving a statement along with the woman who was in the car in front of us. Everyone else had left. The woman in the car was okay, I took pictures of the accident for her. Her car would not turn on so the window would not roll down so she could talk to me, but we talked through the window. It was all very odd, a little scary, and unexpected for many reasons. When Jerimiah was giving his statement he learned the car was stolen, and that the police were able to find and apprehend the suspect, as he had just continued to walk coolly, calmly, down the highway. Drugs, they assumed. Drugs, I had assumed.

Or maybe it was just tequila.

M.

Spades and Hearts

There’s an interesting thing that happens in Small Town, USA. When one of the “pretty girls” who barely graduates high school, marries a man with a little money, after her inevitable “Sleeping with as many men as she can” phase (no shame here ladies, you do you, BooBoo!) she settles down, with the man with money. Maybe he owns his own small business. Maybe he has inherited a bit of cash. Maybe he has inherited the small business and some cash, but either way he’s the best thing she’s ever had, and they get married. Now she already has a kid or two from other men (that’s she has most surely missed out on from time to time on account of her partying well into her 20s), but the nice, business man takes them on as his own. Then suddenly, this trashy, “street-wise” girl is an upstanding citizen in the small town she grew up in. Funny thing is though, many of the people who knew her way back when, still remember her. So she has two choices: She either embraces who she was, who she has always been, or she starts to turn on them. Even turning her back on the people who knew her the best.

Now let me stop for a second because you are probably like this sounds really pointed, Missy. Sure. I know some people who have done this, and they now believe themselves to be a big fish in a small pond, because, well they are. It’s true, they are big fish, but the point is actually really very small, and kind of trashy. The fish are stocked. And they are farm-raised. Eww. But the person I am envisioning right now could be any woman, in any small town, in any community, a woman so rooted in fear, hate, and ignorance that she can only thrive on putting other women down. She’s incredibly shallow and so materialistic that she enjoys talking money with people that she suspects has less than her, so she can, what? Feel better about herself? I suppose if she were happy in her life, like really happy, she wouldn’t be this way. But she isn’t. She’s actually very unhappy. If she were a kind person, she wouldn’t need to embarrass those same friends who have stood by her, even at her worst, and believe me, we’ve heard the stories, saw them with our own eyes, there were worsts. But she isn’t kind or nice. And she isn’t classy. Which is ironic and sad, because that is the only thing she actively strives to be, yet she never will attain.

Yeah, we all know someone like this, and we all talk in certain circles about how horrible of a person she is, some of us even pray for her, some of us just stay far away from her. But we can’t anymore, y’all. We have to call a spade a spade. Call it like we see it. She will. She likes to remind us that she speaks truth, even the hard stuff, but we know that’s a lie. She only speaks rudeness and abrasion. She couldn’t speak truth if it came up and bit her. All her truth is filtered thorough a set of rose-colored glasses sprinkled with money and privilage. Like when someone accuses her child of say, raping a girl he went to high school with, she can say, “Well, I never…” in a raspy kinda way. And go on to talk about all his accolades, as if he isn’t an actual piece of shit. Rose colored glasses. Money. Privilege. Yes, we all know someone like this, but what should we call her? I have an idea, let’s give her a nickname let’s call her “T”. Yes, “T”, short for “Texarkana.” So who is this Texarkana?

Texarkana didn’t have the best life growing up, but who did? Most normal people battle against the current, try as they might to make something better of themselves. But not Texarkana. She just relied on men to bring her all the things she wanted. Just like how she now relies on the outside world to keep a spotlight on her. To fulfill her desires. Because she can never fulfill them herself. Oh Texarkana, you are enough, if you’d just look within. Or go to therapy. Yeah, therapy would probably help you a lot. Something about inflated ego. But instead you self-medicate. It’s okay a lot of common people do.

Texarkana likes to say things like, “Remember when…” because she likes to envision herself as she used to be. Way back when. Wayback When Texarkana had so much joy, pure joy, albeit not a lot of money (she still doesn’t by the way, she just has a lot of debt, you can pull public records and see that) and Texarkana likes to talk about how “badass” she was back then. As if physically fighting other women is a mark of a pure genius. That’s that lack of education I eluded to earlier, are y’all following along? Ra, ra, ra! Go Texarkana!

Texarkana likes to invite people to her house. People she assumes have never been in such a self-described “lovely” place. Then she likes to talk about how much she paid for this, or how much she paid for that. You know those people. The ones who think money makes you a good person. It’s sad, and a little bit outdated. I’m speaking of both Texarkana and the lovely house. They both need some work on the inside. But the visitors smile and nod anyway, they have to, or she won’t invite them to drink her medication, err, booze.

Something I’ve noticed about people, growing up poor like I have, wealthy people, like really, really wealthy people, never discuss money. Not with their friends, not in mixed company. They only discuss assets and money with their accountants. They never say things like, “My house is worth $1.2 Million” (wouldn’t “T” love to have a house that nice!) instead they say things like, “We’d love to have you join us at our summer home in The Hamptons sometime,” and they truly mean it. Class speaks for itself. Trash, well, it has to do all the talking.

Which brings me back to “T” and her constant, oppressive desire to make all her “old” friends, the ones who know the truth about her, the way she really is, feel like shit because they didn’t “make it” like she did. But in reality she just needs to keep them in check. Needs to make sure that they know she is the spade Queen, in case they get out of line. In case they say something like, “Remember when you slept with So-and-So?” and So-and-So is not a likable fellow, she can smack them, figuratively of course, by saying something like, “Have you paid that large debt off that you owe?”

“T” thrives on making herself feel better by putting others down. No one is off limits. She will only tell you the best things about her kids, and never the worst, while often reminding you of all the bad stuff your kids do. But come on, we’ve met her kids. She dropped the proverbial parenting ball big time. But remember the free booze and her Instagrammable backyard?! She will make you feel bad about your kids, your divorce, your grandma. She will talk about you behind your back, then embrace you when you walk in her “lovely” door, all the while smiling that knowing smile to her “rich” (read: equally in debt) friends behind your back. Have you ever felt like everyone is looking at you when you walk into a room? It’s because “T” told the whole room your dirty little secrets before you got there in order to make herself seem important. She’s such a great friend, isn’t she?

Now every once in a while a funny thing happens to “T”. Something doesn’t exactly go her way. Her stock plummets. Not real stock, she puts all her money in home accents and ATVs. No her brand, her reputation. Something happens outside of her control and it makes her look bad. It makes her outside match her inside. Maybe her husband loses an important business client. Maybe her drunk brother resurfaces. Maybe her child marries someone she rather despises like a butcher or a mechanic! Oh my! A mechanic, well we all know mechanics are not the highest class of people. The drama! It’s okay, no worries. Texarkana lives for this shit. I mean, when your whole world revolves around what others think of you, and you have very little worth inside, you have to love drama, it is escapism at its finest.

But this plummeting of stock is when we see “T” at her finest. Oh, glory, glory! She starts plotting and planning! How can she turn this into a win? How can she get the universe back into her favor? You’re right, on the backs of other people. Her friends. Her own family. She starts fights within the groups, pits this one against that one. Uses her control (money) to buy affection, alliance. She will plant an idea in the simple brain of the simple people she keeps around her, then watch as it sprouts and grows. As those simple-minded people then turn on their own friends and family. Wow, maybe “T” isn’t as uneducated as we think? I mean she lacks book smarts, sure, but when you can get a mother and daughter to turn on each other, ones who have nothing to do with your life, that’s impressive. And also like, really, really pathetic. Don’t you sorta want to grab “T” and yell, “Get a life, girl! Go to college! Get a hobby! You’re more than this. You have self worth! I hope you can find it!” Did I mention Texarkana is extremely jealous of big, happy families who love and support each other? Two guesses why that is…

Now let’s discuss the people who let her treat them the way they do. You might be wondering, what kind of hold does she have over them? And if your guess is money, you’d be right. There is no friendship still there. They don’t like her, not really, and she certainly wishes they would go away, but everyone is aging (did I mention “T” isn’t aging well? All those days spent in tanning beds in the 90’s.) Anywho, as we age we start to feel nostalgic for those people who knew us when we were all cranked out on MiniThins and going to three different tanning beds a day to tan for a solid hour. So the people who knew her, her best friends, start to come around more. They want to drink wine and talk about the good days. But you can’t have real, honest-to-God talks with “T”. You can’t have them with anyone who thinks they are a better person that you at their core, just because they are a small business owner and you make $14/hr. There’s too much space, too many bad words (even if you don’t know she said them) to make much headway. So you go to her “lovely” house. You sit on her “lovely” deck. You drink her boxed wine, and you discuss the good old days through those rose-colored glasses she is so fond of. But in reality, you’d rather be somewhere else, she’d rather you be somewhere else. You remind her of a girl she is desperately trying to run from, all these decades later. She’s full of shame and guilt. You’re full of shame and guilt. But she has the money and credit to go buy a new car today if she wants to. So she wins.

It makes me think about Trump. What, come on Missy, why you always gotta bring Trump up?! No hear me out! The people who LOVE Trump, his honest supports, of which “T” and her whole family are, the real Trump supporters don’t really even like him. They don’t know enough about him to like him. They like the idea of him. They only vote for him for three distinct reasons:

1. They desperately want to BE him. They wish they had Trump money and power. They have a small taste of it in their little, trashy pond, just enough where they feel like Trump would love them if they met. They think they are so much like him that he would totally love and respect them if they met. Ha! They really think that, I promise! They are sitting, right now, in their little 4,000 square feet, barely more than half a million dollar house (public records, y’all) and they think they are just like Trump! True story.

2. They have so much hate in their hearts that they want him to be the president just so they can say, “WE WON! WE WON!” and call you a Snowflake or something, while they prance around in their red hats. They have to always believe they are winning at life. Always. Otherwise they downward spiral.

3. They are desperately afraid. They are so afraid that their way of life, the one they have carefully curated over literal decades will somehow be taken from them. Maybe they will have to pay more taxes. Maybe their “poor” friends will get a leg up on them if they finally get affordable health insurance. Maybe people in their periphery, the ones coming up behind them, the ones making more money, living well-adjusted, meaningful lives, the happy youth (raise you hand here), will take over and they will be left with, what? They certainly don’t have their self-worth to fall back on. So good thing that have that old house?

Well, I’m spent. Here’s the gist, y’all. If you have a Texarkana in your life you have get the courage to stand up to her or him. To finally call a spade a spade, because make no mistake, they will call it if you don’t. Only the spade they call will actually be a heart they have twisted in their small, common minds to look like a spade, then they will run out and tell everyone it is a spade before you can get a chance to defend your heart.

As for Texarkana, I can only hope she uses her fast-approaching senior years to learn more about the world, to step outside her comfort zone, to learn and grow as a person. I don’t hate the Texarkanas of the world. I know it may seem like that, but y’all know I don’t hold hate in my heart like that. But I also don’t admire her, and I certainly don’t respect her. How can you respect a person who preys on the simple, the weak, the less fortunate? In fact, a whole lot of the people she surrounds herself with don’t actually admire and respect her. They placate her. They see her life, her marriage, her kids. The fact that she has to work so hard all day, everyday just to keep up the facade in order to feel better about herself, and they pity her. They pray for her. Her name is passed around in Baptist prayer circles for wishing her some peace and kindness in her heart. They know that she has struggles, has had them, still continues to have them, just like they do, but that unlike them, she refuses to acknowledge her real struggles, with your real heart. She keeps that spade around instead. But there they are, still coming around, probably for the free booze, but also, more likely, because they are the hearts, and they wish more for her. There was a time when she had those real people, their kindness, their true friendship, their whole hearts. She had their admiration and respect. But she lost them. I hope it was worth it for her.

M.

Four Days of Protests

I’ve been trying to write this post for a couple of weeks now, but every time I sit down to write it I get upset and I can’t find the words. The thing is, we are not new to protesting. We are not new to marching for what we think is right, for having counter-protesters scream horrible things at us, but for some reason this time it was harder than before and I couldn’t pinpoint what made it so difficult to stomach.

Last month Jerimiah, Jackson, and I took part in socially-distanced, peaceful protests in our suburban Atlanta town with our friends Kelley and Bella, and it was exactly what we needed to be doing. We met Kelley and Bella through school (Jackson and Bella were in the same class) and immediately felt connected to them. They are cool, too cool for us. They are kind. They are smart, and funny, and socially conscious. We feel so proud to call them friends, which is why the day we drove by (after getting ice cream) and saw them standing on the corner of Lavista and Main Streets with signs supporting the Black Lives Matter Movement, along with about 20 other people, we were like SIGN US UP! That sparked three days in a row of us standing on the same corner with our friends holding homemade signs (that we hastily made from material from The Dollar Tree), as well as taking part in a much larger protest on Saturday, June 6th with about 300 people. It was an amazing learning experience for the kids, for both good reasons and not so good ones.

Of course protests, especially ones in small towns like ours, are sure to bring out the counter-protesters, or simply the mean people who are mad at your very existence. They see protestors as “unsightly,” and of course they feel guilty when they see you out with your “Silence is violence” signs. But I honestly didn’t expect it on that first night we were out there with our signs, and if it weren’t for seeing it with my own eyes I would have not believed how horrible people could be. How filled with hate people are. How angry and afraid full-grown men are, that they feel called to lash out at people, even women and children. I’m not going to talk about them here, because it detracts from what we accomplished, but just know that grown men and women flipped us off, screamed things back at us, and even walked up and down along with us trying to push white supremacy agendas. It was sad and gross, and yes, we let the children watch them, because they need to know that there are people like this in the world.

Meanwhile our kids, our smart, strong, funny, rising 6th graders, smiled at everyone, held their fists up in solidarity, took a knee, not once but twice, for 8 minutes and 46 seconds on hot, crowded streets to show their solidarity with George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter Movement, and people who are like them, and not like them. We were so incredibly proud. They even made up their own chants, and taught them to the other kids. Then they separated themselves in front of what will one day be their high school and chanted IN THE RAIN. For real. Look.

But this was on the second night of protests, the first night was very hot, and a little more crowded, and somewhat chaotic.

The first night of protests (for us) we met with the Mayor who, although I am not a fan, was very polite. He thanked us for what we were doing, and gave the kids a token of appreciation to remember the occasion. It was a coin with out town’s logo on it, and Jackson thought it was pretty cool.

The second night we were rained on a bit, but didn’t mind, it felt nice after the heat. We had police escorts at all protests, thank you DeKalb County Police, and we had city council members, and supporters who honked, honked, honked all night at us in solidarity. Some screamed “Black Lives Matter” out the window, some threw their fists in the air, some just smiled and waved.

The Essentials: Masks, hand sani, signs, and water. Thank goodness for the other protesters who shared with us that first night. We were not prepared!

At one point Kelley and I saw an older man walking his dog in front of the high school. We were a little worried at first, he looked like a lot of the people who were flipping us off, but he walked up behind us smiling and meandered toward us sort of unsure. Kelley, being the outgoing and friendly person she is, said hi to him and told him that his dog was so cute. He smiled and walked a bit closer. He introduced himself as Joe and said that he loved that we were out there. Then he told us to look straight down Main Street. He asked if we knew that yellow building, the one that was a Halal restaurant. “Sure,” we said, “it is called Bombay.” It’s an old building that sits on the corner or Main and Lawrenceville Highway, about half a block from our kids new middle school.

“Well,” said Joe, “did you know that used to be the office of the Grand Wizard of the KKK?” Kelley and I were stunned. No, we didn’t know that. We didn’t realize how close we were to KKK territory. He said this sight, our children protesting on this corner, was just, well, perfect. He told us to keep on keeping on, then Joe and his old doggy walked back home.

The next day Kelley confirmed the story. She had researched it when she went home and found that along with our town once being an epicenter for the KKK, Stone Mountain, yes that Stone Mountain, was also. I mean it makes sense if you’ve ever visited Stone Mountain, but it was new to us since we are still fairly new to this area. If you’d like to read more, check out this article about Stone Mountain, our town is about ten minutes from the mountain.

We protested on this street corner for a few more nights, then we met up on a Saturday for the bigger protest. For a couple of city blocks, people were standing six-feet apart, masked up, with signs, chanting and raising fists. Ten minutes before we left we took a knee. Three hundred or so people taking a knee on the city streets as cars whizzed by honking and waving and yelling, “Thank you!” That was my favorite.

After the protest I asked Jackson what he learned. What new information he gathered from his days of protesting. “Not much,” he said. “I already knew that most people are good, and some people aren’t, and those people will probably never change.” Man, he’s right. I told him so. Then I added that those people aren’t worth your energy to try to change. I reminded him to start with the people who want to listen and work your way out. I told him to always vote. Always speak goodness into existence. Always, always do what is right and true. He shook his head and said, “That’s what we did.” We sure did. I told him more that day, but I think he learned more from my actions than my words.

Thanks, Kelley, and Bella, and Jackson, and Jerimiah. Thanks to those of you all over the world who are striving to do what is true and what is right. We have your back. Always.

M.

Shit or Get Off the Pot

Things are a hot mess in Atlanta right now. We had a deadly Fourth of July weekend, several children have been shot in the last week, and Covid-19 never really left. But yesterday morning our governor decided to be a real governor and say something about the violence. I mean, God forbid he take action to help save us from the global pandemic that is sweeping our state, or listen to what the people in Atlanta (the largest municipality and the capital of the state) are angry about, but “extra” violence in Atlanta, that warrants a stern talking to. Matter of fact he said, “While we stand ready to assist local leaders in restoring peace and maintaining order, we won’t hesitate to take action without them.” Well, hold up, let me rephrase, he Tweeted that. So he didn’t actually address the problem on a public stage, he didn’t actually do anything, he just sat at his desk and Tweeted his ideas. Sound like anyone else we know?

The problem isn’t so much the fact that he threatened the city, it’s that once again he didn’t do shit about a problem until a domestic spotlight was shone upon us, then he threatened. Remember how we have talked about leadership coming from the top down? Atlanta, like all other large municipalities, has a very particular set of problems, and because of it’s shear size, it makes it difficult to fix many of these problems, especially when you want to just fix them overnight. Listen, I’ve only been here a little over a year, but I can already see that the way things have been going, are not helping. This is an instance where, “But it’s always been done that way,” isn’t working and things need to be changed, and I know I sound like a broken record here, but it starts with voting. Then it moves out from there. Volunteering. Donating. Sharing knowledge you gain. Educating people.

When we moved to Atlanta a year ago we were nervous. We had heard horrible things about the city we have come to love. The horrible things were mainly racist bullshit that out-of-towners don’t feel comfortable talking about. That was our first lesson. Because when you really strip Atlanta down, down to its roots, it isn’t pretty, but it’s important. Vital, even. Like did you know Atlanta and the Black vote was the single biggest game-changer in getting John F. Kennedy elected back in 1960? I didn’t either, until I came here and had a history lesson.

Say what you will about Atlanta, but until you are here, living in it, taking the Marta to historical places, reading about the culture and society (which by the way some people who have lived here for 20 years don’t even do or know about) then I won’t listen to you anymore. I can’t. I won’t listen to our racist, hypocritical governor either. I can’t. Too many people are dying here. Too many people need help. And I’ve been waxing for a year now about how I can help. Saying I can’t, or I shouldn’t, it isn’t my place. But the fact is, this is my place. This is my home. I don’t know how long it will be, but it is now and that is all that matters. I’m a Georgian now. I live in a suburban town just steps outside the perimeter and I have two choices: I can tell people I live in Tucker, where the schools are sweet and the people are all wonderful, and the houses are big and there is opportunity for growth, or I can say I live in the Atlanta Metro and we need help. A lot of fucking help.

When I was little and I needed to make a decision about one thing or another, about what my actions needed to be, and I was stuck and so very afraid my mom would say, “Welp Missy, it’s shit or get off the pot time,” and I’m finally feeling that here in Atlanta. It’s time to either dig in and help, put in the time, and the effort, and the heart, or it’s time to leave. Stay my happy-ass in the comfortable parts of life. I’ll give you one guess what I’m about to do…

It’s time to shit or get off the pot, y’all. What are you gonna do?

M.

Well Hello…

I have some new followers! I love new followers, but I hate that word “follower.” I prefer friends! I have some new friends! We shall all welcome them with open arms. Hello, friends! Welcome! Grab a White Claw, or a bottle of wine, or maybe some iced tea (we are in The South after all) and sit a spell while I tell you a bit about myself. My name is Missy. (Really it’s Melissa but when I was a born in the 80s my stone-washed jeans wearing sisters thought Missy sounded radical, so there you have it.) I go by Melissa when I am feeling “formal” or when I don’t know people very well, but I do prefer Missy. I’m not the type of person to offer that up when we first meet, nicknames sometimes scare people, so you’ll usually know me a little while when someone will call me Missy and you’ll be all, Wait, who is Missy? You mean Melissa? And they will be all, Who is Melissa? And that’s pretty much all you need to know about me. Just kidding.

I’m married to a lovely middle-aged, white man whom I often make fun of for being a middle-aged, white man but check this, he is faaaaar from the kinda guy you are thinking of. Sure, on the outside he looks the part, and a lot of old ladies grab his hand to tell them all about his church (like his atheist-ass cares), but he politely listens, nods along, and says, That sounds really nice! Occasionally other middle-aged, white men who do not know him very well will suggest having a beer, and they will end up saying some whacked-out racist shit, or something about how our current president is “fiscally responsible” or maybe throw in a homophobic joke, and my husband will be all, Oh, so you’re an asshole. Then he will pay his tab (but not theirs) and leave. He’s cool like that.

We have an 11-year-old son who is starting sixth grade in the fall. Middle school. I’m not going any further than that because I remember middle school, vividly, and I am terrified for him and for me. He’s supersonic smart though. He’s in the STEM program, robotics team, band, etc, etc. You’ll like him a lot and often remark how mature he is for his age, but that’s just because he doesn’t feel comfortable enough around you to make fart noises under his arm. Just yet. Otherwise he is honest, kind, considerate, and his three favorite television shows are: The Office, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

The dogs, Jesus I forgot about the dogs. Okay listen, we had this amazing dog for nearly 14 years. Her name was Bentley and she was my actual ride-or-die (yeah, I say ride or die and I don’t know if it is hyphenated or not). She was a chocolate lab mix and also the best dog in the whole world. But in 2018 her health problems caught up with her and we had to put her down a couple months shy of her 14th birthday. Then I did what I always do, I had a breakdown and over-compensated by getting not one, but two dogs. Sir Duke Barkington of Charlotte came first. He is a standard poodle and he’s hella fancy and honestly I can’t with him sometimes. He wears bow ties, and prefers to be professionally groomed with a blow out. We just celebrated his second birthday with a surprise celebration on April 30th, because quarantine.

Then there is Lady Winifred Beesly of Atlanta. Winnie came to us at the beginning of quarantine because who didn’t think it was the perfect time to go on Craigslist and adopt a dog that someone had bought and realized they were allergic to and didn’t know what to do with?! She’s part standard poodle and part great pyranees and I know what you are thinking, what does that dog look like? Answer: A hot fucking mess. But we love her.

Okay, so I think that’s the gist of life around here. We live in Metro Atlanta. We are pro-choice (I’ll tell you about my daughter sometime), LGBTQIA+ allies, active members in the Black Lives Matter Movement, and we are Bernie supporters who will be voting for Biden in November because shiiiiiiit. My husband has his MBA and works in finance, I write and piddle around the house yelling about politics and who the hell shit on the floor?! It’s usually a dog.

This blog houses everything from my distorted, meandering thoughts to stories of my childhood, to actual lists of whatever I am thinking at any given moment. I talk a lot about mental health, family, and writing. I made a promise to myself to blog everyday this year, and with the exception of two weeks ago when I took a break to help #MuteTheWhiteNoise and #AmplifyBlackVoices I have written everyday this year. So, there’s a lot to read and digest here. I also have a page with my published writings if you are so inclined. Thanks for reading today and thanks for being on this crazy ride!

Stay safe and sane, y’all.

M.

Facebook Friday

On Friday I woke up, looked at the news and knew exactly what most of my friends and family would be talking about on social media: Riots. Looting. How violence was sweeping our nation in the wake of the murder or George Floyd. My first thought was, great, here we go again. Then I thought, wait, Can I help in some way? Can I try to open a dialogue with my white family and friends about why this is happening? I’ve been trying for the last year to understand the structural racism that our country was founded on. The same structural racism that our country began with–kill the Native Americans, move them to reservations, and take their land–and kept up with like an unspoken mantra for decades. The same structural racism that made Black people a fraction of a person. That made a rich country on the backs of minorities. The same structural racism that allows us to be okay with children dying in cages at the border, today. The same that makes “Not all cops are bad” as the only proper response to the killing of George Floyd. What I know and what other white (and some Black) people don’t yet realize is that our country was founded on these idea. Keep the minorities down. And as long as we don’t talk about it, just do it, all will be well.

So I got the bright idea to let myself be on Facebook all day long. Now y’all know I have been limiting my access to Facebook to 15 minutes a day for about eight months now, and it has done wonders for my mental health. I mean I would spend all day on there. I would work with the Facebook tab open. I would compulsively check my phone all day to see if someone “liked” or commented on something. That’s how I got my news, my recipes, my pictures of cute dogs and babies. But alas, I learned you can get all those from other places, and that the less time I spend on social media the better I feel. Now I know this is not the case for some of you. We know what social media is at its worst, but at its best it can do amazing things. It’s just that I am programmed to focus on the bad stuff, so it doesn’t work for me like it might others, and that’s okay. But yesterday I asked Jerimiah (the keeper of my Facebook time) to give me access all day. He put in the password, handed me the phone, then asked if that was a good idea. Of course, I almost screamed, I’m doing good today!

What I ended up doing was getting sucked right back into the “bad.” I got sucked back into sharing my opinion on other people’s pages, who quite frankly, were not as “woke” as me? Yeah, let’s say that. White fragility is real, y’all. I’ve been reading about it, but I wasn’t sure until I read something that a Black activist wrote a few weeks ago and suddenly I was offended. All, Well how could she say that about me? How could she clump me in with those white people? She doesn’t know me, look I’m different, I have experience with this, I blah, blah, blah… Then I was like, Oh shit, I just highlighted her point exactly.

White people, especially women, get so upset when you share truth with them, so offended, that they lash out. Not all, but most. Count me as one of them. One of them who is working on not being that way. How dare we suggest white women are just more of the same? Well, how do you think it makes Black people feel when you use stereotypes on them? When our culture, our society, has taught these stereotypes. Jesus, more than half of my white friends and family aren’t even friends with a Black person. They don’t even know Black people. Or they haven’t lived in a predominantly Black community. So they only know these stereotypes and these ideas about Black culture from what they have been taught by society.

Then there were the Not All Cops Are Bad people. No one that I know, or have talked to recently has claimed all cops are bad. Matter fact, I know several people in Law Enforcement. And the people I know and am related to would probably, I’d like to think at least, stick up for people like George Floyd. But who can say. Atlanta’s Police Chief Erika Sheilds said it best, she said, “As law enforcement officers, we tend to put ourselves in the shoes of the police officer who is detaining. We have been there. We get that space. We need to stop seeing it that way. We need to step back and see the whole situation. Some people just should not police, and those people should be swiftly seen for who they are and removed.” Yeah, that’s part of the whole point. That’s why we need mental health checks, and psych evaluations on people before they become police officers. Better training, oversight committees formed by the people of the city, the very people the police are policing.

If you think about it, being a LEO is just a smaller version of a politician. They are there to serve the community, to keep people safe. It wasn’t until the Civil Rights era when police officers were tasked with spraying SILENT protestors with hoses and pelting them with rubber bullets, that suddenly police (some of them) began to see themselves as the keeper of “right” and “wrong.” We gave power to them that must be restored. Do they have a dangerous job? Absolutely. Do they get shot at in the line of service? Do they die for no reason? Yes. Yes. What does it stem from, do you think? Structural racism? Lack of mental health care for people who need it? Yes. And yes. I’ve met, had actual conversions with LEOs who truly believe they are God. Who put on the uniform and become someone else. I once knew a cop in Leavenworth, a young guy, new to the force, who was married with a baby at home. He liked to use his badge to fuck with young people, young men especially. Why? He liked to have sex with guys, but he couldn’t tell his family he was gay, so he’d use his badge to prey on young men. Should he have been policing? Uhh, no. But did people think this stand-up, married, dad was doing what he was doing? Uhh, no.

Just because someone has a badge doesn’t make them inherently good. You should hear the stories I have heard about male police officers and how they have random sex and affairs with women. Take advantage of women. Rape women in custody. Cheat on their spouses, and think it’s okay because they are “the law” and besides, don’t women always says shit like, “I love a man in uniform…” Le sigh. That sort of power can go to someone’s head. I’ve seen it happen with my own eyes. And those people should not be policing. I also think many law enforcement officers have witnessed their colleagues say and do things to Black people that is offensive, violent, etc, and have stayed silent. No one wants to piss off a co-worker. No one wants to piss off people they have to see day in and day out. But when you do you are aiding the problem. I know this is hard for people with loved ones who are LEOs to hear. I know it is hard for the “Thin Blue Line” people to hear. But it doesn’t make it less true. Think on it.

Then there are the protesters. I had a couple of people reach out, which I always prefer, and ask why I condone rioting and looting. I don’t. They just assumed that I do because I called bullshit on structural racism. I reminded people that the anger and hatred that fueled the Boston Tea Party and the rioting and looting there is now taught in school as “Patriotism.” I reminded people that last month white men walked into their state capital with Ak-47s and demanded to be able to eat at TGIFridays without a mask, and our president called them “Good people who are just angry.” Then I reminded them that if a group of people protesting at a #BLM rally turn to looting (which by the way is not the intent of the #BlackLivesMatter movement), they are “thugs” and it is “violence” not “patriotism.” Why do you think that is? I have a hunch.

Jerimiah and I sat in awe last night as we watched instigators tear down Atlanta. It was shameful to see. Damn it, Jerimiah sighed. Because he knows, like I do and a lot of us, that now people will only see this protest, this peaceful, non-violent, planned protest, as a “riot.” And I get the anger from people who say, “I don’t condone this.” Most people don’t. Most of the protesters were long gone, and their were more than enough people telling CNN reporters, as they stood outside CNN and watched the agitators break the glass windows to their office, that they do not condone this. That isn’t what it was supposed to be about.

The thing that got me was the amount of white people they were interviewing, who were A. Not from Atlanta and B. Just there to start some shit. White people busting out windows, white people screaming at the cops, white people burning the flag, which by the way, doesn’t bother me. You can hate me all you want, but I don’t give two shits about the burning of a piece of cloth. Would I do it? Probably not. Not unless I thought I had a good enough reason, like my son was killed by cops then my president didn’t give a shit, or you know, something like that. But the newscaster was all, “This is hard to watch” as two white people burned an American flag, and Jerimiah and I looked at each other and were like, This? This is hard to watch? This is the part that is hard to watch? Now we see how infuriating it must be to silently protest and be told you’re doing it wrong. You can’t kneel. You can’t burn a piece of cloth. You can’t stand with your hands up. You can’t form a chain and peacefully walk from one part of the city and then back again. You can’t call out white supremacy.

I know too many people who have watched the KKK burn down a Black church and sigh and go, “Well, what can you do?” then to sit and listen to them bitch about a Target on fire. (Eye roll). But it doesn’t matter how people protest, it’s wrong in the eyes of the US government. Unless, as mentioned before, you are a white male protesting with automatic weapons on the steps of your state capital, then you cool. Otherwise, no. No kneeling in silent protest. No walking across bridges. No burning the flag in protest. No standing in the street with your hands raised. No chanting, “I can’t breathe.” You get what I’m slinging.

I was actually really happy with the way Atlanta handled it all on Friday. And I was really happy with the protest itself. We did not go because we don’t feel comfortable going to fucking Wingstop to pick up chicken wings right now, so you won’t find me at any political rallies, but I was happy that people let their feelings out. That pastors spoke. That healing happened. But it was negated by the chaos that followed. So now we have two choices: We can either focus on the rioting, or the problem and solution. Too many of y’all wanna focus on the rioting and I get why. It’s easier. It is a cut and dry situation. They burned a cop car. That is wrong. And easy to fix. And a pretty agreeable stance. Burning cop cars is bad. Killing and imprisoning Black men, hmm, that’s harder for some of you to work out.

The last thing I saw before I turned off the television was Dr. Bernice King. She came to the press conference Mayor Bottoms held in Atlanta. Mayor Bottoms was a mother up there. “Go home,” she said. “If you love this city, go home.” Of course as I said, many of the instigators were not from Atlanta, so no, they do not love this city. Most of Atlanta was already at home, worrying about how the city would look in the morning. Then T.I. spoke, then Killer Mike, then Dr. Bernice King. She reminded people that what you miss when you use her father’s words, “A riot is the language of the unheard…” is the part about the “unheard” and as long as there is rioting, you will continue to be “unheard.” And she’s right. But, we are taught, in this white supremacy world that we live in, to accept that the murder of an unarmed Black man in daylight by a police officer as “non-violence” but looting a Target as “violence.” And until we can all get on the same page about what the “problem” is, no one will be heard. On thing is for sure about watching angry people light cop cars on fire in the middle of downtown Atlanta, we have a problem in this country, and you can’t ignore it any longer.

Listen, I shared the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quote the other day on Insta and FB. The one that said, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” And a lot of people “Loved” and “Liked” it. Then when the protestors took to the street, y’all lost your voice. Got upset if someone put you in your place. Let your white fragility show. So which is it? Are you ready to speak up for all people. Black people being killed by cops. Brown people held in cages. Learn how to deal with it, learn how to combat it, learn how to better yourselves, or not? I know it is hard. I know it is hard to look at your overtly racist family member and say, “Stop. That is is not okay.” But if you don’t do it, who will?

I don’t know if I helped on Friday. I know I made my day a mess. My nerves were shot, and I just slipped into the hot tub with a glass of wine to forget it all. Isn’t that nice that I can do that? And I know I made mistakes. I know I reacted strongly to people, or didn’t truly understand what they were trying to say, all because I didn’t let it sink in. And I always welcome anyone to message me. To tell me how my words made them feel, even if it is anger. But I won’t tolerate passive-aggressive remarks, or blanket statements aimed at me. Like when the teacher yells at the whole class because they are mad at one student. Call me out on it, I don’t mind. You’ll feel better, and maybe I will have learned to see things from a different point of view. Or maybe I’ll realize you are a crazy person and unfriend you, who knows! And remember, that street goes both ways, y’all. You’ll never offend me if you need to unfriend me for your mental health. I will only respect you more.

Stay safe and sane, y’all.

M.

Now if you have read to the bottom, thanks! And if you really want to educate yourself, and you really want to try to do better then do what I have been doing for months. Read books about how to be anti-racist. Follow accounts that teach you how to help the Black Community. I’m leaving some suggestions below.

Follow:

The Conscious Kid on Instagram

Rep. John Lewis

Stacey Abrams

Rachel Elizabeth Cargle

Dr. Bernice King/The King Center

Brittany Packnett Cunningham

The hashtags: #BlackLivesMatter #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd #IRunWithAhmaud #JusticeForBreonnaTaylor

Read:

Lagniappe

We met a man last summer in Coastal Louisiana who was raised on the bayou. He used to hunt for and collect alligator eggs as a child, then hatch them and raise them in his bathtub until they got too big, then he and his brothers would take them back out to the swamp and drop them near where they found them. He spoke Louisiana-French, a creole language spoken across ethnic and racial lines, by people who consider themselves to be Cajun or Louisiana Creole, as well as Chitimacha, Houma, Biloxi, Tunica, Choctaw, Acadian, and/or French. Creole is the type of language they speak, but Cajun is derived from that. There is always a dominate language with pidgin languages known as the superstrate language, while the lesser is the substrate. In the case of the Cajun there is English, then French, then African, Spanish, and Native American. When it all converges in one person, the result can be wonderful and confusing. He told us how to “pinch the tail and suck the head,” showed us places we had never seen before, and explained that Lagniappe just means getting a little something extra than you paid for.

He would speak to the alligators primarily in French, then speak to us in English, then speak to his friend in Creole. He would codeswitch from one being to another, never skipping a beat, never missing an opportunity to tell his story to whomever would listen. Always with an eye on the alligator.

The man was our tour guide on the Atchafalaya River Basin, a combination of wetlands and river delta where the Atchafalaya and the Gulf of Mexico converge. The basin contains 70% forest habitat, and 30% open water. As far as wetland river basins go, it’s almost stable. It’s the largest contiguous block of forested wetlands left in the lower Mississippi River Valley, and the largest block of floodplain forest in the United States, with 260,000 acres of cypress-tupelo. It’s iconic, and terrifying, and a little bit surreal.

Soaring over the Atchafalaya Swamp we watched a baby and momma Osprey spread their wings from the top of a hollowed cypress. We saw a 12-foot alligator lead his blind friend to food. We overheard the story of the Louisiana Black Bear, and the floods, and the inoperable South Farm, and the ATV-traffic that threatens many of the existence there. We saw beaver dams, and otter running for their lives. We felt the slap of an alligator tail against the oiled metal of the boat. For the first time in my five years in The South, I let it grip me. Take ahold of my head and my heart. It was something I didn’t expect to happen, but something I am glad did. Like when you get an extra donut in the box.

M.