Sometimes, Democracy Requires a Funny Costume

by Published on
Photo by Jen Reel

Walking to the Capitol, I met a man on Congress Avenue dressed as a pig. We fell into talking about politics. The man in the pig suit, a former Democrat, said he’d lost faith in both Republicans and Democrats. “They don’t represent the people anymore,” he said.  Admittedly, it was hard to focus on our conversation. After all, I was talking to a guy with big pink ears and a snout. Motorists honked, people gawked and snapped pictures. The pig man, whose name is Eric Anderson by the way, smiled and excitedly waved his hooves. Everyone loves a man in a pig suit. This one was carrying a sign that reads, “Some Lawyers are Pigs” topped with a painted, pink plastic javelina. Oh, and did I mention that the sign lights up at night. Apparently, Anderson had had a very bad experience with the legal profession, but he didn’t want to get into it. “It might result in a SLAPP suit,” he muttered. “There are bad lawyers out there, and nothing is done to discipline them.” Well, it’s hard to argue with that.

Did I mention that it was the first day of the legislative session? On the south steps of the Capitol, the pig man and I met Uncle Sam, President Abraham Lincoln and the Statue of Liberty. The pig man desperately wanted a photo with Uncle Sam. He rooted around in his fanny pack for his camera. I offered to snap it for him. Uncle Sam got wind of our plot, though “Don’t you even come near me,” he wagged an index finger at us. Anderson looked disappointed, but shrugged it off.  Uncle Sam was at the Capitol for a Tea Party rally, joined by Abraham Lincoln and revolutionary war hero Nathan Hale.

The pig clearly had not been invited. But a man in a pig suit is just irresistible. The Tea Partiers put down their “Conservative Texan” signs and “Don’t Tread on Me” flags and made a beeline for the funny guy in the pink suit. They asked if I could snap a photo or two.  Uncle Sam kept his distance, giving us stern, disapproving looks. “People think I’m here for the Tea Party rally,” Anderson whispered conspiratorially, “But I’m my own individual rally.”

You have to give kudos to someone with the conviction to put on a pig suit. And Anderson, a retired train conductor, is committed to his cause. “I’m here because the legislators are here,” he said.  “Unfortunately, a lot of them are lawyers.” Anderson assured me he didn’t have anything against the good lawyers. “It’s the bad ones that need to be reformed,” he said.  In the last 15 years the number of lawyers disciplined has declined by 50 percent, at the same time the number of lawyers has increased by 40 percent, according to Anderson. He plans to picket the Capitol every day, in an effort to convince legislators to enact legal reform. “I’m recently retired, so I’ve got the time,” he said “But it is hard on my knees.”

Before he waded into the Tea Party rally, he waved goodbye with a hoof. In his own small way he was trying to make a difference, he said. This is one of the best things about the opening day of legislative session. Where else can you talk politics with a man in a pig suit, shake hands with Uncle Sam and listen to Mariachis in the Capitol rotunda while a group of Tea Partiers outside chants “No big government, no bailout.” Real democracy is loud, folks. Sometimes it even requires a funny costume. But I love to see people committed to a cause, like the guy in the pig suit, just trying to make a difference in some small way.

Melissa del Bosque joined The Texas Observer staff in 2008. She specializes in reporting on immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border. Her work has been published in national and international publications including TIME magazine and the Mexico City-based Nexos magazine. Melissa is a 2014-15 Lannan Fellow at The Investigative Fund.