of Texas liberaldom they were hopeless middle-class white chauvinists. I announced to a gathering of Negro leaders they were tepid Uncle Toms. I took the occasion of a party at an Austin professor’s house \(Dugger and I were almost the only nonfessors are intellectual whores.” I didn’t: bother with labor since the liberals seemed to have the denunciation of the working brethren well in hand. This was alienation, of coursethe total and systematic estrangement that impels a man to an endless throwing down of gauntlets. Dugger watched it all silently he is a man of great restraint, his contrary reputation in some circles notwithstanding but finally, the day after the professor’s party, he quietly observed that I was “like a man going through a light factory, turning off switches.” I knew he was right, but there didn’t seem to be anything I could do about it. T WAS MY OLD NEMESIS Ed Clark, not my friend and companion of many years, Ronnie Dugger, who got me out of that light factory, and this, too, is part of what I have to say about the Observer. Purely from a “technical standpoint,” for want of a better phrase to describe a lobbyist at workEd Clark is a master craftsman. In the tortuous infighting that goes on within the business lobby, he is unsurpassed. There are, I think, five prerequisites for a truly great lobbyist, and Ed Clark has them allan understanding of the limitations of power, patience, nerve, a grasp of the uses of humility, and creativity. These are also, I suppose, the prereauisites for a great politicianEd’s great and good friend, the President of the United States, comes instantly to mind but I submit that Lyndon, lacking the fifth, is not as great a natural athlete as Ed Clark. Life at the top of the mountain is, after all, somewhat insecure. Ed must keep other lobbyists down; he must cope with the am’bitions of the various politicians in the team stable; he must never fail in any really pivotal matter, and such matters are frequent at the top of the mountain; above all, he must keep his lines of communication open to key men in the camps of all other lobbyists and all other politicians. These are a great many things to do and keep done and Ed performs. Against him the likes of Ed Burris or Jim Yancy of the Texas Manufacturers Association resemble the Texas Aggies flailing away against the. Baltimore Colts. I can hear Uncle Ed now, his special super Southern accent disarming the listener as the rapier sinks toward the jugular, putting pore old Burris and Yancy down to some inquiring oil magnate: “Oh, land sakes, those boys are doin’ a good job. Yessuh, a good job. They keep the young boys down in the legislature informed. Yes suh. Buy ’em a drink and keep them informed. Doin’ a good job.” Just the right tone of condescension mixed with faint praise as he transforms his would-be rivals into drink-serving errand boys. A master. For Austin, a master. For Washington, a probable master. For Newport, No. But then, Newport didn’t have a candidate in either party this last time out. During the period last year when I was directly associated with the Democratic Coalition, an influential national Negro leader \(with due respect and kindness, I tainly not liked at the White House. Wondering if our little effort at interracial political effort in Texas had angered The Man himself, I pursued the topic and learned that the Negro leader had attended a White House luncheon and sat next to a big, heavy “country fellow from Texas.” “I told him,” continued my informant, “that we were working with Larry Goodwyn on voter registration. He kinda smiled in a funny self-conscious way and asked me if I couldn’t find a more upstanding person to work with, since what we were doing was so important . . .” Shades of Yancy, I had been put down by the master! I grinned with such genuine admiration that my colleague in voter registration was still further confused. In any case, he had gotten the full Ed Clark treatment. Though the country fellow had “talked a lot,” my friend could not recall one thing Ed had said. “It was just sort of aimless talk, what I call country-talk.” He, in turn, had done a little talking himself, he conceded. And not so country, either, he further conceded. So Ed works, and so he learns, and that is why he is the best in his field. In the never-ending underground war between the races in America, I wonder if Ed Clark isn’t the-first white man who has ever successfully turned the tables and Uncle Tommed a Negro, and a brilliant intellectual at that, out of damn near everything he wanted. When it comes to business, Ed is one of the most liberated Southerners I know. It was somehow the sheer grandeur of Ed’s machiavellianism that helped restore my perspective and get me out of that light factory. For here I was thinking that the pursuit of truth, Truth, The Truth, would save us all, and all the while my Truth was manifestly not saving anybody and, in fact, was driving me out of all contact with m brethren; and Ed Clark came along to teach me the other side of this coin, which is .the Appearance of Truth, which exists right along with the Pursuit of Truth. Give Ed the appearances, and he’ll let you keep your pursuits; in the poker game of power politics, Ed would see to it you were not left in the pot to draw a fifth card. You might speculate that theoretically, even actually, you had the best hand, but no one will ever really know. In a curious way that I suppose is intelligible only to those persons who have spent a part of their lives turning off switches, Ed Clark helped instruct this innocent in the limitations of the human condition. A man who can say “all professors are intellectual whores” is driven in a way that is deeply authoritarian and basically totalitarian. If he has much sense, he knows this, even at the time, but the knowledge doesn’t help him extricate himself from the dark tunnel to which his logic and righteousness and in nocence have carried him. There was a time when I lost the capacity for the fine distinctions that give substance to freedom, a time, for example, when I would have regarded Ed Clark and Allan Shivers as equally culpable. I know now that what they have in common is a competence in the uses of power, but I also know that s Shivers is a genuinely benighted man and that Ed Clark is not. I can write about Clark almost with affection because he employs the appearances of truth frankly to increase his powerin contrast, for instance, to John Connally or the Houston Chronicle employing the appearances of truth to excuse their lack of courage. The Observer robbed me of my illusions about my culture and myself ; its freedom cast me on my own and, eventually, into a kind of intransigence that is the dead end of freedom. Watching the career of Ed Clark, I somehow recovered the fine distinctions that ended my innocence on terms that I could endure. I know two Negroes, one 60 and one 35, who think that “all whites are bad”; not equally bad, perhaps, but all beyond redemption. The man 35 knouts this is absurd but can’t, at the present, act upon his knowledge; his pain is too intense. The man 60 does not think it is absurd. If both turned white tomorrow; neither would be free. I HAVE WRITTEN all of these words in an effort to say, in my own way and through my own experience, that tilt Texas Observer is one of the few free things around. Most folks don’t want freedomtoo many options is confusing and, ultimately, exhausting: the purposeful types I see around prattling about “individualism” appear utterly incapable of an original thought. In any case, the Observer took me, wrung me out, and damn near exhausted Me. It sent me away considerably more radical, for a time, than its editor, to that no-man’s-land somewhere left of the Democratic Party and right of the communists where a man can nurse his profound distrust for government, for policemen, for bureaucrats, for monopoly, and for the appearances of gentility. I think this describes some kind of anarchism of the soul and I believe I have spent some time there. Dugger’s other associatesWillie Morris, Brammer, Sherrill, Jones, and the others all responded to the Observer’s freedom in their own individual ways. I am certain they all found it exhilarating and strangely oppressive. One does not haiie to traverse quite the distance I have described in order to experience that freedom; but for myself, I could_ not describe the implications of this freedom without describing. in turn, my experience within it. Edmund Wilson once warned America’s writers: what is fatal is to be brilliant at a disgraceful job. On almost every Texas daily newspaper, our writers nurse their restraints, real and imagined, and stare at this brick wall of the soul. On the Observer, you don’t. There is really nothing more to be said about it. December 11, 1964 5
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