Page 19


Gonzalez says that, in response to the challenge to stand up, Allen, questioned what he had said, declared, without looking up: “You are the number one communist in these parts.” Gonzalez says he then said to the man, “Why don’t you stand up and look me in the eye like a man,” and that Allen shoved back his chair and dropped his hands as he rose. At this point, Gonzalez told me, he hit Allen on the cheekbone, but pulled the punch. By this time Gonzalez’s two friends were close to him, one of them grabbing him. Allen was looking at three men, not one. Allen went to the newspapers with the story: the old Congressman had struck him. I shall not rehearse here the circus farcical, were it not so serious which then ensued. Headlines appeared for weeks. Gonzalez unwisely reflected on the courage of the district attorney. Charges were filed against Gonzalez for assault. A judge tried to put Gonzalez under a gag order, in response to which the Congressman shot a finger on TV. Politicians rallied to Gonzalez’s side. San Antonio has a gaggle of right-wing radio commentators and talk-show hosts who went wild. The problem was that the public got the picture of this old Congressman slugging this constituent for calling him a communist. The knife was played way down. Gonzalez believes that in the Express -News and the Light he is subjected to “censorship by omission.” On this matter one certainly did not get a real feeling that there were two sides to this story, but there were. Finally, Gonzalez made a kind of apology and the case was dropped. Then, and only then, Bill Allen spoke again. According to the Light, “the 40-year-old former oil well service operator said he now ‘plays the stock market.’ Wearing boots, blue jeans and a western hat, Allen spoke with a Texas twang. . . . “As he spoke, Allen slipped his yellow-handled pocket knife out of a leather container attached to the left side of his belt. The main blade measured slightly less than three inches. He said he never used it in a combative fashion, even though Gonzalez claimed Allen was going for it. . . .” To the Express -News Allen denied he had actually called Gonzalez a communist. He said he had heard Gonzalez refer to Reagan as a son of a bitch and had commented quietly that Gonzalez sounded like a communist. The Express story continued: “While he has been called a `spikey right wing type,’ Allen said, in truth he believes in the Constitution and believes elected officials are sworn to uphold it. While he normally votes Republican, Allen said he considers himself an independent.. . “Allen produced the knife he carries in a leather case on his left hip, attached to his belt. Gonzalez said he believed Allen was reaching for a knife when he punched him.” Now, I wasn’t there, but on these facts, Allen insulted Gonzalez called him communist, which in Texas means traitor and had a knife on his belt as he rose to face the man he had insulted. Surely Gonzalez had a plausible defense of self-defense. Yet this case brought out the viciousness and menace in the San Antonio right. Letters the Express printed reflected on Gonzalez’s mental stability and his patriotism. One such letter-writer said: “Well, Henry, if a KGB agent was voting in Congress, his record would be identical to yours.” The local papers, far from stressing the evidence that their Congressman might reasonably have thought that he might be in physical danger, in effect built up a picture of an unstable old man losing his cool and slugging a constituent. Whatever else it was, it was not that. Both San Antonio newspapers, and plenty of people who relied on them for their information, jumped to the conclusion, some with prejudice, that in this mysterious incident Henry Gonzalez was wrong. After listening to Henry calmly relating his version of events, I believe he was right. OH YES, THE POPE came, and Maury Maverick let the city have it for paying any of the attendant costs as a violation of the separation of church and state. Both the local newspapers could have been printouts from the local Archdiocese, so wholly did they turn themselves over to the celebration of the papal visit. Perhaps the uppermost clergy and rabbis of other faiths will take advantage of the situation in San Antonio by making visits here and having whole sections of the city’s newspapers devoted to them and their religions. San Antonio in August and September! Let’s hope this is the bottom of the curve. A knowledgeable developer tells me that the savings and loan collapse, with the collateral bank failures, will take about another 18 months to work itself through the economy. Economists are forecasting a turn back up in 1988 but Alan Greenspan, the new chairman of the Federal Reserve, predicted last March that there will be a recession starting in the last quarter of 1988 and in 1989. Who knows, maybe terrorists from the Middle East will follow through on their threat of vengeance, or maybe some new scandal, taking what little is left of the breath away, will blow in. Just now in San Antonio, though, the sky is thin early-autumn blue and the clouds are making their customary morning run inland from the Gulf. R.D. Washington, D. C. ONE WOULD THINK in a period of record budget deficits and scarce government resources, Texas Congressmen would have some Richard Ryan writes a regular column for the Observer from Washington, D. C. thing better to do than spend their time hunting white elephants. Still, if something is big, bold, and wonderfully absurd, a Texan’s going to naturally take a liking to it. Take the superconducting supercollider; even I like the abstract idea of it. Why, I get shivers just thinking about it. But if there ever was a pale pachyderm, this is it. A superconducting supercollider feet underground and billions of years back in time. Within the energized splendor of its curving halls, hundreds of metal rings are cooled to a point close to absolute zero, making them extraordinarily powerful electric magnets. Through these hoops protons leap like RANCHO POTOMAC The Texas View from Washington Ride a Pale Pachyderm By Richard Ryan THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7