Friday, September 13, 2019

Hello. From Texas.

Howdy y'all. It's Texas over here...looking brilliant, as we so often do (not).

Maybe you think of us as your slow-talking younger cousin - the one who always wiggles into the spotlight at holiday dinners with folksy, down-home chit-chat. Your least favorite relative with unassuming charmishness that makes you want to throw up and hug her all at the same time.

Or maybe you imagine us the way we of the Blue Underground (aka residents of Austin) are drawing the cultural meme of a Texan today: Mean-spirited and All-The-Way Stupid.

I speak not of Beto O'Rourke. Beto may be a straight, white guy with all the privilege in the world and a skewed perception of his political range - but he is not stupid or mean-spirited. He does say what he's thinking. And, really, who could argue with the words he used last night to describe the pile of manure that is the current political dancing around gun control:

We have to be bigger. We have to see clearly. We have to speak honestly. And we have to act decisively. That's what he said. Then a few minutes later, our tall, awkward Senate-candidate-gone-big got decisive:

DAVID MUIR, ABC news: You said, quote, Americans who own AR-15s and AK-47s will have to sell them to the government, all of them. You know the critics call this confiscation. Are you proposing taking away their guns and how would this work? 

O'ROURKE: I am, if it is a weapon that was designed to kill people on a battlefield; if a high impact high velocity round hits your body and shreds everything inside of your body because it was designed to do that so that you would bleed to death on a battlefield and not be able to get up and kill one of our soldiers. When we see that being used against children and, in Odessa, I met the mother of a 15-year old girl who was shot by an AR-15 and that mother watched her bleed to death over the course of an hour because so many other people were shot by that AR-15 in Odessa and Midland there weren't enough ambulances to get to them in time. Hell yes, we are going to take your AR-15, your AK-47. 

(Wild applause here)

O'ROURKE: We are not going to allow it to be used against fellow Americans anymore. 

Natch, eleven of those words became the quote of the night from Beto: Hell yes we are going to take your AR-15, your AK-47. 

The TSU-Houston crowd liked it.
I liked it.
Plenty of people I was watching on Twitter liked it.

But one big goofwad in Texas decided to be the voice of All-The-Way Stupid people in the Lone Star state, and - lawdamercy - there are so many of those people. I can say this with confidence because I live here. And because the person who so boldly went, last night, where his Party Leader in the White House usually goes with cowardly gripes is a state legislator - a man elected by the people - from Deer Park, Texas. Deer Park is in Harris County, by the way. Which is Houston's county. Which is the very county Dems are hailing as the pivotal electoral boundary in the arduous uphill run to turn Texas blue.

I digress.

Here's what State Representative Briscoe Cain put out into the Twitterverse last night:

My AR is ready for you Robert Francis. 

The tweet was gone before I got a look at it. Thank you, Twitter. Apparently death threats violate some rule of decency on the social media platform. Who knew? Anyway, I'm taking the internet's word on the content of the tweet. But I am judicious, and always hesitant to make inferences from tweets.

Perhaps our All-The-Way Stupid elected representative from District 128 (lookin' at you right now actual voters in 128) thought we wouldn't know he was talking about the presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke with his disregard of the man's reported lifelong nickname of Beto. Maybe Briscoe Cain was just trying to say, Um, sure Beto, I'll get it boxed up for you.

A girl in Texas can hope.

Beto didn't take it that way, though.

O'ROURKE on Twitter: This is a death threat, Representative. Clearly, you shouldn't own an AR-15 - and neither should anyone else.  

Then Beto called the authorities.

I'm not sure what kind of day the Republican lawmaker from TX-128 had today. Let's assume not typical. He probably received congratulatory calls from all the assault-rifle-carrying ranchers in his hometown of 10 square miles, 9,000 homes, and 30,000 people. (Yes, I'm making the point that there probably aren't many ranches in Deer Park, Texas, where 2,750 people squish up into one square mile.) But it's Texas, you know. We find reasons to have guns.

One would like to imagine a public death threat from a guy who was kicked out of the state Democratic convention in 2018 for showing up with a pistol and pro-gun pamphlets would lead to a tiny bit of time with the Po-Po. (Let's just say it would if Briscoe Cain was a black man, shall we?)

No idea, really, what's been happening in Rep. Cain's world today (ahem, he also proposed abolishing the city of Austin this week over abortion access funding), but he definitely had time to update his website. And to make perfectly clear what he meant when he tweeted My AR is ready for you...

There is one way to make America safe. Beto knows what it is. At the core of our beings, we all know what it is. And Briscoe Cain is the kind of hotheaded fool who just stands right up and proves the point.


Next time, let's talk about the governor of our smart state who believes voluntary background checks in private gun sales will be sufficient to keep us all safe.

Friday, March 8, 2019

On Being Ordinary in Selma

I came to Selma. Finally.

I drove the 54-mile road to Montgomery, along the path where thousands walked in 1965. I saw the campsite locations for the walkers, most of whom set out on the journey - for a piece of freedom they knew the 14th amendment to the constitution had already had promised them - in their Sunday clothes.

I saw the memorial for a brave white mother from Detroit who heard the call for everyone who believed in justice, fairness, and America to come to Selma. She did. And she died.

I arrived at Alabama's state capital - one hour...not four days - later, to the grounds of St. Jude's Catholic Hospital/School with a sense of joy and relief. I cried.

Our trip began here 2 days ago, at the Edmund Pettus bridge. A quiet, sun-drenched morning put a little shine on this otherwise crumbling, poverty plagued South-Central Alabama town:

We came to remember this cold, drizzly day...March 7, 1965:

That was the day hundreds of Americans who believed every US citizen deserved the right to vote without qualification, harassment, or intimidation showed up to make a point. They would walk 54 miles to the state's capital, Montgomery, to let Alabama's segregationist governor know they were fed up with a post Civil War/ratified-14th-amendment-to-the-Constitution system that kept them from the most basic right in this country. Voting.

Those 1965 people were greeted with this on the Edmund Pettus (too much to say about who Edmund Pettus on the link) bridge:

We - my husband and I, 54 years later - threatened by nothing but shadows of ourselves:

By the time we arrived in Montgomery - unencumbered by state troopers, national guard, blisters, rain - I knew it had taken 3 separate attempts to get the march all the way to the capital. When an accumulated 10,000 marchers joined hands on the steps of Montgomery's Capitol building on March 25, 1965, more than 50 people had been hospitalized with injuries inflicted by Alabama law enforcers, and 3 people had been murdered by white supremacists.

They marched to a building to be seen and heard by an elected head of state who wouldn't come out of his office to greet them. But they were seen. They were heard. Just not by 9 year old me. Until this week.  And I am moved almost beyond words.

These people believed a bitter war had freed them 100 years before. They believed two subsequent amendments to the U.S. Constitution (13th and 14th, both ratified in 1868) had given them full rights as citizens of this country. They believed ordinary people doing extraordinary things would make a difference.

And they were right. President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law in August, 1965.

If I've learned anything on this Civil Rights trail of tears we've been traveling, it's that I know nothing about being tossed to the fringes of humanity. Nothing about believing in what's right. Nothing, really, about the cost of freedom. I've never had to know.

I am a white woman of great privilege, learning a history of extraordinary people.

And, I am still desperately trying to pay attention...
Thank you Selma, for the reminder that the fight of 1965 is not yet won:

There is more to do.
And more to say. Stay tuned.