Grinchy Nation


This is the last Observer issue of 2004. Our 50th anniversary year. An election year of great consequence for the state and the nation. A year when once again Texas politicians sent America’s youth to die for ideological idiocy. When economic policy amounts to squander now and let future generations pay the cost later. And rapacious corporations vacuum up our natural resources as if there literally is no tomorrow. It’s a time when the values that make this country great—freedom, civil rights, economic justice, community, the rule of law—are under threat as never before. And the loudest religious discourse—the alleged repository of moral values—preaches greed and intolerance.

But it’s also a time when many in opposition to the status quo are awakening to the fact that they cannot afford the luxury of single-issue advocacy. They do have a broad shared vision for this country and the will to articulate it. Last August, half a million people marched through the streets of New York City to say ‘no.’ Vast virtual communities grew up overnight bent on reclaiming American democracy. In short, it was a year we hope that Observer readers of the future will look back on as a dark period but also as the beginning of a turning point for progressives mobilization.

In trying to understand the historical moment, and in particular, the radical Republicanism presently infecting our state and country, we turned to that noted political philosopher, Dr. Seuss:

It could be that his head wasn’t screwed on quite right. It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight. But I think that the most likely reason of all May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.

Observer associate editor Dave Mann’s favorite quote from 2004 came from U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay as told to the Houston Chronicle. The majority leader spent most of 2004 ducking questions from reporters about a Travis County grand jury investigation and his role in an apparent conspiracy to funnel illegal corporate money into state elections. That was, until a rare election challenge forced the Sugar Land Republican back to his district and to renewed scrutiny.

Questioned about the ongoing probe, DeLay responded: “All of this stuff is frivolous and it has been proven to be frivolous.†He then added, “If there is anything else ongoing, it will also be found to be frivolous.â€

It’s the kind of statement that could make you think that his head wasn’t screwed on quite right. Sadly, it was just further evidence of the contempt that small-hearted politicians like DeLay have for the “reality based community†and by extension all of the public. We will tell you what to think and when to think it seems to be the reigning attitude. Just ignore those bloody corpses, toxic fishes, spiraling deficits, the plummeting dollar, insurance ripoffs, predatory drug companies, uninsured children, creeping creationism, government surveillance, serial lying, and on and on and on.

The 50th anniversary of this magazine provided an opportunity for the Observer community to look back at the publication’s output over the years. After doing so, there is one inescapable conclusion. Not only does reality matter, sometimes when properly brought to light, it can change lives for the better. And maybe, just maybe, the flinty hearts of those here in grinchy nation will grow a bit in the process. —JB