7 min read

Reckoning: Eric Reads the Week, #16

Reckoning: Eric Reads the Week, #16

Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
Hi!

So, David and I were in this Lyft in Washington D.C. yesterday. We spent a quick 24 hours in the nation's capital because I'd been invited down to meet Rep. Maxine Waters.

Oh, this is so embarrassing. I just dropped that name all over the floor. How clumsy of me.

OMG, y'all. It happened! It all happened. I was in the room with THE WOMAN HERSELF. I still have not recovered. It was everything. It was so much. She interviewed ME. And then I interviewed HER. And then I hyperventilated for about a year. You can read about it all on ELLE.com on Monday. It's all that and a bag of chips.

Anyway, David and I were in the Lyft. We'd spent the morning after THE EVENT wandering the National Mall, visiting the monuments. It brought back indistinct memories of so many field trips. When you grow up in Baltimore, seemed like you were marching through D.C. with a bag lunch while Ms. Frizzle kept the bus idling every other week.

Despite my childhood proximity, I didn't have any clear memories of the big sites--the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, Gettysburger, etc. We decided to go see them because David likes history and I like to recreate scenes from Scandal.

Whenever I'm in D.C. I can't help but think of Scandal, or, on special occasions, The Pelican Brief and The Manchurian Candidate. I think I'm doing patriotism wrong.

Actually, I wasn't quite sure how to do patriotism right. Me and D.C. have been in a fight since the election. I wondered if I'd feel uncomfortable walking through the monuments, whether they'd feel like a graveyard of democracy. I wondered if the Mall would be overrun by lunatics in MAGA hats who like their steak overcooked. I also wondered if I'd be able to recapture any of the awe that the monuments instilled in me before I learned that they were tributes to the most problematic of faves, our "Founding" "Fathers."

As we walked down to the Mall, David and I decided that when we brought our kid to D.C. in the future, we'd remind him that these are monuments to ideals, not to humans. That all our faves are problematic and that America is an experiment. "The Washington Monument is a symbol. All human effort is vapor. Time is a construct," we'll tell our 7-year-old. Family vacations are going to be a blast. Also, he won't be allowed to eat fruit roll-ups.

We wound through the crowds at the Vietnam War Memorial and the Korean War Memorial. At the Korean War Memorial there were a group of volunteers washing the surface. The group was comprised of women of all different races and a wide range of ages. One of them wore a hijab. As we walked, I overheard parents explaining to children and tourists discussing our involvement in military conflicts with each other. I was struck by how diverse the crowd was, how even-keeled and thoughtful the discussion was. This wasn't the American experience I was expecting. But this is the America that I live in. Throughout the day I saw people of every race with kids of every race, sometimes matching, sometimes mixed. I saw LGBTQ-presenting couples holding hands. I saw people in hijabs and burkas and dastars. I overheard conversations where people questioned our present actions and reckoned with our past.

I realized that this is not the graveyard of democracy, but a symbol of its perseverance.

We walked for miles; I took a lot of terrible pictures.

I gave a patriotic side-eye to Jefferson and shed a tear at the MLK monument. Then we ordered a Lyft back to the car. Because we drive a Prius and we are deeply dedicated to the environment.

The driver was a young black man who insisted on giving us a tour and advice on where to go in D.C. He was like "You have to go to Eastern Market!" I was like "Uh, we're leaving right now. I was here to meet Representative Ma--" He was like, "No, go to Eastern Market. It's cute! You have long legs. Your legs are very long." This is all true. It was odd.

At one point we drove by 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. "That's the White House over there," he said. Then, dropping his voice barely perceptibly into the shade register, he continued, "You may not be interested in that."

I gave him a look that said, "Girl, you're damn right." And then aloud I said, "I went during the Obama administration so I'm good for the next four years."

"Oh! How nice. I'm envious. Your legs are so long! I can't believe it! I drove by the White House the other night and all the lights were off! Isn't that strange?"

Despite the new darkness at the White House, Washington is still open. It's open for us. In its resolute democratic symbolism, in its accessibility, and in the diversity that comes with it, it's a xenophobic bigot's worst nightmare. I guess it's no wonder that Trump leaves town as often as he can.

Good. More room for us.

Check out ELLE.com this week for Maxine reflections and more! Now, here's last week's columns, starting with Ben Carson doing the most Ben Carson thing I can think of...


Ben Carson Got Stuck in an Elevator, Here's What He Maybe Said in There

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson is on a national listening tour, speaking with people who use public housing. The former presidential candidate, who turned down a cabinet appointment because he claimed he had no experience and couldn't run a government agency only to be appointed to HUD weeks later, stopped by the Courtside Miami Apartments today. Because reality is now being expertly written by the staff of the Veep, the surgeon who was once portrayed by Cuba Gooding, Jr., in a movie, spent a good chunk of the morning stuck in an elevator. There are no official reports about what he did or said while in the elevator, but here's a pretty good guess. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]


A Thirst Trap Investigation Into the Political Hottie Meeting of Justin Trudeau and Prince Harry

Operator: 911, what's your emergency?
Me: Justin Trudeau is trying to kill me.
Operator: And where are you right now?
Me: In my bed like you told me.
Operator: And where is Justin Trudeau right now?
Me: If I knew where Justin Trudeau is right now do you think I'd be talking to you. Do you know where he is? Don't you have software or something that can track his movements?
Operator: I think you're thinking of the NSA. Or Facebook.
[READ THE FULL COLUMN]


I Am Deeply Traumatized By Ludacris' Fake Abs

Oh, honey, what is you doing, honey? You are giving us body-oddy oddly and it's making me uncomfortable. Apparently the fake torso has just been a general anesthesia-induced fever dream (get well soon, tbh). You know how that is. When I got my wisdom teeth out I dreamt I won a People's Choice Award for the movie As Good As It Gets so Ludacris' Extreme Makeover by Microsoft Paint makes total sense to me. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]


Random Thing from the Internet...

First of all, who is Jeffrey Lord? He looks like Christopher Walken in Batman Returns and that alone should be enough to keep him off of national television. When you look like a tertiary villain in a Batman movie and have deeply problematic opinions, you need to stay your ass at home. Jeffrey Lord didn't get the memo. He, of course, is the person who decided that what the world needs now is more white nonsense and so he did his part by showing up on CNN and terrorizing the country with idiotic yawps filmed through the dirty lens on his jailbroken iPhone 3.

It's too much. I honestly cannot. He said, at one point, that Donald Trump was the MLK of healthcare. Stunningly, this is not the dumbest thing said by a man on television this week.

But, as a poet said at the Maxine Waters open mic last night, "Black women are going to save this country. Again."

Symone Sanders, gift from the Gods, was not having any syllable of it from him and I LIVE. Every minute of this video is perfection. Her pursed lips are speaking more truth than Jeffrey Lord has every encountered in his entire life. Until the nonsense stops, I am grateful for black women who are declaring every minute of every day "Not Here For It" o'clock.

To reckoning, reconciling and rallying,
Eric


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Sundays at noon
April 23-June 4th (skips 5/21)
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