We are flying amid fluffy, white cottonball clouds that reach above us to tremendous heights, forming darker mountain peaks lined with crevices and tinged by the pinkish-orange glow of the setting sun. My six-year-old daughter, eyes wide in innocent fascination, whispers, “Is this where God lives?”
“Even higher,” I answer.
“But His angels are here,” she asserts.
Maybe. I am pondering the lost innocence of childhood, stripped away as the evil princes of the consumerist kingdom seduce our progeny. As we leave the sky for the road, I am also realizing just how naive the Religious Right must be to believe that a Christian culture can survive in the world of “democratic capitalism.” The mud flaps on the 18-wheeler ahead of us read “Jesus is Lord. Truckers for Christ.”
It’s 105 degrees on the road to central Texas, the hill country, and on to the Gulf Coast. Dallas and Fort Worth are no longer distinct entities but a mass of grotesque strip malls that stretch from Piano to “Cow Town’s” invisible city limits. It’s the “Metroplex” nowadays, another step on the way to global homogenization and the obliteration of local identity and geography. But the furnace-like heat and merciless sun remind the Masters of the Universe that there are forces they cannot control. The temperature reaches 109. The “Metroplex” recedes in the rearview mirror; the rocky, brushy, dusty terrain, scorched by the sun and dotted with cattle, horses, and dried-up little towns, replaces it. Texas is still here after all. The towns are named Comanche, Zephyr, Flat (not to be confused with Flatonia), and Dimebox. Texas has always been a harsh place, once the vast Comacheria, bordered by the Apacheria to the Southwest, the battleground of red and brown and white men who fought each other and the unforgiving terrain and the burning sun. I love it, even though, by today’s standards, there is no reason that I should.
On the Sunday before the Fourth of July, we worship in a simple, beautiful, little white church that my wife’s grandfather built. The pastor begins his sermon with a story about an old woman who sells her house because she read in the newspaper that most fatal accidents take place within a few miles of home. It occurs to me that she should work for the Republican National Committee. With Independence Day coming, and with the knowledge that the county will not outlaw fireworks this year on account of the recent rains, we rise to sing “God Bless America”:
God Bless America, land that I love
Stand beside her and guide her
Through the night with a light
I feel my voice cracking and stop singing for a moment. As we stand for Communion, Jesus reaches out to us from above the ornately carved altar. The pastor blesses each of our three children, and we eat the Body and drink the Blood of Christ. Outside, the old men line up on one side of a lawn that’s greener than I remember from last year, and the women gather opposite them. The men are gray and wear their summer straw hats and hook their thumbs in their belts, boots kicking at clumps of grass. We shake hands and speak of old friends and the weather. I notice more young people around, even a few families. In town, new owners are restoring the once stately homes of the county seat, and a bigger high school is being built. Signs of hope? Maybe I am not the only one who wants to come home.
We pass through the hill country. Austin is losing the sights and sounds of what the Dallas Morning News called its “bohemian rhapsody”; the music scene and slow pace are being replaced by high-tech, power lunches, and sterile glass boxes are blotting out the distinctive look of the old capital. That’s “progress.” Barbecue and chicken-fried steaks are yielding to sushi enchiladas and vegetarian martini lunches. The small-big town is now a city with traffic jams and murders and hurry up, your appointment’s at noon! “Dubya,” the shallow son of a carpetbagger, must love it. But Barton Springs, the city’s ice-cold swimming hole, is still there, and hold over hippie environmentalists are still fighting for it. I wish them luck and wonder why “conservatives” don’t seem to give a damn about conserving anything. We destroyed Austin to save it, runs the Chamber of Commerce line.
One evening, I walk up the broad avenue from the sandy-colored capitol to the Colorado River, and a homeless man wrapped in a green tiash bag is walking the opposite way, picking up litter and collecting aluminum cans. He must recognize me as a countryman. His bloodshot eyes squint as he shakes his head in disbelief and exclaims, “Damn Yankees!” I nod my head in agreement and wonder what will become of him. May God forgive us for creating a world in which there is no place for such unfortunates.
On the way out of town, I have to muster all my willpower to keep from beating the hell out of a Pakistani immigrant who lectures me on “what’s wrong with America.” Some of what he says is right, but I won’t tell him that. When will red/Americans muster the gumption to halt their country’s colonization?
On to the Gulf Coast. Houston’s sprawl has consumed the whole of Harris County and is spilling into Fort Bend County to the west. It’s urban guerrilla warfare out there, with the disk jockeys, local politicos, and Lion’s Club boosters trying to pretend that normal life continues. The city proper, I’m told, is now predominantly black, Asian, and (chiefly) “Hispanic,” the euphemism for the excess Mexicans who conveniently—for the Mexican narco-Mafia regime and American big business —migrate to my old stomping grounds. Downtown, a heavily armed contingent of “New Black Panthers” gather to protest the impending execution of a murderous black thug named Gary Graham, the latest poster boy for the anti-white, anti-American campaign orchestrated by the dominant elite and carried out by organized “people of color.” The brave knights of black nationalism rough up an aging white man who has the nerve to talk back to them, but the police, under orders not to interfere with the “demonstration,” do nothing. Only whites are capable of “hate,” after all. A patrolman tells my folks that there is widespread anger in the ranks, but no one knows what to do about it.
The house my father built back in the mid-50’s now has bars on the windows, and the clerk at the Stop-N-Go is encased in a Plexiglas cage. Warfare between black and Mexican gangs erupted not long ago on the very street where I was raised; a shoot-out took place at the end of the block. My wife and I bravely—or foolishly—continue our routine of morning walks and pass within a few yards of the baseball field at my old high school. Later that day, the police find the corpse of another apparent casualty of the gang war near the grandstands. It’s hard to believe that my brothers and I, unmolested, once roamed empty fields and pastures surrounding our home. It wasn’t much to look at, but it was a wonderland for boys before video games, paved streets, and city water spoiled everything.
Across town, George Bush, Sr., resides in ease and comfort behind a tall fence, accompanied to his favorite barbecue joint by Secret Service bodyguards, perhaps glancing occasionally through the bullet-proof glass of his limo. Does the old fool realize what he and his kind have done to our country? Dubya’s electoral strategy seems to echo that of his father. While betraying his mostly white, middle-class voters who back the execution of such beasts on every other issue he will defend the death penalty for now, hoping to retain their support until after the election. The only real difference between Gore and Bush appears to be that they attended different Ivy League schools.
For decades, conservatives have been halfheartedly preaching about the apocalypse that will come if “somebody doesn’t do something soon.” Most normal people seem to agree, but why don’t they recognize the grinning visage of Antichrist staring back at them in their mirrors?