Today I’d like to talk about the disgusting appearance of Mark and Patricia McCloskey at the Republican National Convention.
I know this news is almost two weeks old, but there’s been a lot of traumatic news to process recently, so forgive me if it took some time to parse and articulate my thoughts on this one.
If you don’t know who these people are, I kindly direct you to the Googles for a deep dive. But as a quick refresher, this is the couple of bloated boat shoes who pointed guns at BLM protesters who were walking past their house in St Louis a few weeks ago.
There is sooooooooooo much wrong with absolutely everything involving these Khaki Klan Commandos. And I’m about to go over some of it in detail. But if you don’t feel like reading, or if you only plan to take away one thing from this ranting, make sure that you understand this: By featuring the McCloskeys, the Republican party is PURPOSEFULLY promoting blatant racists and racism. They went on national TV and said “We are racist. If you are racist, too, then vote for us.” Think about whether you can stomach being okay with that. No matter where you fall on any other issues, that call to action, calling all racists, should sicken you, and you should reject it.
But maybe you’re thinking, “Oh come on, that’s not what they said!” Okay, fair enough. Let’s look at what they said.
First, they made a little joke about how everyone critiqued their gun handling skills. Ha ha! Funny stuff! Self-deprecation for levity! The thing is, gun safety is not something to joke about. I know quite a few gun owners (most of them right-leaning), and have myself probably fired more weapons than you would ever expect from someone with my political leanings, and the very first thing that is ever considered when handling guns is safety and responsibility. Gun advocates get angry when liberal politicians talk about guns without having properly educated themselves about the topic first (“Can you believe they are calling the AR an ‘assault rifle?’ etc). So having these idiots, who violated every basic rule of gun safety, as your “hooray 2nd amendment” speakers is just straight-up bonkers and wrong.
But this HILARIOUS JOKE about that time they got called out for endangering lives is not what I want to talk about today. What I want to talk about came next, and that is this quote here: “What you saw happen to us could just as easily happen to any of you who are watching from quiet neighborhoods.”
Let me repeat that in case you missed it.
“What you saw happen to us could just as easily happen to any of you who are watching from quiet neighborhoods.”
I screamed at my computer screen when I heard this line. “What you saw happen to us.” My head spun in disbelief. What we saw happen TO THEM. What did we see happen to them?
SOME PEOPLE WALKED PAST THEIR HOUSE!!!!!
That’s what happened to them! Oh the horror! Oh the humanity! And holy shit, did they say… this could happen TO ME? You mean, right now, out on the sidewalk, there could be… PEOPLE WALKING?! Everyone hold on… I need to check out my window… Oh my God, THEY WERE RIGHT! There’s is a lady out there RIGHT NOW with a stroller! Whatever can I do to protect myself?! I know… I HAVE TO GO GET MY GUN!!!!!!!
The McCloskeys later continued to explain how the atrocity (people walking on a sidewalk) that happened to them could also happen to you and me!
“They’re not satisfied with spreading the chaos and violence into our communities. They want to abolish the suburbs altogether by ending single-family home zoning, This forced rezoning would bring crime, lawlessness, and low-quality apartments into now-thriving suburban neighborhoods… These are the policies that are coming to a neighborhood near you. So make no mistake, no matter where you live, your family will not be safe in the radical Democrats’ America.”
The first flawed assumption here is that everyone lives in the suburbs. I guess there aren’t any actual human beings living in those low-quality apartments, huh? No safety for YOU, apartment-living-families! Or maybe the Mcloskey’s simply assume that every viewer of the RNC lives in a single-family home suburb.
Which is weird, because they, themselves, do not live in the suburbs. They live in St Louis’ Central West End neighborhood, which is almost in the dead center of a city with a population of over 160,000 people. Here is their neighborhood on a map of the city:
Here are some photos of their neighborhood. I dunno, guys. This looks pretty damn urban to me!
That towering 20+ story high-rise in the first picture, by the way? This one right here? It’s only two blocks from the McCloskeys’ “suburban” house.
The McCloskeys have the audacity to suggest that their “quiet neighborhood” is the same as yours and mine. Maybe they’re right. Does your family live in a single-family house on a nice tree-lined street? Did you grow up in one? Isn’t that the apple-pie-loving American Dream we all grew up with, with baseball games on the weekends and tire swings in our yards? Then tell me… was your suburban childhood street lined with historic 9,000 square foot million-dollar mansions?
When you climb the stairs to tuck in your kids at night, do those stairs look like this?
When your entire family squeezes around the table for Thanksgiving turkey, does that table look like this?
And when your kid’s schoolmates come over to ride bikes in the driveway, are they confronted by this?
Safe money says that your home is likely not like their home. Your neighborhood is likely not like their neighborhood. If you’re fortunate enough to own a home with its own ballroom, then congratulations on your success and I hope you can find someone to restore your 19th century ceiling murals at a reasonable price, but you have to admit that residential situation is a bit of a mismatch for the vast majority of Americans.
Having the McCloskeys talk about “our communities” or “any of you who are watching from quiet neighborhoods,” when the entirety of the average new construction house in the US (2,600 square feet) can fit inside a single room in their house (the ballroom is 3,150 square feet) is ludicrous.
These people aren’t mad because someone came walking by their suburban house on the sidewalk. These people are mad because the serfs dared to come near their castle.
Now you may be thinking, “None of that matters. What really happened here is that the passersby were trespassing, and the Bonnie and Clyde Wanna-Bes felt threatened and were just protecting their private property, which is their constitutional right.” Sure. I mean, at no point did anyone cross onto their property, or act as if they were going to. They were literally just cutting through the neighborhood. The gray area in the law is whether they were legally allowed to be on the street in the first place, because St Louis has a series of these weird things called “private streets.” I listened to a whole podcast of lawyers discussing the legality of private streets and didn’t get much clarity on whether non-residents are legally allowed to walk on them or not, but for the sake of argument let’s just assume that being on the sidewalk is not permitted after all. The protesters are now violating a law. Note, they’re not doing anything to the McKloskey’s; they are violating an unrelated law.
So, to summarize: the McCloskeys live in a gigantic mansion in the middle of a city where a minor law was broken near their house.
Now, it’s time for me to make a confession….
I do actually happen to live in in a neighborhood quite similar to the McCloskeys. We’re an idyllic residential neighborhood comprised mostly of historic single-family homes that sell for roughly a million dollars a pop. The very nicest streets and homes go for 2 million, and I’ve seen one go for over 3 million. Just a block or two over, the cheapest homes are modest 2-bedroom townhouses start at $650,000, which is similar to home prices one block over from the McCloskeys. We are virtually in the center of a city (roughly half the size of St Louis), border the main commercial downtown area like they do, and even live 1 block away from a tall hotel like they do. Even our house placements are similar- the McCloskeys live in the first building on their street, and we live in the first building in ours.
So maybe it turns out that these dickbags are talking to me after all! And I have actually run into situations like the ones that happened to the McCloskeys, so I can relate on some level for sure. I’ll tell you all about them!
But before I do, you should know that there’s one major difference between their home and mine. Visitors to their street are rejected by a “Residents Only” sign, and visitors to my street are greeted by our trilingual “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor” sign.
Let’s start with a story about lawbreakers near my house. The McCloskeys home directly connect to a private street; my home directly connects to a small park. I cannot begin to tell you about the amount of lawlessness that I see happening back there, mere feet away from me and my family! I mean, I totally see where the McCloskeys are coming from here. It is terrifying when crowds of people gather right by your house in a conspiracy to break the law. Now, in the McCloskeys case, these menacing ne’er-do-wells walked down a private sidewalk. OF COURSE these innocent homeowners felt threatened! So OF COURSE the right course of action was to draw a weapon! Because, in my neighborhood, every single day, I have to live with the horror of…
Unleashed dogs. It is not only ILLEGAL to have your dog off leash, it is DANGEROUS. Did you know that every single year, 4.5 million people are bitten by dog?! It’s true! And these monsters are back there just running around, threatening my home with their lethal jaws. And there are children out there playing on the swing set! So, I think we can all agree, the right course of action in my case is to brandish my firearm at my neighbors every time they let their dogs chase a tennis ball. And, actually, if we can all agree that the McCloskeys were being patriotic Americans for defending their home from sidewalk trespassers, then I should probably be given a presidential medal of freedom for firing my warning shots over Fido and Spot. Since my situation is actually much more dangerous.
In St Louis, the protesters also broke a gate. Yeah, I can’t approve of that. The same way I can’t approve of the high schoolers who stole a whole bunch of Halloween decorations from everyone’s yards last year. That’s why, instead of either calling the cops or trying to snap some photos or video, I chased them down the street with a shotgun. Because that zombie garden gnome was MY PROPERTY, dammit, and those zit-splotched little shits deserve to DIE. (Full disclosure- these thefts actually didn’t happen to me but to a row of homes one neighborhood over from mine. But it works well for illustration.)
And don’t even get me started on folks riding their bikes ON THE SIDEWALK when there is a perfectly good bike lane right there! That’s why I put down landmines in front of my house. ‘MURICA!
Let’s be real here. The McCloskeys aren’t pretending to relate to you as a suburbanite, because they live in a city. They aren’t pretending to relate to you as a typical single-family home owner, because their “single family home” is a gilded palace designed to impress, intimidate, and shut out the middle and lower classes. They aren’t pretending to relate to you as a gun enthusiast, because no real gun enthusiasts would handle their firearms so poorly. They aren’t pretending to relate to you as a defender of law and order, because you would absolutely not approve of your own neighbors waving guns around for every tiny infraction that happens on the street where your kids play. And they aren’t pretending to relate to you as a defender of property rights, because you know in your soul that human life is worth more than material possessions (at least, I really, really hope that you do).
No. What the McCloskeys are doing is pretending to relate to you because you are scared of shady-looking characters approaching you, your family, and your home.
And here, they’re right. None of us wants to feel unsafe. And when the world turns in to news of protests turning violent, we all tense up. We feel scared and unsafe. We are nervous and anxious. And of course we don’t want that unease near our own homes. Of course we don’t. Nobody does.
And so, for this, I have another true story. A longer story. A serious story. An honest story.
This one happened a few months ago. It was around 9pm on a Sunday night, and my husband and I were in our kitchen cooking a late dinner. We left our front door open, with the glass-fronted storm door shut, so that our dog Sarge could sit and watch the world outside (we call it Sarge TV). Sarge is a 120 pound rottweiler mix who is as lovable and sweet as can be, unless you’re a black lab or a mailman, in which case he will bark at youwith the fury of a thousand crazed hellbeasts. From the kitchen, we heard Sarge start barking like crazy. No big deal, probably a black lab or a mailman in the vicinity. But then we realized we could hear the sound of the storm door opening. I ran to the door, and saw Sarge still barking and trying to push his way outside- apparently we hadn’t pulled the door shut enough for it to latch, and he was trying to get at someone or something on the other side of the door. I grabbed his collar and sighed with relief, until I looked up and noticed a man standing on my porch, just a couple feet away from me, looking scared to death.
I’ll be blunt. This guy looked shady. 9pm on a Sunday is a weird enough time for anyone to stop by; but at any time, this guy didn’t resemble a delivery driver, or a teen magazine salesman, or a neighbor coming to ask if we’ve seen his lost goldendoodle. This guy looked, frankly, homeless. Seeing homeless people isn’t unusual; just like the McKlotskeys, we live in a city, and our home borders a park with benches that folks will sometimes sleep on. But coming straight up to our door, wihch requires climbing a flight of outdoor stairs, was very unusual. I figured this guy was likely crazy, or on drugs, or maybe a scammer. The guy kept looking nervously at Sarge, but didn’t leave. Instead he started telling me some sort of nutso-sounding sob story that I figured he’d made up, and he asked for money.
My initial thought was that the easiest way to get rid of him was to just hand him a couple bucks and then swiftly lock the door. My mind was still trying to work out what this guy’s scam was (is he casing the joint?), but my conscience said that in the off chance he’s legit, I’ll have done a good deed. My husband stayed at the door with the guy (scary rottweiler still at his side to keep the guy back) while I ran upstairs to grab some cash. But by the time we got around to handing him the money, after the guy had calmed down from the fright Sarge had given him, we got to chatting. We actually kept chatting with him for at least 20 or 30 minutes. And while there’s still a tiny chance that his sob story was a load of shit, I don’t think it was.
The story was this: this guy was a professional carpenter who lived in rural Virginia roughly an hour to our west. Carpentry work was hard enough to find even in good times, but since covid hit, it had dried up almost completely. Out of desperation, he took a couple-day job in southern Maryland, about an hour to our west. That’s two hours away from home. But when it came time to pay, the boss stiffed him. Without payment, he didn’t even have enough money to get home. He made it as far as our exit, and coasted to a stop at a train station about a block from our house. He walked to a gas station (nearest one is about a mile away in the opposite direction from our house) and tried to present him professional carpentry tools to the gas station employee as collateral, but they of course would only accept real money. After walking back to his vehicle, he approached a couple people on the street to ask for help, but they all instinctively tightened up and scurried away as he approached. “I know how I come across, and I don’t want any trouble,” he explained (which broke my heart). So he quickly gave up on that idea. He then remembered that an old girlfriend lived about a mile away, this time in the direction of our house, so in desperation he walked all the way to her home. Turns out she doesn’t live there anymore.
As he was walking back to his truck, stranded at 9pm an hour away from home with nowhere to turn, he came by our house. He saw our cheesy “everyone is welcome here” yard sign. He saw our little American flag. He saw that we had our door open. And he thought, “these people seem like they might be good people.”
I wish I remembered this guy’s name, but I could tell he wasn’t proud of having to beg at a stranger’s door like someone out of a Dickens novel. I could tell he took pride in his work. I could tell it was very difficult for him to approach us that night, to admit he needed help. He offered repeatedly to do some sort of work to earn the money. He offered to show us his tools to prove he was legit. But we didn’t have anything, plus we figured this guy still had a lot of driving to do and needed to get home. He had two dogs of his own he needed to go care for. If it weren’t for covid, we would have offered to drive him to the gas station, or maybe even invited him in for dinner (I can’t remember what we were making, but I don’t think it was anytime we could have easily packed up). But with covid fears high, we simply bid him goodnight and good luck.
The McCloskeys would have pulled their guns in this situation. Right? Isn’t that what a true American does? This guy is on MY property (well, okay, my landlord’s property, but whatever), demanding MY hard-earned money! He had no business being here, and he had to leave! That’s the American way. Or at least, that’s the American way that the McCloskeys are advocating at the RNC.
You may have bristled a few paragraphs back, right before I started this story, when I first mentioned a fear of “shady-looking characters.” It may sound like coded language, and it is. For better of for worse, we are visually communicating at all times. We learn to associate certain appearances with certain attributes. Sometimes we purposefully manipulate these appearances to our advantage, such as when we dress in a professional manner to seem more competent at a job interview or board meeting. Sometimes we use these associations to help avoid danger, such as when we avoid walking near the group of drunk guys who keep staring at our boobs. And sometimes, we make visual associations that aren’t fair.
My “shady character” judgment was based partially on behavior (abnormal visitation time means potentially abnormal motives), but also, as I said, partially on appearance. Disheveled, dirty, worn-out, and looking, frankly, exactly like a blue collar worker from rural America. Not someone typically hanging out on porches in my fancy-shmancy neighborhood. Based on demographics and geography, knowing where this guy was from and how that area tends to vote in any given election, there’s a decent chance that this guy is a Trump supporter. He sure looked like one. To me, Trump supporters are the ultimate examples of shadiness.
But what struck me the most in my experience was this guy’s judgment of us. What visual associations were we projecting to him? He said he saw our sign. Our sign is in English, Arabic, and Spanish, and we’ve had it up since Trump took office and started trying to instigate Muslim travel bans and build a wall to keep out “rapist Mexicans.” There’s a chance this guy saw our sign and thought “Ah ha! A bunch of liberal snowflake pansies! They’ll be easy to take advantage of!” But I don’t think so. I think he took us at our word; I think when put out a sign that implied we welcome everyone, he rolled the dice and hoped that we really welcome everyone. This gave me pause because, as I already admitted, I didn’t really welcome him, now did I? Not at first. At first I just wanted him gone. Safe money says that some of the folks he approached on the street also have hippy-dippy signs about acceptance on their lawns, and I know if this guy had approached me on the street I also would have dismissed him and scurried away. And I know I would have been even more eager to get him off my porch if my husband and gigantic rottweiler weren’t home with me.
He also saw our American flag. It’s just a little garden flag, nothing showy, but is a symbol that clearly means something special to many, many people. What did he see in that flag? Did he see all the ideals and dreams that we, as Americans, claim are the backbone of our great nation? Did he see patriotic duty? A sense of justice and dignity and caring? Did he see freedom? Did he see opportunity? This is all crazy cheesy, I know, but imagine just how low and emotional you would have been feeling at that moment if you had been in his shoes. Imagine seeing a symbol that means so much to you that it gave you hope, even in your lowest moments? That symbol is real. For that man, in that moment, that symbol was everything.
Which is why it should really call out to us, Americans, when there are those among us who deserve to feel every bit of love and hope when they see that flag, but who do not. When we see a fellow American kneeling before that flag during the anthem, our reaction should not be anger; it should be abhorrence that we, as a nation, have failed our brothers and sisters so badly that they cannot feel that same love from their country.
The third thing on which our unexpected visitor judged us was our open door. An open door symbolizes openness (duh), friendship, neighborliness. All of the things that the McCloskeys hate. Shut up in a gated neighborhood, in a fortified castle, threatening anyone who dares to come near. The McCloskeys are the kinds of neighbors who smash your kids’ beehive without warning because it’s technically over the property line (they actually did this). They are not the kinds of neighbors who welcome you in for coffee. They are the kinds of neighbors who hide inside an opulent palace, surrounded by walls and gates, and turn up their noses at those who can only afford to live in “low-quality apartments.”
I understand that the McCloskeys are scared. So they hide behind their closed doors. The problem is, when your doors are always closed, you cannot see what is on the other side of them. Because my door was open, the carpenter and I were able to meet and get to know one another. And we learned from the experience. But what can you learn about others when you only shut them out?
The McCloskeys saw those protesters, and they perceived shady people. They saw the passionate anger and the masses, and it scared them. But through their closed minds and closed doors, they cannot see past the anger. They cannot see the reasons for the anger. All they see black people yelling. They see violent crime rates that are higher in black neighborhoods than in their (virtually empty) neighborhood. And their minds said “black people are shady people. They are angry criminals. I don’t want them anywhere near me.”
Here’s where, finally, things are just straight-up racist. Because, when the doors are being swung open by these protesters, by a community of our fellow Americans that has been aching and is now screaming at you “Please! Look at our pain!” the McCloskeys didn’t think, “Wow, why are these people so angry? What could cause such anger? How can we help them?” They thought “This is not my problem. I am different from these people.”
Remember their own words from the convention: “They‘re not satisfied with spreading the chaos and violence into our communities.”
The McKlotskeys went on TV and defined black people, protesters, and poor people as “them.” As something “other.” And they said those “other” people will make “us” unsafe. Their solution is to take all the “others” and leave them segregated, in apparently lawless urban wastelands, without resources or opportunities, far away from “us” in our “quiet suburban neighborhoods” where we don’t even have to see or think about them or their problems. They said “black people have problems and we do not care because we are rich and white.” That is, frankly, one of the most fucked up things I have ever heard in my entire life. This is the message selected by the Republican Party for their convention this year.
Maybe you still think I’m being unfair. Maybe you think “Oh come on, there’s a difference between one dude (who happens to be white) knocking on your door asking a question, and a whole caravan of people (who happen to be black) cutting through a neighborhood. Okay, sure. But, oh wait, it turns out I still have even more in common with the McCloskeys. Because it turns out that BLM protesters DID happen to make an unscheduled detour down my street. Like the McCloskeys, it caught my notice. I couldn’t figure out, at first, what they were doing here. That day’s BLM event was, I thought, way off in another part of town. But here they were, streaming down all the picket-fence-lined sidewalks with their posters and water bottles, seeming very much out-of-place. I later realized that an earlier march happened to have ended at a landmark a block away from me (coincidentally across the street from the shady carpenter’s train station), and what I was seeing was the crowd from that event cutting through to get to the north side of town for a different event.
Well heck, that’s exactly what happened to the McKlotskeys! And you know which idea NEVER came to my mind? OH MY GOD THEY ARE COMING FOR MY PROPERTY I NEED TO GO GET MY GUN! You know what it was not? It was not scary. It was a bunch of human beings walking on a fucking sidewalk. Seeing a bunch of black people in a neighborhood where you usually do not see a bunch of black people does not make a non-racist person scared of those black people. What it does do, and I again speak from experience here, is make you sad to realize how much more work we have to do as a society, because we still have places where it’s unusual to see a bunch of black people.
I’ll end with one more story about my neighborhood. About open doors. My rich, mostly-white neighborhood has a lot of families, and a lot of folks have a lot of fun decorating for Halloween. When we moved in, I excitedly covered my front yard with tons of super cool, spooky decorations, then opened my door and waited. But, to my disappointment, no neighborhood kids stopped to trick-or-treat. I watched them walk past my house to got to some sort of party in the park. The only people who did come by, and they come by every year, were black kids from other neighborhoods. Sometimes they arrived all in a packed minivan, possibly driven in from the mostly-black county across the river. Sometimes they arrived on foot, possibly from the housing projects on the other side of the train tracks. Most of them collected their candy in plastic shopping bags instead of fancy pumpkins buckets or felt sacks like the neighborhood kids I saw walking by.
I don’t know for certain why these families choose to bring their kids to my neighborhood instead of trick-or-treating in their own neighborhoods. Maybe because rich people give better candy. Maybe because their own street didn’t have a lot of families or other Halloween enthusiasts. Maybe it was because our neighborhood was safer. Whatever the reason, the fact is these are children. Families. Out doing something wholesome and wonderful that holds such a special place in the childhood memories of virtually all suburban American kids. These were parents trying to do the best thing for their own children. And they felt that, for whatever reason, they stood a better chance of doing that outside of their own neighborhood.
To me, this means we, as members of a society, as Americans who supposedly believe that all men are created equal, as patriots who consider this the land of opportunity, have failed these American children. And we need to do better. But The McCloskeys see something different. They would have seen this invasion of their quiet suburban neighborhood, pulled their guns, and told those families to go back to the lawless low-quality apartments they came from. Because according to the McCloskeys, and the current Republican Party, and Donald Trump, and you if you choose to listen to this hateful message and vote accordingly, that is what black children deserve.
Think for a moment about where you would like to live. Where would you like to raise your children? Do you want to raise your children in a neighborhood surrounded by “crime” and “lawlessness?” Do you want to live in a neighborhood where your smug charm-school-flunkee neighbors will point a gun at your kids if they dare to ride bikes around in their driveway? Or… would you prefer to live in a neighborhood where every kid can feel safe trick-or-treating? Where every door is open to you in your time of need? And where everyone can see an American flag, or a police officer, or a neighbor, and feel hope and pride instead of fear or shame?
I know my preference. The Republicans, through the McCloskeys’ RNC appearance, have announced their preference. What about you?