Here at the Observer we devote much of our reporting to the news of the day and reviews of what is contemporary in the literary world, so naturally the magazine is heavily marked by current events. If those events come fast and furious, as they have recently—Katrina, Rita, Tom DeLay, Harriet Miers—we might not know the full flavor of the Observer you have in your hands until we’ve begun production and all the stories are assembled. In that spirit of serendipity, we discovered a hopeful theme—one of resistance of the individual in the face of injustice—that runs through this current issue. It connects most of the articles and its strength is surprising even to us.
It’s our distinct pleasure that Bill Moyers is the one to set the tone. A crusading journalist whose eloquence is matched only by his compassion, Moyers spoke at an Observer fundraiser in Austin on September 30. We have reprinted his speech for readers who were unable to attend. Moyers singled out some of our favorite Texas heroes, people like Ronnie Dugger and Maury Maverick, Jr. Men and women who didn’t stop to count heads before standing up; the force of their convictions propelled them out of their seats.
Moyers noted that such people have long populated the pages of the Observer. “You’ve been reporting on men and women struggling against much larger forces, sometimes alone, sometimes in the company of others, knowing that whether they succeed or not, they had to make a fight for it, had to take a stand, for Texas to yield to justice.”
These are people like Robert and Jo Cervenka, a ranching couple who Forrest Wilder writes about in his Dateline from Riesel, Texas. The Cervenkas are struggling to defeat a proposed power plant coveted by Big Coal and its political allies. They fight for justice because it’s the only way they can preserve their land and their way of life.
We also feature the amazing story of Diane Wilson, who proudly proclaims herself “an unreasonable woman” in her new memoir. The book traces her journey from Gulf Coast shrimper to international activist battling against the toxic filth polluting our environment from billion-dollar multinationals like Formosa Plastics and Union Carbide. Wilson is living testimony to something noted author and environmentalist Bill McKibben mentions in this issue.
We tracked McKibben down to talk about global warming, the Gulf Coast, and the ferocious hurricane season that’s still underway. Expecting to find doom and gloom, McKibben instead lifted our spirits. Despite hostility from the Bush administration, he reports, states and local communities are tackling global warming on their own. “It doesn’t take 50 percent of the people to have an unstoppable political force,” he says. “It’s more like 10 or 12 percent of people who are willing to do the work,” especially when the opposition doesn’t come from average citizens but from oil and coal barons.
Molly Ivins seems to be channeling the mood too in a column that takes on the topic “How Do We Fix This Mess?” It’s going to be a long slog and the answers probably won’t be coming from national Democratic leaders, but few are better than Molly at reminding us that there is joy and humor in the fight. Admittedly, it’s odd to offer the promise of a spring-like renewal at the onset of winter, and yet, some of it seems to be in the air. May it linger.
One last thought: During the previous two issues we highlighted both sides on Proposition 2, a constitutional ban on gay marriage (or owing to poor draftsmanship, possibly all marriage). Election day is November 8. Don’t forget to vote!