A couple of months ago, I vacationed in Colorado. I loved the drive from Fort Worth to Denver. Leaving Cowtown, the sky gets expansive, anchored only by rolling prairies.
Things flatten for awhile in the Panhandle, but the landscape begins to ripple again in New Mexico, and by the time you reach I-25 in Colorado, the Rockies are beside you, and you skirt them the rest of the way. It’s a great road trip, the kind of journey that allows you to turn everything off for a while. 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.
That part of the relaxation ended before I got back to Fort Worth, however. It was over as soon as I crossed back into Texas. 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 give us the space in which to remember who we are and who we should be, day in and day out. A journey allows us to step outside our usual rituals and routines, where we can ad lib.
On the way back, I’d come in on Hwy. 87, cruising through the Kiowa National Grassland. I’d just left Clayton, N.M., daydreaming through sunny grasslands on the way to Dalhart. But my respite with the existential sublime ended at the small town of Texline, so dubbed 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 addendum: “Proud Home of George W. Bush.”
I almost turned around.
I started thinking about how un-proud of George W. I am and shrinking at the thought of the number of state-line signs on which this inanity must be posted. With a nation that has been reduced to a polarized, paralyzed wreck, how can we embrace the demolition man? The citizens of New Orleans don’t claim former FEMA director Michael Brown. The swindled Native American Indian tribes don’t claim Jack Abramoff. And Valerie Plame certainly doesn’t profess unwavering respect and admiration for Scooter Libby or Dick Cheney.
Then I thought, let’s get beyond Bush and his tribe (And thank goodness we’ll be beyond him as a nation in a few months. Have you seen the pins and posters and little clocks that count down the time left in his administration?) We have to think about what we’re going to do when this dim and shameful chapter in our history is over.
The last seven years have been an education – a painful, scarring education – and if they’ve taught us anything, they’ve taught us it’s time for a change. A drastic change.
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 complacency 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 the United States – and indeed in Texas – our government doesn’t want us to ask questions, our corporate lords don’t want us to think for ourselves, and our political leaders don’t want us to challenge the status quo. They prefer an ignorant, easily manipulated electorate. An electorate that falls for whisper campaigns and rigged town-meeting formats. One that is suckered by staged photo ops and rhetorical grandstanding.
But it’s not as simple as changing horses. We need a vacation from the two-party system altogether. The Republican and Democratic parties are two sides of the same tired coin. As long as the frontrunners from either party are sons or wives of former presidents, as long as they’re taking their marching orders from the same money piles as their predecessors, the 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 will change. And our shames will multiply.
E.R. Bills, a Fort Worth-based freelance writer, can be reached at email@example.com.