Storms, natural and man-made

Dear President Trump,

I told you yesterday that I sort of wished I were staying in New Orleans longer so that I could finish out the conference I was attending. When I said it, I had no idea you were heading to Louisiana today to rally against their Democratic Governor, John Edwards (nothing like getting up a good lather against someone, eh?), and now I really wish I were still there since it would have been good to be nice to people there to balance you out some. You really are a hateful lout.

Last night on my way to dinner I saw an enormous mural depicting a young bare chested African American man holding up a toddler-looking boy. The man is smiling at the boy, looking like he’s proud of him, and the boy has his head thrown back, his eyes closed and he looks as happy as he can be. Behind the boy’s head is a yellow-orange sun looking quite halo-like and the bottom third of the mural is swirling water full of all sorts of things. The man has several tattoos that at first I took to be referencing his basic alive-ness and presence in his son’s life (“Still Here”; “Don’t Be Afraid”; “Sink or Swim), but after looking up the smallest of the four tattoos (“Trouble the Water”), I’m realizing they and he and his son are likely referencing the community’s persistence post-Katrina. Or maybe it’s all of the above. I’m not sure. Whatever all the artist’s intentions were, it’s super powerful and positive – I wish you could see it, and even more, I wish you could appreciate it if you did see it.

The next thing I’ve got to tell you about is something not nearly so positive, though it was quite powerful. This morning after virtually everyone had boarded the plane I was the only one in my side of Row 23 and there was one woman in the window seat on the other side of Row 23. We kept smiling at each other and shrugging, wondering if we were going to get lucky and not have seatmates.

Well, we did not get lucky in the least.

The very last passenger to board was a disheveled young man with way too much stuff who, after haphazardly cramming some of it into an overhead bin, approached the window seat woman and said something to the effect that he needed all three seats so he could sleep and if she didn’t want to move, that was cool but he was going to take up as much space as he needed to sleep so how about she just move. He was white and she was black and the couple behind her were black and he was flailing around so much that they were having to dodge his crap (as was I) and it all felt very charged and surreal. I don’t know if he would have felt so entitled as to basically demand three seats to himself if she hadn’t been black, but he didn’t get on me to move and so I think race was a factor.

The window seat woman opted to come sit with me and we did our best to ignore him. Then about midway through the flight he went after the male flight attendant, swearing at him, berating him, and refusing to stand down when the attendant informed him that he needed to follow crewmember’s orders, including stopping swearing at him. It was awful. Later the flight attendant asked me if I would be willing to be a witness if anything came of the incident report he (the attendant) was filing and of course I said I would. The young man was so toxic that none of the flight attendants had him do any of the pre-landing safety prep – he was spread out over two seats with no seatbelt on when we landed.

The reason for bringing up this sad (the young man is clearly mentally ill in some way), unsettling incident is that I got to see firsthand how being obnoxious and belligerent in a situation where things could get very scary, very fast (e.g., the confines of an airplane that is 36,000 feet up in the air) can make it so people will back off and not hold someone accountable. It seemed like a deliberate strategy on his part –following in his Commander in Chief’s footsteps, perhaps?

May we be safe from storms, both natural and man-made.
May we be happy to support one another when faced with either sort of storm.
May we stay healthy and strong and keep smiling at our children.
May we keep breathing, keep centering ourselves through the turbulence.

Tracy Simpson

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