Thursday, May 31, 2018
It’s no wonder Mom couldn’t live with you. You always think you know everything, but you can’t learn common sense from a book.
“They’re not crisis actors,” you, my younger brother, said. We sit in Mom’s living room, in the tiny house she bought after fleeing your home in Florida.
I leaned forward and pounced. “Don’t you think it’s funny how they always show up after a school shooting?”
Our brother Jerry nodded. He and his wife Karen, afraid of flying, came out by train from the East Coast for Mom’s 90th birthday. Mom looked apprehensive though. When she lived with you, your brown-skinned wife, and liberal children, she was always outnumbered, but this is her house, not yours. Here she can speak her mind and eat pulled pork without you rolling your eyes.
You regarded me dazed. That’s your natural state. I can never tell when you’re smoking pot.
“You do know they’re all different people though?” you asked with characteristic snideness.
“How do you know that?” I asked. “How do you know anything about them?”
“Mom,” you said, dismissing me. “Don’t you remember Stoneman Douglas competing against Wade’s marching band? They were our rivals. We met them riding coasters in Busch Gardens after their performance at States. They’re a spitting image of your grandchild.”
“I always loved watching Wade march,” Mom said. This is the day after her 90th birthday party, the one I catered. You don’t even live in Sacramento.
“And you think they’re not coached?” Karen said. “You think teenagers make speeches like that? And how do journalists find them? I’ll tell you how. It’s the Fake News Media.”
“Actually, the falsehoods are the claims our education system is wanting. These kids don’t even surprise me. This generation is impressive.” You crossed your arms and gave a crisp smile. “One reason I’m optimistic about our future is the wisdom of our youth.”
“It’s video games,” Jerry said at the same time Karen said, “It’s the movies.”
“All the violence,” they said together.
“No,” you said. “The entire world watches movies and plays video games. Only one country allows you to walk into a gun shop, buy a weapon, and shoot up your high school: the USA.”
“Well, nobody’s taking our guns,” my husband Bruce, watching from the hall, said. Once he tackled me on the roadside and took my keys. That’s when Mother Mary came to me, but you said she wasn’t real, even when she was right in front of me. That’s how you are, always believing you know everything, but what do you really know, you vegan hippie impostor? We protested against Vietnam. What did you protest against? Trump?
“I wish they could take all your guns,” you said. “But I’d be satisfied if the government banned bump stocks, high-capacity magazines, and assault weapons like the AR-15.”
“An AR-15 isn’t an assault rifle,” Bruce said. “AR means America’s Rifle.”
“It’s a semi-automatic version of an M-16,” you said. “Citizens shouldn’t have military weapons.”
“Why not? Law-abiding citizens should be able to have any gun they want,” Bruce said. “What if some traitor president like Hillary Clinton sends the government to seize my property?”
“In that case, you wouldn’t be law-abiding,” you said. “What does this have to do with Clinton?”
“You’re just mad because you voted for her,” I said to general assent.
“Lock her up! Lock her up!” Bruce began, and all of us added our voices for a few rounds. Mom laughed. Before she looked unhappy with where the conversation was headed. It will take time for her to understand she is not outnumbered anymore.
Incidentally, my smart-ass brother, that’s a great parallel for how it feels at a Trump rally, where we can be white without guilt and speak hard truths. But you don’t get that either. You don’t understand Trump is what the counterculture is about now. I laugh at the Fake News Media making fun of his bone spur deferment, but listen to “Alice’s Restaurant” and tell me the difference between pretending you are crazy or faking bone spurs. Guess how many of my friends wanted to fight in Vietnam: Zero.
“Lock her up?” you asked. “Isn’t it more likely your guy sees the inside of a cell?”
“I guess we’ll see,” I said.
“I can’t wait,” you said.
“Neither can I.”
“Can’t we talk about something else?” Mom said. “Yesterday was my birthday.”
“Even at ninety you only get one day,” you said, and right there, you lost. That’s why we take care of Mom now, because we care about her.
You know it too. The room is silent but our chewing the pulled pork you so despise. This is what freedom tastes like.