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high desert sketches

March 16th, 2017 under West Texas Talk » West Texas Talk Highlight

The past, the present, and maybe no future

Jacks (VALERIE HOWARD illustration)

Jacks
(VALERIE HOWARD illustration)

By GEORGE A. COVINGTON

Few among us have not spent some time reflecting on the days when we were kids and the world was a slower, less hectic, and more understandable. Hundreds of novels have been written about the influences affecting a young persons early life. “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” by James Joyce did not have as much impact on me as Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” The first novel was too far away and the second was too close to home.

In those by-gone days, a tattoo was worn by grown ups who had joined the navy and fought in World War II. Body piercings existed only among African tribesman depicted on the pages of the National Geographic. I learned at that early age that ghosts might walk on Halloween night but most ghosts walk the day of the Democratic Primary, which was the only election that mattered in East Texas. In those days of the early 1950s, you loved your country and flag and hated the Russian Communists who were trying to take over the world in the name of the godless Stalin.

East Texas bigots had only the African Americans to scorn and hate, of course they didn’t call them African Americans in those days. They were no Hispanic families in Texarkana, Texas, and those folks were seldom seen except in the back of pick-up trucks headed for Arkansas to pick crops. Any person with a foreign accent was considered such an exotic creature that they were treated with awe. Today the bigots can revel in their hatred because Hispanics have moved throughout East Texas, thus giving the morally challenged racist more to hate.

In those days the only addiction problem was cigarettes, booze, and fundamentalist religion. Needles were restricted to the dentist and doctor’s office. Even shrouded by the mist of time many people feel that the ‘good old days’ was a great time to be a kid. It was, if you were a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP). I did not hear the term WASP until I left the pine forest for Austin and the University of Texas (UT). When I entered in the fall of 1964, the university had 24,001 students, and we all thought we were the one. When I left the university after Law School, the enrollment was 47,000 and there was no one. Between the beginning and the end of my college life, the world had changed dramatically.

Marijuana began to appear at UT my senior year in the School of Journalism and was commonplace by the end of my Law School days. The Vietnam War gave many young people a different perspective on their place in society and a new attitude toward their government.

Perhaps the most radical change was the Republican Party. In high school my conception of the Republican Party was an elite group of men who were educated at the best Ivy League schools, wore three-piece suits, came from old New England families, and were generally in some form of high finance. There were few, if any Republicans, in my hometown. Everybody was a Democrat, including all elected officials and members of the Ku Klux Klan (including my step-father). Even the ghost that voted on Primary Day was a Democrat. So of course, I became a Young Republican (YR). My attitudes and the image of the Republican Party began to change in 1964 with the enactment of the first Civil Rights Act. Suddenly, the bigots and the pragmatic politicians began to see the line between the two parties blur and viewed the Democratic Party as a slowly sinking ship.

Today, the lines have begun to blur again. Bigotry was once based solely on race or class. Bigotry today is based on fear of anything that is not us. Who would have dreamed that the country would elect a delusional, shallow, ranting, self-promoter who brags on television about grabbing women by their most private parts, and takes criticism like any other 15-year-old (this is a form of “alternative praise”). I must admit that it does take some kind of talent to alienate every ally we have had in the last 50 years with only a few telephone calls. As Bob Dylan once sang, “The times they are a changing,” maybe a little too much for the rational mind, but then when has “rational” played any major part in politics.

 

George A. Covington has worked in the fields of law, education, journalism and disability rights. He considers himself retired from every one of them with the possible exception of journalism. He is a graduate of the University of Texas schools of journalism and law. He moved to West Texas – Alpine – in 1997 after a 20-year career in Washington, D.C. where he once served on the staff of the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives (Democrat) and shortly thereafter served as Special Assistant to the Vice President of the United States (Republican) 1989-93.

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One Response to “high desert sketches”

  1. Ascension says:

    “East Texas bigots…” ?? That’s seems rather absolute or are we getting a blanket stereotype here flung out of some long-held sanctimony? “East Texas bigots…”?? Why not pseudo-intellectual west-Texas bigots? That’ll work, too.

    Your reported “truism” that the ’50’s were a “great time to be a [white] kid,” becomes rather baloney when buttressed by your own assurances that Hispanics and blacks felt the full brunt of a universal east Texas “bigotry.” But that’s simply oversimplified and I’m afraid it’s also not true. I grew up in east Texas in that same era and we mixed with Hispanics like anyone else, and they played on our sports teams like any other white kid and they were excellent in the games and were appreciated athletes and good friends at school. My sister had an hispanic boyfriend in 6th grade during those years. I lived in a town too, with a large Catholic population and it seemed 20% or more of my friends and classmates were Catholics and that made ZERO difference in our world and none in my protestant family. And I only noticed the difference in our religions when we got older and they seemed to have better (read, wilder) parties.

    And our schools integrated with the blacks in our town that very year you went off to UT, and I can inform you that my classmates bent over backward to welcome those blacks among us who were so surrounded in our sea of white and brown, and that they NEVER had to walk the halls alone. There were always white kids befriending and accompanying them down those halls and sitting in the cafeteria. You missed all of that and you may have taken a rather large set flawed predispositions with you. May still be holding them today. If your blanket generalities of that time and that region were true, then my own experiences a few years behind you could not have happened.

    And this column piece is further built on some clearly “alternative” information when it describes the current President as someone who “brags on television about grabbing women by their most private parts,” Where does that come from? It was a leaked audio tape played by the media of a very private, rather locker-room conversation of many years ago. How did you now turn that into Trump as someone “who brags on television about it?” Rather a large blind spot you have going on there. I’m not here to defend that man, but point some glaring self-delusion in this piece.

    And you are absolutely wrong to proclaim that bigotry “was once based solely on race or class.” That is pure baloney. It has always been based on far more, such as differences in cultures, and nationalities, and traditions, and faiths, and religions, and even habits, or local clan, and even personal temperaments, and yes, even long haired white boys with beards in the ’70’s. I’ve felt that sting and even the danger of it in South Austin, and I was no doper, but simply a returning Marine vet who didn’t care to go to barbers anymore. In fact, the word “bigot” is suggested to have originated from an early denigrating reference between Gauls and Normans, both solidly white races, and was spawned out of an old Germanic slang term. There was no shortage of hateful bigotry among those various white peoples, even 2,000 years ago. I’m pretty sure we can probably feel some tendencies today of bigotry toward certain know-it-alls. And this piece can be seen as likely a display of some personal bigotry at work built on a lifetime of strawdogs held up now as imagined universalities.

    No, the lines of bigotry are NOT so suddenly blurred as you say they are. And you’re definition that you think is so new, that bigotry today is “fear of anything that is not us,” a definition which seems to surprise you, has always been the workable definition of bigotry.

    So, I have to say that this piece becomes a myriad patchwork of bland generalities and broad ramblings that informs us in no way.

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