Dark forces threaten freedoms in the Lone Star state
Photo: David Mark on Pixabay
Driving through Texas, I see old farms that look all ready to be picked up by mighty winds and spun to Oz. The billboards are for attorneys or anti abortion: “Hit by a truck? Jeff’s here.” There are also a few promises of tanker-sized soft drinks and barbecued meats in between the legal promises.
“Look at the Time – It’s Pie Thirty.”
It is too hot to go walking around bookshops. Houston is approaching 40C. I managed a three-mile round-trip to South Congress Books in Austin the day before, but once the browsing began I realised I was dripping on the books and stood by a fan until my sweat went cold and I started sneezing.
Having learned a lesson, I hang around in an air-conditioned restaurant in Houston. It is just the waiter and me, watching the senate hearings about the January 6 storming of Congress. Every now and again, someone passes through to pick up a coffee or pastry and then remains, horribly mesmerised by the revelations of hoped-for brutality.
Trump tried to throttle his secret service agent as he refused to drive him to the mob. He wanted to have metal detectors taken down, thus making weapons easier to sneak in. Trump didn’t care if people had guns because they were not coming for him.
“If he doesn’t go to prison then democracy, whatever ersatz version we’ve had, is dead,” I say.
The waiter replies, “It’s dead already”.
He is a middle-aged Black man, and he believes that now Roe vs Wade has been repealed by the Supreme Court, they will come to take away more rights.
“They’re coming for me next.”
I misunderstand – I think he is telling me this because he is Black, but it’s because he’s gay. He has the look of resignation of someone who grew up believing there might be change for the better, but as the second decade of this century unfolded, he saw the destructive, regressive forces that want to take away everything from those who are not as them, in the name of a scripture that has gone through two millennia of excisions and rewrites. He sighs and tells me that he sees this as the continuing rise of a toxic evangelism just as the actual numbers of followers dwindle.
Sadly, at 2pm, NBC has to change from the real drama of the hearings to the melodrama of a daytime soap, the change of mood is abrupt enough to make us briefly smile. The waiter tells me that one of the problems is how uninformed people can be, how they can be swayed into believing untruths. A book he returns to time and again is a biography of Benjamin Franklin. “All that time ago he was already warning us of so much that is going on now.”
He reads a lot of history, in particular about the founding fathers. He wants to be well-informed enough to correct those who fictionalise history so it supports their cruel ideology.
Back in my hotel room I read: “The attorney general of Texas, Ken Paxton (Republican), just said that the Supreme Court should overturn Lawrence vs Texas, which struck down laws that banned LGBTQ people from having sex. If this happened, 16 states have laws banning ‘sodomy’ that would immediately go into effect.”
The waiter was right. Sadly, human psychology means that the criminalising of consensual love is more of a vote winner than lifting people out of poverty. If changing many lives for the better is hard and possibly damaging to your profits, then you can promise voters that you will make lives worse for people who are not like them instead and they’ll vote for that.
Watching the UK from across the ocean, I look at the candidates for the Conservative leadership and I see that they offer tax cuts, cruelty and a promise to clamp down on any education that might make children compassionate and empathetic. Every day we see these narcissistic zealots grasp more control is a day that we look to Kurt Vonnegut again and remember his advice to all the babies of the world who might grow to be 100: “Goddammit, you’ve got to be kind”.
This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed, marginalised and vulnerable people the opportunity to earn an income.
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