You’ve got to hand it to the Trump administration. Even though they’ve had more turnover than your neighborhood Walmart, they’ve managed to keep a razor-focus on job one: screwing over the American people. Trump Co. has just proposed weakening mercury regulations (the metal is especially dangerous to children and fetuses) and has effectively eliminated the EPA office in charge of children’s health.
And our own state government, never allowing common sense to interfere, has worked tirelessly toward more or less the same aims: to stop young people from voting, to arm teachers, and to stop “those people” from going to the restrooms of their choice. And for their efforts, the base of the Republican party is all energized by these petty cruelties disguised as public policy and foursquare against communists and socialists, neither of which is slated to run in the general election.
And in our own fair city, despite local elections being nonpartisan, the mayor and the power structure all bat from the right and sometimes the far right. And they are second to none in screwing over the average citizen.
Part and parcel of the conservative movement is the 40-year project of underfunding, then delegitimizing, the public sphere. Once they degrade what was once thought to be public, they privatize it to prove most of all that government can’t do anything. Lately, we’ve seen it here in this idea to privatize the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. The city’s muckety-mucks want us to shrug our shoulders, see it as a fait accompli. Fort Worth doesn’t have the money to spruce up the gardens, so let’s make it so only those who can pay can go.
No matter which side you come down on, this issue gets to the heart of what government is for. Is the city government just there to give tax breaks to corporations that have wined and dined the insiders and help deep-pocketed developers with the endless boondoggle of Panther Island, or are they there for all of Fort Worth, even the least among us?
Back when I taught high school ESL, one of my favorite assignments was for my students to describe their favorite place. The place could be anywhere, back in their home countries or even in their imaginations, but every year I was surprised by how many of them wrote about the Botanic Garden. Most of my students were poor. Some were refugees, forced from their homes. But no matter where they came from, they loved walking with their families, their friends, or their significant others through the beautiful gardens.
I love Fort Worth, yet you have to admit it’s no Paris. It’s not really up there as far as beautiful cities go, but the Botanic Garden is our one place of beauty that we still can all enjoy together. I have no statistics, but I believe with all my heart that walking and living where there is beauty makes us happier and saner people.
And, as with many of us, I believe, the gardens have a strong and permanent place in my heart. Twenty years ago, I stood under that huge magnolia tree near the rose garden, my head bent, watching as my then-11-year-old daughter climbed like a monkey higher and higher with no fear. I was scared enough for both of us but proud that my wife and I had raised such a fearless young woman.
And 16 years later, when my late wife’s health was in steep decline and we were going to doctors’ appointments every other day, we’d stop by the gardens, sometimes just for a few minutes. We’d stand near the shelter house and look out on all that beauty, often catching couples posing for their wedding or quinceañera pics. For us, it was a needed respite, some beauty in the midst of our terrible year.
But the gardens will not be there for most of us, if, as expected, the city council votes on Tuesday, Nov 13, to begin charging an entrance fee. And something very precious will be lost, which we will never be able to recover. Only one thing can stop it: you. Call or email your city council member and the mayor. Show up Tuesday night. This is a fight for Fort Worth’s future.
The Weekly welcomes submissions from all political stripes. Email Editor Anthony Mariani at email@example.com. Fort Worth writer Ken Wheatcroft-Pardue can be reached at kwheatcroft.blogspot.com.