Posted by: MC | February 10, 2012

Politics in Texas – Intractable Threat or More Like the Weather?

The people I’ve talked with in Texas this week say two things.  My friend Cindy, a white business woman in Grayson County sums up one of those things. “The divisions in this state are so strong, I don’t think we’ll ever be able to talk to each other.  It just starts out hateful with neither side willing to back down.”

As she talks, she describes how community proceeds in spite of the opposition.  Cindy notes that having any success with serving the public means striking a balance between showing up as who you are and what you believe in and staying off the hot spots.  “I mean, people around here know if you’re faking it.  They don’t want service from somebody who puts up some kind of fake front.  It’s better if you’re direct about where you stand, then even if they don’t agree as long as you have a good service they’ll still give you their business.”

“But you don’t have to pick fights.”  Cindy says.  “Sometimes we do, anyway.”

Then there are the guys I talked with on the construction crew this morning in a Dallas neighborhood.  They agreed with Cindy on the presence of divisions in the state.  “Political differences, for sure,” said a Chicano man in his 40’s.  “It’s about who has the money and who doesn’t,” said his African American colleague – the foreman on the crew.  He went on, “but not just that.  People go one way or the other – more conservative or more interested in making sure everybody has what they need – because of the way they live and the way they believe.  Like their church community and what gets said there.  It’s not new.  Texans have always been loud and hard headed about politics.”

Then came the second thing I’ve heard over the past five days in Texas, “When it comes down to it, I can’t complain.  Around here, you just make do – you make friends and you make do.”  The Dallas crew foreman offered those words, but they were echoed what the men I met among the old grain silos in Sherman were saying.  The Chicano man in the construction crew said, “At the end of my day it’s always about my family – my parents, my wife and children, my sisters and brothers and their kids.  As long as we’ve got each other, we’re good.”

The working men and my friend Cindy in her role as a business woman were very aware of division.  They saw it as a threat, but also as a habit.  They all spoke of things they’d like to see different – mostly pointing to the economy – wanting more reliable jobs, but all of them also mentioned schools and health care.  The crew foreman said he wanted to see better public safety.

These folks are paying attention.  They’re working.  They’re providing for themselves and their families.  They worry about the future for their children, and also for the nearer future with our country’s wobbly economic circumstances.  “All I can do is keep showing up and making a go of it,” Cindy said.  “I’d sure like it if we could be more friendly and cooperative with each other in this state.  It doesn’t seem like fighting about it makes any good difference, but maybe fighting it out has to happen so we can listen past that.”

Sort of like weather.

Yesterday I crossed paths with a window washer, carrying a heavy bucket of water in one hand and equipment in the other.  He offered to wash my windows but decided Oregon was too far away.  When we got to talking about change he said, “Most change is weather related.”

He may be on to something.

Later last night, my friend Juliana Perkins (voice 043 in 100 VOICES – AMERICANS TALK ABOUT CHANGE), a nurse here in Dallas, said, “We just get focused on all the noise of disagreement and trouble and forget to look at all the successes in a day.”   She reached down to rub the head of her aging dog, Sandy.  We started thinking about examples.  Things  like waking up, for example; or drawing every next breath.  There are always lots of things going right or we wouldn’t keep going like we do.  The bad stuff, the horrible challenges in the world aren’t going away, but if we spend a little time noticing what’s working and standing there, we might have more luck taking care of the messes.

Here in Texas – here in change – there are no quick solutions to the divisive habits of public and private conflict.  They’re part of the weather.  But just understanding that can make it so we get it that stubborn disagreements and the seeming insistence that they be fortified are attempts to hold the weather still.  Letting it all blow through and seeing what remains on the other side — well, there may be some solid political wisdom in the practicality of nurses, laborers and businesswomen.

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