By Meg Langford
I am having a rough morning. I really, really want to show people how much I really, really, really care about all those shooting victims in San Bernardino. I want so much to make a real difference in the world, so I have looked up the appropriate flag so I can cyberpaste it over my Facebook Face and everything, but it is not working out. So many questions.
Here’s the thing. I feel awful about what happened, really pitsy, you know, but I am still so very, very sad about that thing that happened in Paris too, so I face a conundrum. It is a conundrum of great magnitude: it is social, historical, aesthetic. It involves geopolitics and Photoshop. And it even speaks just a wee jot about the extent to which Facebook rules my life.
Let’s slog through it together, shall we, because I bet you are having the same problem:
OK, we’ve established that we are super upset and grief stricken about the dead folks in San Bernardino. And but we also still truly feel deeply a lot about the gens mort in Paris. But as people who almost care even more than I do have pointed out, many people died around the same time as the victims in Paris, and so what about remembering them too? Now, fixing the Facebook problem of the suicide bomber in Beirut who killed 43 people and wounded more than 240 is a pretty easy solution, because, happily for aesthetics, the Lebanese flag is basically white and red stripes. Everyone’s happy, right? You just slap a couple more red and white stripes alongside the French blue, white and red flag, and you are good to go. Conscience appeased. Dead memorialized. Easy Peasy.
But wait. Crap. Now we have this San Bernardino thing to deal with, and here’s where it gets thorny. The San Bernardino County flag is a dog’s breakfast of wackadoodle pictures; there’s mountains and fields with crops and a bunch of grapes, and a gigantic scale for weighing in, and a wagon train and a locomotive running over some citrus that was obviously thriving before the train ran over it, and there’s creatures, some holding weapons, and all of this enclosed within an arrow head. (A really big arrow head, I’m guessing.) Cripes, it’s a busy little flag. It reminds me of one of those giant ugly mosaics made by a brigade of sixth graders, you know, the ones that they have at fancy rest stops right near state borders, depicting cities and events and famous pioneers, all reminding you of which state is really the best of the adjoining states and where you should spend all those tourist dollars.
But the good news is that the actual major colors of the flag of San Bernardino (county) consists only of a white field with a couple of blue stripes and a couple of aqua stripes, not really an aqua, more of a rich azure, the same thrilling tint as Anderson Cooper’s eyes when he flashes that twinkle, or offers that endearing chuckle, like when he talked about Gerard Depardieu urinating publicly on a flight from Paris to Dublin, after he’d had all that wine and was then told he could not use the inflight toilet. (Gerard Depardieu, not Anderson Cooper.) Now, both Paris and Dublin are big drinking meccas, so you’d think fellow travelers would understand. But the story tickled Cooper into a flurry of puns. Yes, Anderson Cooper’s eyes, that’s the color in the San Bernardino flag. We are talking California, after all.
So, taking the San Bernardino flag, with its white, blue and azure, and incorporating that into our Facebook Face Gauze of blue, white, red, then more white and red, then some azure, is actually both pretty and promising.
But not so fast. The San Bernardino attack took place within the city, which has a different flag, where the symbols of farms and locomotives and wagon trains are very prominent. And since the closer you are to a tragedy, the more you care about it—for example, last week, your car not starting or that horrific slight that happened to you when you were doing your Black Friday shopping impacted you a hell of a lot more than the recent tragic and untimely death of Kitanoumi Toshimitsu, The 55th Yokozuna, am I right?—anyway, where was I, ah yes, so given my logic that the city of San Bernardino was really the heart of the tragedy (plus the seal is prominent on the county flag as well), I feel we need to address those images contained therein.
But if you are going to put those images as well as the colors onto your Facebook Face Gauze (the French flag conveniently didn’t have any images, the French being a more of a “moins est plus” kind of people), then we have to go back to the suicide bomber in Lebanon, and put in that big green tree that they have on their nation’s flag. It’s actually a Lebanon Cedar, but happily, it goes pretty well with the themes in the San Bernadino flag, cedars being fairly popular in the Golden State, especially when it comes to building closets in the Pacific Northwest, where moths are quite a problem. So the cedar tree fits just fine.
So I have my Facebook Face Gauze, which is now blue, white, red, red and white some more, Anderson Cooper azure, plus it is festooned with a mountain, wagon trains, fields of crops, a scale for weighing things, a locomotive, and a cedar tree. But it is to be embedded on a very small patch of computer screen space, as we all know, so it looks for all the world like the locomotive has just come out of that mountain tunnel and crashed into the cedar tree, blinded by the sudden bright light, or perhaps distracted by people waving from the wagon train. And people will think that the cause I am actually mourning is all of the train accidents that happen, because we need to be sad about those dead people too. And then I flash on an image from my past. I watched, one day in 2008, from my home in Canoga Park, as an Apocalypse Now of helicopters, along with a fleet of ambulances, made their way to a horrific train accident that happened in Chatsworth, California, about a mile from my house. The engineer was texting when it happened. Twenty-five people died; do we not care about them as much as those who died in acts of terrorism? Would you be less upset if your child or dearest friend or husband or wife died because some stupid driver was texting, than you would be if an act of Jihad wiped their sweet life off the face of the earth? So yes, I tell myself, let the illusion that the train has crashed into a tree symbolize all the mass transit accident victims that we mourn. (Cue The Folksmen from “A Mighty Wind” singing “Blood on the Coal”.) And, ooh, plus, the wagon train on both San Bernadino flags can symbolize all the fine people we lost settling this great country of ours. And the mountains on the SB flag? That can be where the Indians that we are going to slaughter are attempting to hide; we must also remember them while we are Manifesting our Destiny. And the fields of unpicked produce can represent the plight of illegal undocumented alien immigrants who are overworked and underpaid.
But wait. My friends who care just about as much as I do, but not quite as deeply, remind me that Paris, Beirut, and San Bernadino weren’t the only places where there have very recently been massive waves of death and destruction. You can’t bring up Middle East turmoil without thinking of Syria. A lot of death in Syria. A lot of lives to mourn. And, my friends dryly inform me, (and damn if there isn’t a tinge of amusement on their face) that Syria actually has two, yes TWO flags, WHAT?!, which apparently has to do with some kind of petty infighting going on there. (And by the way why does nobody’s flag say “Can’t We All Just Get Along”, what would that be in Latin?) Anyway, something about “de jure” governments, which I thought was a menu item, but continuing on, the two flags of Syria are black, white, and red, and black, white, and green—and, excuse me, I thought these were the colors of the Italian flag, that the Italians had dibs—but the Syrian flagS have additions, one with some red stars, and one with some green stars, which is stupid to me, since stars are supposed to be white, or maybe yellow, and twinkle. (Note to self: create Old Glory with LED flashing star lights, sell on eBay next Fourth of July, big buck$$$.)
Where was I? Ah yes. So if I add these colors to the blue, white, red, red some more, white some more, more blue, more white, azure, and yellow (the background of the San Bernadino city flag), now I add not only more red, but green and black. Shew. It’s not only ugly, it looks for all the world like those test bars they used to use when there was a big crisis, and then the Emergency Broadcast System would come on, but some stations used to leave the test bars on their channel all night after my bedtime as a child, back when TV had occasional end points or pauses. So now, I worry, people will see all these stripes on my Facebook page and think I AM THE ONE having a tragic emergency, or EVEN WORSE (gasp!) that my Facebook page is going off the air.
On the more interesting column, though, is the fact that the flag of Beirut, the city where that actual horrible suicide bombing which took 43 souls actually took place, has a ship floating on the water, on its flag. And I’m guessing that if Zuckerberg weren’t busy changing diapers right now, he’d be addressing this entire imbroglio with more thoroughness than he has, and allow us the option to put the flag of the city where a tragedy took place, instead of whole countries, which have many parts, and people caring in varying greater and lesser degrees. So I take the flag of Beirut, and I add the sailing ship and images of what appear to be rather choppy seas, grab your Dramamine … and Huzzah!, what is eerie is that if you look at the flag of Paris, IT ALSO has a ship on even choppier waters, Normans or something, I am told, which is stupid because Paris is landlocked, but whatever—I would have chosen a baguette crossed with a paintbrush, or something. But it’s rude to criticize when people are in mourning.
So I put the boats with the choppy water on my Facebook Face Gauze, and they are bumping up around the train tracks and the wagon train, which was supposed to be going through the desert, but now there are waves around the locomotive. So instantly, you get this image—ocean levels rising. Climate change. BANG! I got that covered. This is good. This is fabulous! Now people know I care about the planet, on top of all my other causes. I really, really care.
“But what about the Egyptians” my friends who are almost as worried about the world as I am ask. “Well, what about Egypt” I say, thinking about the pyramids and crystal and energies and spiritual things. And then they explain about a coup d'état and terrorism and something about detaining journalists—but I wasn’t really listening, I was looking at the eagle on the Egyptian flag. Pretty bird. Good on my Gauze.
But here’s the weird thing: just when my friends interrupted me with that stuff about Egypt, I was thinking about how the flag used in the Paris attacks was actually the flag of France, so maybe I should use the flag of the state of California for the San Bernadino thing, California being pretty close to an actual country, I figure. And that flag, of course, features a big bear on it. And bears, as people who care about things such as myself know, are endangered. Bears. Endangered. Eagle, endangered. I post them on my Facebook Face Gauze, the bear on the mountain (with the invisible endangered Indians) and the Eagle in the sky, on that azure blue that is the color of Anderson Cooper’s eyes.
I am feeling pretty damn good about myself, if I may say so. Climate Change. Species on the Verge of Extinction. Violence All Over the World. (Hey, the Persian flag has a lion on it, so if I add that, I got Cecil covered.) Endangered CNN Hosts. If I knew of a flag that had a tent on it, I would throw that on there, for the homeless. Maybe if I look at flags of third world countries. Or maybe the Jungle, that refugee camp at Calais, the one with the disco and bicycle repair shop and a theater, will get around to hoisting an official flag with a pup tent and a griffon or something, then people can know I care about that too.
For a fleeting moment, I think of my Buddhist friend, Chris. Every time you tell him about some tragedy in the world, a plane crash or a terrorist attack, he just smiles patronizingly and reminds you that millions are suffering every day, all over the world, dying of starvation and dysentery and bug bites, and then he gives a lengthy speech about how all pain comes from attachment, and ends with how none of us should eat meat or wear leather. Not even fun fur or Pleather, lest it seem like tacit approval. Chris doesn’t get invited places very much. But his point is well taken. And for another fleeting moment (I admit, I haven’t much of an attention span these days), I think of the behind-the-scenes drama at the Academy Awards, the annual dilemma that rages about what ribbon-pin one ought to wear this particular year: Yellow for troops? Pink for breast cancer? Rainbow for gays? Denzel wore purple one time, for urban violence. And some stars actually ask this vaguely reasonable, just, and fair question: if I don’t wear all the ribbons, does this mean I don’t care about all the causes? And if I wear no ribbons, does this mean I am an apathetic, self-absorbed turd? This whole matter irks me a great deal, in regards to my big morning project, because I care deeply, for example, about breast cancer, but as far as my very politically correct Facebook Face Gauze goes, I don’t believe that there is a national flag with tits on it.
ASIDE: In regards to San Bernardino, I could just plow forth and do what I did to honor the victims of the Paris attacks: I examined my life, listened to the spirits of the dead, and did what they told me to do … fixed something in my corner of the world. I started working on a broken relationship with a loved one, and asked to have my Christmas gifts be given to charity in my name. (Specifically, I think an African family will be getting a goat.)
But “As Facebook Goes, So Goes the World” (“Sicut Vadit Facebookum, Ita Mouetur Mundus”), so I return to finishing my massive project. I study it.
I got Paris, Beirut, San Bernadino, Syria, Egypt, and since there is pretty much violence all over the Middle East that we can’t seem to do a damn thing about (can you say “Lawrence of Arabia”), I figure I will just throw a camel and an oil derrick and maybe an oasis pond filled with Blackwater in to represent all of those sand dunes filled with squabbling tribes, and call it a day. Yeah, I know, it’s now an overwhelming little Facebook Face Gauze, a long way from the simple Paris tri-colors. (By the way, how come nobody has pointed out that this blue white and red Facebook Face Gauze looks a hell of a lot like a Coco Chanel-style hajib?) Oh, but not my Facebook Face Gauze: as I gaze at it admiringly, I realize that nobody else will have all this, it makes me different and special and unique, like the superior sort of person who would not have just indulged in those repetitive redundant adjectives that make the reader have to absorb the same point over and over and over again.
Now that my work here is done, I must go have a breakfast of croissant, spread with hummus and avocado, chased down by a half-caf fat-free soy latté Turkish Coffee, avec a Cabernet Sauvignon chaser. Sounds ghastly I know, but dammit, my heart is filled with love for mankind, what can I do?
POST SCRIPT: Oh yeah, forgot. I did promise you Fifteen Things You Can Do to Change the World:
Spoiler Alert: You won’t believe item number 13!!!!!!!
- Volunteer for something.
- Give to charity.
- Call or visit your grandmother. She’s lonely, she misses you, and she’s one fourth of what you are.
- Today, try to read something that’s more than 140 characters.
- Now, try to read something that’s more than 140 words. Squirrel!
- Go someplace really amazing, don’t take a Selfie of your big face in the amazing view, vista, landscape, artwork, whatever, and next week, see if you can still remember being there.
- See if you can prove to your friends that you went there, without the selfie. Perhaps your description of the wonders will achieve this.
- Instead of playing Farmville, come the bonnie spring, go out into your own backyard and plant an actual damn plant. For the love of pete, grow something you can actually put in your piehole. (Same goes for Cafeville.)
- Speaking of Cafeville, how about getting off your Slimfast ass and bake an actual pie!
- Or just shut down the computer and walk around the block and get some goddam fresh air.
- Volunteer for something else.
- Give a gift to someone who needs it in a loved one’s name, instead of marching through the mall like a Walking Dead zombie, and buying someone another stupid sweater.
- Oh, forget it. You wouldn’t have believed it anyway.
- Turn off Facebook for one whole day, and see if the world ends.
- If the world does end, be glad you didn’t spend your last day on earth surfing Facebook, communicating with all your fake friends who, I assure you, will never show up next Saturday to help you move into your new apartment.