Flags of our Freedom: Everybody Deserves Rights and Respect, Especially Sharks

It was only a matter of time, it was a long time coming, it was justice done for those now and in the future, it was justice done too late for some, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity – oh, sorry, that just happens sometimes when I get started like that. What I mean to convey is that the landmark decision delivered by the Supreme Court of the United States this past weekend regarding marriage equality for all, thereby granting same-sex couples the same marriage rights and opportunities as heterosexual couples, is one that was an eventuality but should have been official for many years prior to now. I can understand how the Founding Fathers didn’t work in a specific section on same-sex couples when they first drafted the Constitution, yet that was a different era and a long time ago. We have come to a greater understanding of the world we live on, the universe we live in, and the differences and similarities between us all since then. Brave people have been fighting this particular fight for equal rights for all for a long time with considerably fewer successes, and many did not live to see the change they so desired to come to fruition. Nonetheless, their lives’ work was not in vain, and I and many others am very happy with the Supreme Court’s ruling, and it certainly is better late than never, even if the supporters and dissenters sound like the plaintiff and defendant walking out of Judge Judy’s courtroom: “It was fair and just because I won,” “I don’t think it was fair at all because I lost the case. The lesson is never trust anyone.”

Another example of better late than never that is all the more incredible to me is the recent removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina Statehouse in its capital Columbia. I understand that there are cultural differences between northern and southern states that go back to the days when America was still part of the British Empire, and I am aware that many residents of southern states like to proudly declare that they have been fighting “northern aggression” since 1861, but God damn it, why? Do you not understand the reason for that “northern aggression” from 1861-1865? Most people in the North weren’t fans of forcing people into servitude anymore and decided to take action to rid the country of slavery, a cause worth fighting for to ensure that all humans are granted their inherent human rights. The Confederate States of America was a thankfully short-lived attempt to create a new nation that not only condoned slavery but thrived off of it by splitting off half of a growing nation trying to better itself (which, admittedly, it did not always do well or without harming or occasionally destroying other cultures). What remains from the memory of the American Civil War is quite plentiful and varied from monuments and national landmarks to photographs and texts to not much of the original Atlanta, but the greatest lesson learned was the terrible impact of slavery and racial hate. This lesson seems not to have been learned by everyone though, as far too many still fly and revere the Confederate flag – which isn’t even the official flag of the former CSA (that’s this thing), but a flag flown by troops of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia that became more well known over time as the battle banner of the South.

That banner still declares battle, but finally it seems the tide is turning against it as people like myself are wondering how a symbol that is rooted in the most despicable part of American history is still featured predominantly and even on a government building. Well, not anymore at least.

Continuing with turmoil in the Carolinas, us humans (my apologies to any dogs, cats, robots, or any other non-humans reading) are not the only ones with basic rights that should be respected though. My favorite animals have been having some bad PR lately as six people have been bitten by sharks in the last three weeks with most occurring along North Carolina’s Outer Banks islands. This doesn’t have anything to do with the 40th anniversary of the release of Jaws though. Instead it is most likely that the number of beach-going humans getting into the water is increasing. Natural factors such as warmer water and bait fish coming in to popular swimming areas contribute to the number of sharks coming into contact with people increasing this year, but it is up to us to be mindful of them when we enter their domain. We may be going to the beach to enjoy some fun in the sun, but the sharks don’t know that. They’re thinking, “I gotta eat, I gotta hunt, I gotta…” well, you know. Sharks are wild animals and our fun in the sun locations are their natural habitats. They are attracted to many of our recreational activities because they are similar to the signs they have to look out for to get food, like playful splashing being like the panicked motions of an injured fish, or bait or chum in the water for fishing being like, well a shark’s natural food because it is. If you do go swimming in the ocean remember to stay in a group; keep close to shore if at all possible (you have more to worry about with riptides in the Outer Banks than sharks with this one); steer clear of where there is fishing going on or where you see smaller fish swimming around; don’t go in the water with an open wound (you have more to worry about from the sting of saltwater with this one); stay out of murky water; avoid swimming at early morning, evening, and night, and after it rains; and don’t wear anything shiny or colors that really stand out in the water like yellow or orange. Surfers, you know what you’re getting into better than I do, so hang loose out there. Rest assured, that your odds of having a bad encounter with a shark are extremely low. The International Shark Attack File kept by curator George Burgess at the Florida Museum of Natural History says the odds of being bitten by a shark is around 1 in 11.5 million. So don’t exactly wet your wetsuit just yet.

Thanks for reading! Be safe over the holiday weekend so that you can come back here next week and read more enthralling information. As usual, direct any comments or queries below or to monotrememadness@gmail.com. And remember to aim away from yourself and others and back away after lighting the fuse.

Have a happy (American) Independence Day,


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