Smile Politely

We are all the emu. Long live the emu!

Screenshot of a video of an emu crossing I-74 in Champaign on a sunny day.
Amanda Brennan on Twitter

Emus are majestically awkward, land-bound birds native to Australia. So, pardoning my French, what the fuck is an emu doing wandering around Champaign-Urbana? Apart from delighting locals, course.

First spotted in Urbana on May 9, 2023 attempting to cross I-74 near the University Ave exit, nearly two weeks later it is still eluding capture by authorities. Meteorologist Jacob Dickey posts periodic updates to his Facebook page letting everyone know that it’s still out there being majestic and awkward in C-U. And the longer the emu remains free, the more people seem to rally behind it’s misguided adventures.

Which, as it turns out, actually began more than eight 8 months ago. Danville resident Lance Dillon believes the runaway bird may be his — a repeat escapee after his entire flock of emus was let out of their fence last summer. This symbol of freedom could not be contained by a mere trailer and broke free via a “failed door.” 

In my heart of hearts, I like to imagine that this emu, which I think of as Liberty McBirdface, realized it was being taken back to a county which recently tried to pass an unconstitutional abortion ban and where a man purposefully drove his car into a planned abortion clinic which he also intended to set on fire, and said to itself, “Liberty McBirdface, it’s better to go hungry in freedom than to feast in the company of assholes.”

Which, as a native Virginian who misses abundant trees and mountains and family, I totally get. There are so many gorgeous states in our union whose politics ensure that I will rarely visit and never live. And as a queer, Jewish woman, why would I choose to go somewhere where my rights to bodily autonomy and to safely exist are at risk (presuming the luxury of choice)? 

Of course, I note the irony that the bird seems to have more rights to life as livestock and property than a human being would. We all know if it was a person running around on the interstate and squatting on other people’s property the police would be much more willing to use lethal force. Which, to be clear, they shouldn’t use on people or birds. 

I think we all crave freedom to be majestically awkward and move freely within the world, to live without the constant threat of oppressive politics and fascism hanging over our heads, jamming a conservative Christian ideology down our throats. This stupid bird evading authority is a symbol of hope for a better future. We are all the emu. Long live the emu!

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