So, like…we’d do anything for our kids, right? Anything. As in, your kid wants to take up soccer, you buy them cleats. Your kid wants a LEGO minifig that isn’t in stores anymore, you hop online and get it for their birthday. Your kid needs a good education, so you put in more hours at work to afford the right school. Your kid wants to be a princess, so you go to Africa, plant a flag on some disputed land and claim it as your own.
WHOA WHOA WHOA, back up. Which LEGO minifig? Those things get expensive when they’re discontinued.
Some dude obviously read our intro and was all “Yep. BRB OMW 2 Africa BBL.” That’s what Virginia dad Jeremiah Heaton did at least.
Heaton’s daughter Emily asked last winter if she could be a real princess. So like a dad of a six year old usually does, he was all “PSSSHH YEAH GIRL.” Not a direct quote.
S**t got real when Heaton started researching unclaimed land on the internet (because that’s a thing) and found some little trapezoid of land in Africa. That trapezoid has a name – Bir Tawil – and is sandwiched between Egypt and Sudan. Heaton and his family got to work on a flag, and came up with a blue flag with four white stars and a seal containing a rocky hill adorned with a crown. I mean, whatever, right?
WRONG. Heaton then headed to Egypt, told a bunch of locals that he was going to claim the land for his daughter, and between gales of uproarious laughter, the locals pointed toward the Bir Tawil area. Heaton hoofed it out there, I’m sure muttering one of those white-person phrases like “he who laughs last, laughs longest.” Dude then planted a flag like he was one of the soldiers at Iwo Jima, declared Bir Tawil the “Kingdom of North Sudan” (way to appeal to the locals) and called it a day.
Wow. None of the local citizens or countries must have ever thought about claiming Bir Tawil for themselves. Silly them. They should have just brought a flag. That s**t makes it absolutely clear as day that the region is now yours.
WRONG. What Heaton forgot was that he’s not one of the soldiers at Iwo Jima, nor is he Leif Erikson. As Role Reboot‘s article on this pointed out, no one’s dared a move like this in quite some time – except Russia in 2007, which thought it could just plant a flag on the North Pole’s seabed to claim it. They too were wrong.
Pleased as punch, Heaton returned home, and according to (your source for up-to-the-minute news) TriCities.com, “he and his wife, Kelly, got their daughter a princess crown, and asked family members to address her as Princess Emily.”
Oh! Well that settles it!
Heaton was quoted by the Washington Post as saying “I wanted to show my kids I will literally go to the ends of the earth to make their wishes and dreams come true.” Which totally makes sense when your kid is six and doesn’t understand stuff like international politics, borders, royalty, how countries are formed, and other totally not-Sesame-Streetable topics.
Shelia Carapico, professor of political science and international studies at the University of Richmond and total buzzkill, told TriCities.com that regardless of whether the internet says so, no one really knows whether Bir Tawil is actually owned by someone. It might be, even if it’s not part of a political nation. And even if it was free for the taking, Heaton would need “legal recognition from neighboring countries, the United Nations or other groups.” Heaton, for the record, plans on getting that. Thumbs up, bro. You did your homework.
“If we can turn North Sudan into an agricultural hub for the area … a lot of technology has gone into agriculture and water,” Heaton told anyone who would listen. “These are the things [the kids] are concerned with.”
Yes, of course! Just like that! Agricultural hub! Technology! POOF! It’s just as fun as playing Sid Meier’s Civilization V.
It should be noted that Heaton ran for Congress out of Virginia’s 9th district in 2012. It didn’t go well. Which is exactly the point where this story feels weird. Dude didn’t make it into Congress, so now he’s literally gone to Africa to scoop up a region and declare himself the King. I mean, for crying out loud, just Instagram some pics of your daughter with a tiara on and then inspire her to get involved in politics the right way. Maybe she’ll change the world someday.
But look, what the hell are you teaching your kids here? First, your daughter asks if she can be a princess, so you just run off and try to make it happen. What happens when next month, your other kid wants to be a starfighter pilot? What are you going to do, just so that your kids don’t have to suffer the mediocrity of reality? What happens when the third kid says he wants to be an assassin? WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO PLANNING A TRIP TO DISNEYLAND?
Real talk: I’m sure Jeremiah is a fine father. In fact, I spent some time creeping on his Facebook profile looking for damning evidence. But he looks like he’s a good dad. His kids are loved, active and have full lives that include charity, sports and the arts.
But this whole land-grab thing. Big sigh, Jeremiah.