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ALAN POGUE AFTERWORD The Last of the Just BY LOUIS DUBOSE Austin N THE FOURTEENTH floor of the Earl Cabell Federal building in Dallas are two rooms filled with the detritus of the Age of Reagan. If, 100 years from now, some anthropologist would understand what sort of society we made, it is here that she might begin to look. The story is painstakingly documented in the files of federal court and federal bankruptcy court clerks. Here, picking my way through the minutiae of a white-collar crime large enough that it is said to have brought down a big-city bank, I at last understood a Maury Maverick account of his walking from the floor of the Texas House after one particular vote on a civil rights issue and, on the sidewalk outside, “vomiting specks of blood.” It was, perhaps, the several afternoons spent in the court clerks’ offices, working my way through the litigated histories of a cabal of men who might have hatched their scheme in the basement of a central Texas Methodist church such were their stations in life in their community that left me with an almost palpable nostalgia for decency in public office. So somewhere, I think between Eddy and Austin, I decided that I would stake out the River Bend Baptist Church’s Habitat for Humanity reception at the Austin Hyatt Hotel and shake the hand of Jimmy Carter. And why not take with me my son? Consider his circumstance. Born in 1977, by the time he had learned to read and acquired language sufficient to understand the National Public Radio news beamed into our corner of East Texas by Lamar University’s KBLU radio it was morning in America for the first time. Hopeful, but skeptical, he has asked me of late if I think that George Bush will be “maybe a little better than President Reagan?” And my daughter, whose eighth birthday falls one day after the cover date of our second issue in May, is a child of the Age of Reagan midway through her second year in public school and inclined, I suspect, to believe in the promise of a kinder, gentler, etc. , etc. “What I want for this country above all else is that it may always be a place where a man can get rich,” Ronald Reagan has said. “That’s a tremendous bit of aspiration for us as a public, isn’t it,” Jim Hightower answered. “That the number one goal in America is to be able to get rich.” Jimmy Carter at his inauguration Yet everybody knows whose ethic has prevailed and not even by the rationalization of the most doctrinaire monetarist can theft on the scale documented in last year’s federal court records result in anything but a zero-sum gain. To understand the other half of the zero-sum equation that begins in the Dallas federal building, go to the public transit stop two blocks west on Commerce St., where at 5:30 p.m. decent, minimum-wage workingfolk queue up for the first of several buses that will get them home before dark if they make their connections just right. So in Austin, like a parent who might have lived in an age where at least the illusion of public morality existed, I took my children out to let them catch a glimpse of the President. And there was Jimmy Carter, explaining how he and Rosalynn had come to dedicate so much of their time to the funding and building of homes for the homeless. It is, Mr. Carter said, an opportunity that allows him to apply his Christian principles. Walking recently through one of the poorest neighborhoods in New York, Mr. Carter said, he realized that the tired gray face of a woman lying at rest on a street might have been that of his mother. He knew then that he was doing the right thing. “The Bible says when you lend money to a poor person, you don’t charge any interest,” Mr. Carter said. My children listened. “Americans are going to have to learn to live with less,” Mr. Carter had said from the Rose Garden nine years ago. Hardly the soundbite to win an election at that particular moment in history when a generation of swine was coming of age. “I don’t think we knew how good we had it,” an Austin labor lawyer told me, as we discussed what we recalled of the Carter Administration. Had we forgotten Bert Lance’s freewheeling banking, Ham Jordan’s special investigation, and the President’s brother’s alleged lobbying for Libya? No. Would I, given the chance, vote again for this good and decent man? Early and often. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23