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Wings Press publishers of the deftnitive edition of John Howard Griffm’s American Classic Black Like Me Cete8RAT/A/0 50 MRS OF ADVICE AND 0/SSEA/T /A/ The TeAas Observer 004/CRITN4770A/S / “E’l/0/491191:9 Wings Press San Antonio, TX Hickey, continued from page 20 in the assumptions of Agrarian Progressivism and High Modernist culture. Moreover, it seems to me now that, as a consequence of this cultural conservatism, Texas’ liberals must have been all but defenseless before the evangelical jihad of its “new” Republicans. Strangely enough, the possibility of this happening was the subject of the first essay I wrote for the Observer. This was during Lyndon Johnson’s campaign against Barry Goldwater. My essay reviewed a book called A Texan Looks at Lyndon written by a hard-core West Texas conservative named J. Evetts Haley. In it, the old coot excoriated Johnson for his liberal views, his Jewish friends, his secular ways, his proffering of the welfare tit, and his rabid internationalism. The central point of my review was that Mr. Haley’s cultural politics, which we all deplored, differed in no substantial way from those of Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, Phillip Larkin, D.H. Lawrence, and Norman Mailer, whom we worshipped then as gods who walked the earth. Thus, I wondered whether Texas Liberals could really have it both ways. I thought I was touching a sore place when I wrote this, and even though my point was unassailable, I expected to be assailed, but I was not. My essay was greeted with tight smiles from my colleagues and professors. These left me undaunted \(on account press the point in subsequent essays about John Rechy, Susan Sontag, and Norman Mailer. I argued that liberal politics required lip service at least to the possibility of a liberated culturethat liberalism could not sustain itself wedded to prim morality and a nostalgic agrarian mythology. My point was never taken. Rather, its obverse was proven to me. My liberal friends just floated away into silence and the suburbs, not because of anything political I said or did, but because of my “international” aesthetics, my louche lifestyle, and my underground friends, who were way too fond of drugstore cosmetics to be altogether farmerfriendly. This bothered me not at all at the time. I was on my way somewhere. Today, however, I realize that I could not have been the only liberal firebrand who was pushed to arms-length for being a little too plain spoken and way too wild. There must have been hundreds of uspresently living abroad or near the waterand hundreds more, like my friend Larry Lee, who toed the line and lived in constant fear lest he be outed and disgraced before his beer-swilling liberal friends and their ardent floozies. This saddens me now because in retrospect I think this was the moment. And we missed it. This was the moment when Texans of good will, and Texas liberals specifically, might have abandoned xenophobic exceptionalism and joined the rest of the urban world. They could have said, “Hey! We live in America! This is the freakin’ Sixties!” They might have embraced, or at least tolerated, the alternative lifestyles, the urban ethos, and anti-modern intellectual models that were blossoming up everywhere in that moment. These cosmopolitan idiosyncrasies might have been brought forward into the political mainstream as they were brought forward in other urban societies. But they were not, and the price Texas paid for this is clear today. If you live in Texas, you bite your tongue. If you visit, it’s like visiting Johannes In Texas, however, it’s always about Texas… Even PMS is almost certainly known locally as TPMS. burg in the Sixties or Salt Lake City on a Sunday afternoon, and this needn’t have been the case. To understand just how unnecessary this all seems to those of us who fled, one need only examine Texas’ dubious honor as the “Queen of Red States.” It is, after all, the only one of these am-Bushed constituencies that doesn’t qualify for status as a National Parkthe only one in which wealth is created, things are invented, books are written, technology is refined, architecture is built, and paintings are painted. Criticism, of course, is but if you drive through its cities, dine in its restaurants, and attend its parties, Texas looks just like urban America. There are tagger dudes in watch caps on the corners, rich sillies tooting up in the powder room, and longshoremen with old-school hooks. There are high school chicks in full manga, Pakistani taxi drivers, rappers with their hoods up, and surfers riding in the wakes of freighters. There are drag queens dancing to OutKast, skateboarders who own the urban night, and divorcees with big hair talking on cell phones, driving Mercedes’ with two kids in the back seat. There are, in fact, enough Brazilians in Houston to populate the whole of West Texas, and these citizens who dwell on the margins of Texas’ political culture, should, in my view, be the base of Texas liberalism. If they were, Texas would be a blue state and the world would be different, and you can’t blame Jesus for this one. You can blame the awful, putrid “special-ness” of Texas on the brain. Dave Hickey is a writer of fiction and cultural criticism who lives in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. 12/3/04 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 31