has rarely seen the kind of storm we saw last year when we published Maury. Maverick’s and Ronnie Dugger’s conflicting viewpoints on Nicaragua. There were some who said Nicaragua has nothing to do with Texas politics. Yet it became clear it was the most passionate concern that political people, in our audience anyway, had on their minds last year. Others were made nervous by that very aspect the strong emotions the debate aroused. But without such exchanges it becomes too, easy to avoid really thinking about politics. We have developed a culture in which public debate is lackluster and narrowly defined. As the mass media continue the march toward perfect homogeneity, it is the job of the dissenting journals to keep questioning, to keep the discussion open. In short, we are committed to openness in all public enterprises, including the business community, the liberal community, ‘the arts community, the political parties, and the press. One reason we sometimes get transfixed on the legislative process \(to the satisfaction of some readers and the repulsion of the business interests. When Adam Smith wrote about “the invisible hand” of the marketplace, he didn’t mean it as a metaphor for what happens in the Texas’ Legislature. And yet there is often an invisible hand working here the corporate hand that is so much a part of the political process in Austin. Too often, it is rendered invisible by the news coverage in the daily, papers. We would like to restore Big Business to its proper place in the story of why the legislature has such a difficult time coming to grips with the problems of the state. Michael Davie, a British journalist, noticed a while ago that “the wretched victims of the American system . . . are convinced that only luck and geography, never the system, stands between them and all-American prosperity.” This is part of the Texas Myth, too. We talk about the dislocations brought on by the decisions of capital as. unfortunate turns in “the economy.” A state raised on the idea of boom and bust and fortunes made through “luck and geography” finds, in the oil collapse, an easy and natural explanation for hard times. In doing so, one never seems to get around to asking if the system was really working for people even when the price of oil was high. Even then there were millions injured in industrial accidents ; poisoned by chemicals, exploited for cheap labor. Even then an executive class got richer while good people found themselves in humiliating positions which grocery store will not embarrass me if I use food stamps? Will people be able to tell that my child’s jacket came from the Goodwill store? Will the county hospital try to collect the $200 I still owe from last year? In looking for the “whys” of hard times, we need to look at the forces shaping our corporate landscape, and that of course means the corporations themselves. “When will the Observer start writing about Texas again?” I was asked recently by a New York journalist. It didn’t seem profitable to go back and count articles but I doubt that more than five percent of our articles last year had a foreign or national dateline. Still, we are perceived to be preoccupied with international questions to the detriment of our coverage of Texas ‘pOlitics.. I take this as a political criticism inspired by closet sympathizers with the imperial designs of ‘the U.S. foreign policy elites \(designs now being somewhat botched by Shultz usually line when we bring up questions of foreign wars. I believe some nervousness stems from the perception that we’ve jumped 4 JANUARY 23, 1987 off the liberal boat on such questions. And indeed, on issues of war and peace and military adventurism liberals have been an utter failure. But the idea of anything “beyond liberalism” , gives most Americans the willies. We can rail against sales tax hikes at the legislature and take liberal stands on civil liberties and endorse the Democrat for governor and be on safe ground. But don’t send this trash about “imperialism” into my home. The fact is, Texas is a military state in a military nation. We have responsibility for the violence ‘Our country sponsors if anyone does. We have responsibility for nuclear weaponry if anyone does. We haVe responsibility for peace if anyone does. From reports we are getting from’ around the country, Texas is far behind in developing an active peace movement. While people are putting themselves on the line at military installations in Seattle and Nevada and Connecticut, and sometimes getting arrested, Texans are quietly going about their business. We have the largest military base in the Western hemisphere in Killeen 42,000 soldiers are playing with guns at Ft. Hood. Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio has been used as a departure point for shipments of arms. to Iran and Central America, according to reports in the San Antonio Light. Of course we are assembling nuclear warheads at Pantex in Amarillo. And union labor is building F-16 fighter jets for General Dynamics in Fort Worth and Bell Helicopter builds Hueys used against the people of El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. On and on. Why has a peace movement not flourished here? It has “Going back and reviving . the tradition of nay-saying and independence, of cheerful ‘negativism’ when confronted with the temptation of Realpolitik . .” to do with the particular way we practice politics. Carcy McWilliams, the late editor of The . Nation who started his political life in California and then moved to New York, observed that “Western radicalism is not like its Eastern counterpart in all respects. In the East, and notably in the New York City area, leftists of all persuasions are preoccupied with the theoretical correctness of their positions; with them the style factor is important. In the West, radicals concentrate on the issues. In the *East more attention is devoted to scrutinizing the political backgrounds of one’s associates; in the West, agreement on issues and objectives is the prime, consideration.” We have a “Western” style of politics here,. The emphasis on specifics and objectives hag spawned a respectable reform movement through the years and spared Us much of the useless posturing of coffee-house sectarians. But we are not in the kind of highly charged political environment that brings a vigorous give and take over ideas. Consequently, ideas that are too far removed from the accepted political discussion do not thrive. There is no truly “radical” critique available to the millions who might support the move to a more peaceful society. The question is: can traditional liberalism come to grips with the fact that we as a state and as a nation are jeopardizing everything we cherish because we can’t control this insatiable appetite for weapons? Shouldn’t that be a central question in Texas politics? In forming a “radical” critique, we turn to Hannah Arendt, who used the term in the sense of “going back and reviving much that belongs to the very roots of the American radical tradition as well as much that belongs to the radical tradition everywhere the tradition of nay-saying and independence,
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