By L Ron Brooks
The next time you’re out at a big summer blockbuster movie—even if it isn’t for a couple more years (foreshadow alert!)—here’s something funny to do. People love it, trust me. As you’re leaving the screening, if there are lines queued-up for the next show already, run up to them goggle-eyed and cry, “Everybody dies at the end!!” A wave of conflicting emotions will pass visibly among the line-standers culminating very quickly in rage at you for spoiling the end of the movie they’ve been waiting to see. You clock their rage and you raise your hands in an ‘everybody just relax’ gesture and explain in a reassuring tone of voice, “No, no, not in the MOVIE…” and just keep moving quickly in the direction of the parking lot.
Of course I didn’t do that last night; I was out with a group of the nicest people in the world and I was doing my best to behave. Even so… fish gotta swim, I guess. If you asked me today how the movie was, my first response would be, “Well, I made a few mistakes…”
Not even starting with entering the auditorium late and sitting down with a family of complete strangers before being waved in by members of my actual group. And culminating with exiting the screening, tossing my empty-ish soda cup at the gaping maw of a trash can about five feet away and missing it in true summer blockbuster movie fashion. One of my friends turns to me and says something like, “well, your free-throw isn’t working tonight,” to which I laughed and said, “Yeah but I’m absolutely killing it at being me.”
Then I came home and turned on the news and after a few minutes had another bad and dangerous thought. This one still in search of a usable punchline.
I feel like maybe everybody (I mean everybody) is so eager to Get Life Back To Normal that they’re cutting corners and shrugging off with a ‘Yeah but I’m killing it at being me’ level of disconnect despite the potential consequences of their reckless actions being easily in view. Let me give you a couple of examples.
Afghanistan. (And this isn’t about ‘politics’; I don’t have a dogma in that hunt anymore.) I know it’s a long way from Compton, but the fact that the same metaphor applies is the point I’m trying to underscore here.
It’s great in the short run that we’re bugging out, but we do so knowing our absence creates a power vacuum that historically never goes unfilled for long. By general news media consensus, the Taliban already ‘owns’ about 85% of that country. But we don’t want to be portrayed as ‘cutting and running,’ so we’re going to keep funding our chosen regime there and letting them use U.S. airbases off-country. And sending them more of our most advanced military product to prop up a democratic experiment that history gives about a one in a million chance of working in that particular state.
What history actually suggests is that in no time at all, all that awesome advanced weaponry is going to be in the hands of the enemy and pointed back at us. But at the same time, no new President is going to want to add another generation of young Americans to the body count over there, any more than does this citizen.
So leaving Afghanistan as we are has this reporter asking if we aren’t taking an ‘I’m killin’ it at being me’ attitude to foreign policy. Hopefully a deeper consideration of the easily foreseeable consequences of our actions has been covertly undertaken and steps implemented to ward against what the odds suggest will be the inevitable bloody chaos to come.
Second example is much closer to home: COVID.
Friends, I think we’re jumping the gun here. We are celebrating a victory before the finish line has been crossed, and “World Pandemic” isn’t a race you want to call before the first runner actually breaks the tape. And in that metaphor, a solid 30-something percent of our fellow Americans are refusing to get immunized—thus functionally reducing the chances of the rest of us ever achieving herd-immunity to zero—while said rest of us are getting complacent even as the more-aggressive-than-ever Delta strain is running up numbers that woulda made last summer blush. Hospitalizations are up all over; folks just haven’t started dying yet and the rule in journalism (paraphrased here) is, “It doesn’t Lead until it bleeds.” So give it a few weeks to start showing up in your newsfeeds.
It might even coincide with the broadcast of the certain-to-become notorious 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Every sign, signal, portent and omen is screaming “ABORT MISSION! ABORT MISSION!” I’m not gonna burn my column inches summarizing for you that which is more fully explained just a Google-click away. Tokyo’s pandemic-related numbers in every critical category are beyond appalling, they’re objectively scary and damned underreported as of print date.
Having these games now—and in Japan—is 1950s-era scifi dystopia-level stupid. Just as a monster plague variant is roaring back to life and sweeping the globe, the witless humans decide to throw a super-spreader event anyhow, inviting participants from every corner of that same globe to participate.
If you had two apples and I gave you two more, you’d have four apples, right? Well unfortunately we’re not there yet on plague-thinking. We’re still working out our object impermanence.
I can already tell you who the big winner of this Games is going to be; everybody who stayed home.
Or in the case of sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson, everyone who got unfairly disqualified and sent packing. It doesn’t surprise me a bit that the same organization (the IOC) that sees fit to throw a Plague Games is also ill-advised enough to categorize cannabis as a performance-enhancing drug… for runners! It’s so epically bone-headed as to be invulnerable to parody. But in its defense, the rule is probably doing what it’s there for; to disenfranchise targeted communities among the athletes, long-associated in popular culture with Black Americans.
At this point, I’d typically suggest a solution to the problem I’ve outlined. Usually when I sit down to write a column like this I start with the answer and write towards it. But when the problem is “How do we make the species less stupid in time to save it?” … I got nothin’. At my pay grade, there are no actionable answers to Afghanistan nor world pandemics. There is only the writing-up of history in its immediate aftermath, and the keeping of my sponsor on speed-dial.
And this parting thought, which occurred last night at the screening as a woman in the corner of the auditorium coughed intermittently but loudly throughout the film. I’m certain I’m not the only one present who asked themselves, “Gee, in the end, what’s more important to me? My health, or ogling Scarlett Johansson in skintight bodysuits for two hours with dozens of probable vector-points in my cute little corner of still-Trump’s America?” (Thank you, coughing lady, for the reality-check.)
And yet, and yet… there I remained, Exhibit A in my own column warning about existentially-threatening levels of casual stupidity among our herd.
So, yeah we’re killing it at being us, but that’s not cutting it. It’s just killing us.
LRon Brooks is an author, ADHD sufferer and oh look! A squirrel!