I opened the latest issue (July 25, 2014) of THE WEEK and read a blurb in “It wasn’t all bad” about six-year-old Emily Heaton who asked her father if she could be a princess. Jeremiah Heaton “began scouring the globe for terra nullius, land unclaimed by any nation”—and found it. Heaton is one accommodating dad. He made a flag and secured the territory—an area of African desert between Egypt and Sudan. It’s now the Kingdom of North Sudan and Emily is its princess. Heaton’s “seeking official recognition from neighboring countries and the UN.”
Jeez, Emily must have a pony or two already, but Daddy’s set one impossible bar for Emily’s future satisfaction, whatever she covets, whether she chooses to be single or unites with either a man or a woman. Who could top this gift? Who’d care to try?
In his zeal to express love (?), to give Emily everything she wants (and maybe nothing she needs), Daddy Heaton may have used poor judgment.
Scenes of the Heatons at home are swirling in my mind:
“I WANT to go NOW,” screams Emily.
“But we can’t. I have to be in Miami.”
“Why is it YOUR ami? Why isn’t it My ami.”
“Please, Emily, you already have a kingdom.”
And there’s this consideration: What if resources necessary to American consumers are discovered in the Kingdom of North Sudan?
“Princess, we have a problem. Troops just toppled your statue.”
Okay, THE WEEK abbreviates these stories. I need to Google, for more–inquiring mind, you know. Yes, there’s a mommy, intact family. Emily has two brothers. And GET this: Emily’s parents have asked family members and friends to call their daughter Princess Emily. Don’t they realize someone’s going to beat the shit out of their daughter? That kids will be lining up to beat the shit out of their daughter?
Imagine Emily on the playground, “I’m a straight-A student AND a princess.” Yeah, she’s going to get the shit beat out of her.
My, my, this story truly is icky. On a different site, I saw Heaton’s explanation that he’d have “given the same answer if she had asked if she could be an astronaut or a doctor — because he wants his daughter to believe she can be whatever she wants.” I’m really struggling here, thinking about those two avocations, astronaut and doctor, that they require years of education, dedication. You can’t just stick a flag in a yard and suddenly have the expertise to perform a gastrectomy. Emily didn’t lift a finger to become a princess. Here’s a smidge of hope though. She wants her nation (800 square miles) to be a garden, to feed the starving, even though it’s a desert.
Oops, I’ve spotted an inconsistency: On one of the links, Daddy says he never calls Emily “princess” unless he’s asking her to do a chore, to “show there’s work accompanied with that title.”
Maybe like this:
“Princess Emily, help your mother iron my boxers.”
“No, that’s MAN-ual labor, and I’m a princess.”
Uh, oh, seems there’s controversy in planting that flag to claim ownership, particularly relevant in light of conflicts and casualties—today and throughout history—over land. According to Shelia Carapico, professor of political science and international studies at the University of Richmond, Heaton’s claim requires recognition by the other African nations or the United Nations. Furthermore, Carapico says it’s “not plausible for someone to plant a flag and say they have political control over the land without legal recognition.
But wait. I think I see the ulterior motive, more than a father’s display of love for his daughter: At the top of The Kingdom of Sudan’s flag is a star, representing Mrs. Heaton. At the bottom are three small stars, representing the Heaton children. And in the CENTER, there’s a crown, representing—drumroll, please … Jeremiah Heaton, the king. Yeesh. No wonder he purchased a $1600.00 plane ticket and traveled 8,000 miles to claim that terra firma. He’s the KING. Talk about enTITLEment. And now I’m wondering if King Jeremiah’s taken that pledge to protect Princess Emily’s virginity. Excuse me while I sleuth.
(I wrote an article about Gaza and the continuing carnage, ending with my wish for peace. It was ready for submission. Laura and Erma said no, insisted I lighten up. I. Am. Trying. But I’m horrified, anguished by the inhumanity.)
Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Baltimore. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org