It was midwinter break and I had a week off from work as my students were on a well-needed break. I got my ticket and headed to the airport for some much-needed sun in L.A. As I arrived at the airport — maybe it was the activism I have done, maybe it was all the “woke” posts I see on Facebook — something I hadn’t noticed before became clear. As I walk to the terminal, there were signs at the express terminals that read “Elite” and “First Class.” I’ve never found myself in one of those lines or had whatever credentials needed to be accepted by the smiling strangers at the desk.
I stopped and thought to myself, “We quite literally are lining up people like cattle, according to arbitrary guidelines for ‘good enough’ to be in the fast lane.” It was just so clear: This sign tells people their worth and in bold bright letters, in color sync with their respective airline themes. As if someone traveling with sufficient (insignificant) credit score numbers is more important than the events in the lives of those in general ticketing.
I wish I was done, but as you wait to board, they call first on the intercom: “Zone 1 and our Elite and Active Military/Families may board.” Active military, get priority seating over anyone else; over the life-saving surgeon, the community activist who’s been arrested for serving meals to hundreds homeless people, over the eldest child of color who’s playing the role of Mom and Dad while their single parent is at work, over the special needs teacher and so many others. All for the active military personnel who has joined an organization that condones killing.
After work one random freezing cold weekday, I stopped by Starbucks and a man of mixed racial descent, who appeared to not look like he worked in a downtown office building, walked in and sat down to get out of the cold. Ten seconds after he sat down, a security guard in the affluent downtown area walked over and told him that he cannot be in here, and embarrassed the man in front of everyone. The guard looked at me, as I was not in a suit and tie, but did a double take because he saw I had a drink. Would he kick himself out if he was in the same situation? Why didn’t he ask the popularly dressed Caucasian man behind him on his laptop, also loitering but this time just using the free Wi-Fi?
At work we practice with 40-hour-a-week devotion the artificial construct of human worth in visible, color-coded, pyramid order. We still fall slave to the warped horizon line of our own existence staring up the narrowing road of character, emotion, community and keeper of brother- and sister-like spirit in the rat-race pretend world.
This is the real world. We are here, we are alive and all the illusion, all the myths of power, all the high-seated delirium is folly.
Gui Jean-Paul Chevalier is a Seattle-based recording artist and author from rural Washington, living counter-small-town mind for the cause of humanity. View previous columns from Gui.