Democracy is just as fragile as the author’s crop, whose harvest was reaped by Grandchild No. 2 last year. Photo by Ken Wheatcroft-Pardue

What a week it was. Last Wednesday at the University of Texas, city police and state troopers decked out in riot gear — at the invitation of the school’s president and with loud cheering from our MAGA governor — stopped a peaceful protest billed as a “Public University for Gaza.”

“These protesters belong in jail,” Gov. Greg Abbott posted without citing any evidence, perhaps hoping to score some points with GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and possibly replace puppy-killer Kristi Noem on the felonious orange racist rapist’s list of potential VPs.

Despite what you may have heard, anti-Israeli protests are not inherently antisemitic, and public universities are meant to be places where issues can be discussed. Little wonder then that the party that wants to limit what teachers can teach also wants to curtail free speech.

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I don’t necessarily back everything some pro-Palestinian protester might utter, but someone getting their feelings hurt doesn’t mean we should shut it all down. Also, as a former UT grad student, I am personally offended that at the same campus where I felt safe, students were set on by officers with guns, pepper spray, and batons. Leave the kids alone. They’re alright and should be allowed to peacefully protest.

Let’s not forget the overriding issue here. Nothing justifies Israel’s indiscriminate bombing of innocent civilians, hospitals, mosques, universities, apartment buildings, and refugee camps. Not October 7th, not anything. And whether we like it or not, our country provides the weapons and the money for the Israeli war machine to keep on rolling over dead Palestinians. Right now, these UT kids and others across the country are our conscience, and leaders should heed them, not make political hay out of opposing them.

Then on Friday, the conservative bloc of the U.S. Supreme Court seemed confused as to exactly why we revolted against the British in the first place. Totally unnecessary spoiler alert: It was because we didn’t want a king. To paraphrase Tom Paine: Here, the law is king.

Or so I thought before listening to Justices Roberts, Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch jointly obfuscate the issue behind Trump v. United States, which could be an apt title for what’s happened in this country since the lifelong conman came down the golden escalator. The exchanges, some bordering on the bizarre, all left me wondering whether even Amy Coney Barrett still harbors any serious doubt that her fellow conservative justices are nothing but political hacks.

This past week of Republicans’ cheerleading for law enforcement to manhandle college students peacefully protesting and the conservative Supreme Court’s complete indifference to Trump’s fomenting an insurrection on January 6 put in stark relief the GOP’s utter antipathy to democracy.

All this happened the same week that my wife and I put in our spring garden, albeit a little later than we wanted. Even though I’m not much of a gardener, I enjoy it every year, getting down on my knees and digging into the black dirt filled with teeming life. We planted our “crops” — tomatoes, peppers, and green beans — just in time for good soaking rains. After the storms headed off to our east, we stepped into our backyard under the canopy of oak trees to check on our babies, and all our new plants seemed happy, so life is good the very same week we got a flashing warning light about a possible future Trumpocracy.

Whoever is elected president next will have a good chance to nominate two new justices. If more Federalist Society political operatives receive lifetime appointments to ignore civil rights, back big business, and weaken our democracy further, we are all screwed, so let’s enjoy our brief spring before our temperatures rise and our unforgiving Texas sun bleaches the grass yellow, all while not forgetting that democracy, like any garden, needs to be tended. With all the downright meanness in politics, it’s tempting to look away, to concentrate on our personal lives. That is understandable, but we cannot allow our democracy to whither on the vine. l


Ken Wheatcroft-Pardue spent three years in Austin back in the ’80s and loved every minute of it.


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