Saturday, November 7, 2020

Texas Notes: Gussied Up

"The Greek Slave," by Hiram Powers (National Gallery of Art)


     This has been a taxing, exhausting please-wake-me-now nightmare roller coaster of a week and I have never been more grateful for Caren Jeskey, EGD's dependable Austin Bureau Chief, to hop off the bench, helmet in hand, and trot onto the field to call the play while I lope to the sidelines to dunk my face in a bucket of water. 

     Four long years ago, three friends and I got gussied up to celebrate the win of our first female president. We milled about, eating hors d’oeuvres and sipping drinks in a ballroom at the historic Driskill Hotel in downtown Austin. We were ebullient and confident. We knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that Hillary would be crowned our triumphant winner. We’d feel safe as the new mother of our country led us further out of a stifling past into a world where women were finally recognized as competent leaders. We’d already been touched by the power of the night back in 2008 when we elected our first black president. Times were clearly changing. We were heading closer to freedom; a world where people were judged not by the color of their skin or by their gender, but by the content of their character.
     As the results rolled in, we slowly started to realize what was happening. Grace was our voice of reason, reminding us to stay calm and accept the outcome regardless of the results. The others and I tried to pull ourselves together. We managed brief moments of composure until once again we became doubled over, gut-punched with shock, fear and grief. I started thinking “we need to get out of here.” We were right next to the cesspool of Sixth Street, Austin’s version of Rush Street during its heyday. All I could imagine out there beyond the swank walls of the hotel was drunken frat bros and Proud Boys in the streets screaming “grab her by the ______!” It was terrifying. I felt protective of Jeff, who was destroyed, but for some reason wanted to stick around— denial I think. Maybe he was thinking that if we only waited long enough the outcome would surely change. The results were proving otherwise, grinding us down further each moment. I convinced Jeff to let me get him and his husband Tony home, pronto. We guided him out of there straight to the safety of my car parked nearby, as he reeled.
     As a disenfranchised person, a woman, my heart poured out for Jeff and Tony that night. As a woman, I have to live with being undervalued and underpaid, silenced at meetings where men’s voices shout, and I have to put up with harassment and real threats of my safety simply walking down the street. I can, however, as a straight person marry whom I chose and have always had that right in my lifetime. Although I am verbally manhandled and have been occasionally physically groped, I do not face the reality of being the target of a hate crime every time I hold my husband’s hand.
     We needed the Hillary win. We needed her to scare the misogynistic naysayers and put them in their place while we continued to build a more equitable and compassionate society. We didn’t get her, and have been watching our nation turn into a pathetic joke. Even more scary is the fact that so many of us are somehow looking the other way— or shouting in protest but doing nothing— while the man we elected behaves in unconscionable ways. He is directly responsible for the high number of COVID deaths. He has no regard for the lives of children who are trying to immigrate here for a better life. He was Jeffrey Epstein’s friend, and who knows how many women have been accosted by him. He’s a clown in a suit and anyone who can disregard his abusive ways and vote for him based on a single issue, or because he is a “good businessman” (which he is not), are harming human lives and the integrity of our nation.
     I watched footage of Joe Biden appearing overly physically familiar with women, and I recoil at these images. The difference is that he is able to admit that he has made mistakes and must do better. I am not excusing his bad behavior; however, a man who is able to say “I”m sorry” and a man who is teachable is a safer man than one who is incapable of admitting wrongdoing. We cannot have a grandiose, woman-hating, migrant-hating man from an immigrant family taint our soil any longer.
     I realize that history repeats itself and we are in a phase of change. Undoing white supremacy and an anti-feminist, anti-gender binary world will take time. I am heartened that so many strong young leaders are finally gaining some foothold. I look forward to standing by their sides, watching and helping the wave of progress wash over our country in the years to come, regardless of the throwbacks who futilely want to stop evolution.

11 comments:

  1. We didn’t elect Trump. Other people did. Not the majority. Just other people. Those other people are still there in large numbers and will be as our country now and probably forever will deal with two separate realities. Those who watch Fox and that ilk, and everyone else.
    We went on a TV news fast from Tuesday on as we knew it would just be stressful and we wouldn’t learn anything.
    What I’ve found is that newspapers provide the best news. No drama. Just news and opinions if you want.

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  2. Caren, I hope you don't mind if I cling to your youthful optimism while I try to overcome the cynicism that wants to consume me. I'm an old man hoping that social progress will return while I'm still here to see it, but I can't help thinking about the 70 million of my fellow Americans who still believe for whatever reason that Donald J. Trump is the better man to be leader of the free world - if that were even still a thing. It's not a few diehards who will gradually fall away for the civic consciousness, it HALF the country. So I'm afraid my generation has dug a very deep hole for your generation to dig your way out of. Please keep the faith. You give me hope.

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    1. John, Biden got over 4 million more votes
      than 45, and about 35% of eligible voters apparently don’t care one way or the other. As a fellow old man, I implire you to keep
      the faith.

      Bob Y

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    2. You know, there’s been a lot of wild-eyed talk about the similarities between America during Trump’s reign and Germany under the Nazis. But, c’mon, there are huge differences. For instance, in the last free election in Germany, in 1932, the Nazis only got 33% of the vote. Then Germans never really had another chance to vote Hitler out.

      Meanwhile, here in the land of the free and the home of the brave, where “antifascist” is now supposed to be a bad word, our rickety system survives. Voters had a chance to see what our Fuhrer-wannabe was up to and take action! After 4 years of watching him embarrass the nation on an almost-daily basis, seeing his racism, corruption, and incompetence in a crisis, they knew what they had to do. And the patriotic burghers across the land took their second opportunity to reject this divisive regime and … gave their cult leader 7 million more votes than last time. Ain’t that America.

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  3. I think you have to give Donald Trump some sort of credit. As much as I hate the metaphorical language used by newscasters characterizing an increase or decrease in the vote count to the "battle" for Pennsylvania, the "come-from-behind" burst from Biden, Trump is actually in the fray fighting to cut off the battalions of Democratic votes appearing (as expected) from protracted counting of perfectly legal votes, is really tossing maledictions against waves of unfavorable votes, laying foundation after foundation of doubt to be mined by his hand-picked jurists to once again counter the voice of the people. Should he and his ilk prevail, not just now, but forever, he will be a hero of the aristocratic class, again and perhaps evermore in ascendency, putting down the democratic mob and showing the world who is boss. And it's our fault as much as his.

    john

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  4. John, as a fellow geezer I hope you can “keep the faith”. Biden got over 4 million more votes than 45, and about 35% of eligible voters don’t care one way or the other.

    Bob Y☮️

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  5. I never got to Austin in the early Seventies, when it was still a much smaller (a quarter-million) and much more laid-back and funky town, like a number of other college towns that also happen to be state capitals (Madison, Lansing, Columbus, St. Paul, Baton Rouge, Tallahassee, and others). It always sounded so wonderful. The food, the live music, the weirdness.

    But the more Saturdays you write about Austin, the worse it sounds...a population around a million (double that of thirty years ago), with 2.3 million in the metro area (almost twice that of 2000). Has its size made it just another overgrown, sprawling, gentrified Southern metroplex? A rednecked, racist, sexist, chauvinist "shithole" city?

    If these presumptions and accusations of intolerance and bigotry are unwarranted and misguided, I apologize. I've never been there. But all these Austin atrocities--the drunken frat boys, the homophobia, the verbal and physical abuse of women, and all the other forms of prejudice--have appalled and saddened me over these past few months.

    Today's election of Joe Biden has restored some of my hope for the future, and brought a glimpse of a light to the darkness, and an end to our years of national orange nightmare. But Texas is still Texas--and it will always be Texas.

    Caren, you need to come back to Chicago...maybe now more than ever.

    All the best.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Grizz! All I write is true, so you’ll have to deduce. I never had these encounters in Chicago. Well, not since I wrote off openly racist brethren there, the likes of which were very few & far between, and never strangers who assumed I was “one of them” thus misguidedly shared xenophobic views with me.

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  6. Thank goodness that Biden won!

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  7. I can’t say that our long, national nightmare is over, but this will do for now. Quite a relief.

    In the “there’s a tweet for everything” category, there are a number of tweets for what might transpire soon.

    Daniel Dale: “It remains very possible that Biden will earn 306 electoral votes, precisely the number Trump earned in 2016 before faithless electors. Here’s how Trump has described such an Electoral College total:”

    Spoiler alert: 306 was a “landslide.”

    https://twitter.com/ddale8/status/1324748924591181831

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