Last month, I vacationed in Denver. I loved the drive from Texas to Denver. Leaving the Metroplex, the sky gets expansive, anchored only by rolling prairies. They flatten out for awhile in the Panhandle, but the landscape begins to ripple again in New Mexico and by the time you reach IH-25 in Colorado, you skirt the Rockies the rest of the way.
It’s a great road trip, the kind of journey that allows you to turn everything off for awhile. You forget about the ways you’re prostituting yourself at work and compromising your principles to get by. You even quit worrying about the idiots who are running this country.
Everything was great until I got back to Texas.
I came in on Hwy 87, cruising through the Kiowa National Grassland. I’d just left Clayton, New Mexico and was headed to Dalhart. The sun was shining. My mind was incredibly at ease. I was enjoying a blissful daydream of hope and possibility, notions a good vacation always affords me.
During the first world war of the 20th century, an American radical named Randolph Bourne said that the purpose of education was to prepare folks to recognize a revolution. Not just when it’s happening, but also when it needs to happen. It seems to me that the purpose of a vacation is to remember who we are and who we should be, day-in and day-out. A vacation, a trip, a journey — it allows us to step outside of our security zone and abandon the doldrums of obligatory ritual and prescribed routine. We’re no longer restricted to uninspired consistency or prudent performance or incremental success. We can improvise and ad lib. We can be curious, adventurous and unpredictable. And not a moment too soon. The tragedy of modern life is that it mostly requires us to exist instead of live. Really live.
I was “really” living until I reached Texas. My respite with the existential sublime ended at the small town of Texline, dubbed so because it sits on the Texas-New Mexico border. At the town’s edge sat a “Welcome To Texas” sign featuring a large Texas flag. So far, so good. But at the bottom, under a brief entreaty to motorists to drive friendly (“the Texas way”), there was an asinine addendum: “Proud Home of George W. Bush.”
My serenity was extinguished. I considered turning around.
Are you proud of George W. Bush? Are we proud of George W. Bush? Who was behind this inane declaration? And at how many state line crossings was this inanity posted?
Isn’t it bad enough that Junior goes around trying to pass himself off as a Texan (he’s not; he was born in New Haven, Connecticut); which genius at the Department of Transportation decided we needed to formally claim him? The citizens of New Orleans don’t claim former FEMA director, Michael Brown. The swindled Indigenous American nations don’t claim Jack Abramoff. And Valerie Plame certainly doesn’t profess unwavering respect and admiration for Scooter Libby or Dick Cheney. Our nation is a paralyzed, pulverized, polarized wreck — how can we embrace the demolition man?
Surely, no right-minded Texan can call him or herself proud of George W. Bush. As a public servant, he hasn’t served the public trust; he’s violated and betrayed it. And entrusted with our welfare — not just that of the “haves” and the “have-mores” — he’s let the richest one percent of this nation turn it into a corporate fiefdom where most of us live as little more than hapless vassals.
His presidency is the stupidest thing that’s ever happened to America and the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to Texas. The day this petty little frat boy lied and connived and conned the folks of our fair state into discarding Ann Richards and electing him governor was as dark as our defeat at the Alamo. And his ascendancy to the American presidency will soon be known as one of the dimmest chapters in American history.
Sorry, folks. But I can’t be proud of that which demeans me, shames me and reduces my place in the world. I’m proud to be a Texan. Prouder to be a Texan than an American. But I can’t circle my wagon around a Lone Star mistake. George W. Bush is not one of us. And he’s not representative of us. He’s just a lie we believed because it was simpler than thinking for ourselves.
The last seven years have been an education, and if they’ve taught us anything, they’ve taught us it’s time for a change. A drastic change. A revolution.
It won’t require guns or a militia. It won’t require lopping off any heads (although a few could probably use it). All it will require is courage, faith and perseverance. Courage to challenge the laziness and complacence that damn us to our current, destructive paths. Faith to believe that something better can be accomplished. Perseverance to commit to the difficult road ahead.
Right now, in these United States — and indeed in Texas — our government doesn’t want us to ask questions, our corporate lords don’t want us think for ourselves and our political leaders don’t want us to challenge the status quo. They prefer an ignorant, easily manipulated electorate. One that falls for whisper campaigns and rigged town-meeting formats. One that is suckered by staged photo-ops and rhetorical grandstanding.
George W. Bush and his nightmarish Texas Mafia (Karl Rove, Tom DeLay, Harriet Myers, Alberto Gonzales, etc.) will soon all be put out to pasture. And if many of us had our way, it wouldn’t be Lone Star pasture. But as much disgust and indignation as Bush and the Republican party in general has inspired in our hearts, it’s not as simple as changing horses. We need a vacation from the two-party system The Republican and Democratic parties are two sides of the same tired coin. As long the frontrunners from either party are sons or wives of former presidents and they’re taking their marching orders from the same money piles as their predecessors, this coin is no longer worth flipping.
It’s time for a change. We need to get their attention. If our current and potential political representatives are not worried, nothing is going to change. And our shames will multiply.
This is why I want the “Proud Home of George W. Bush” signs removed, burned, expunged. I’ve taken a vacation and I don’t need the Department of Transportation reminding me how stupid we’ve been.