I’ve finally learned that you have to ask for what you want in this life. I know, I know—getting what you want is another matter. But it’s been a hard year, so leave me to my fool’s paradise. Here’s what you can get this Texan for Christmas this year:
1. A really great idea: no more books from Rick Perry or George W. Bush! They need to save themselves for doing what they do best, whatever that is. Shooting coyotes? Clearing brush? I don’t care. They can save a few forests and leave the world of good, honest, reflective, truthful writing to people who can actually manage it.
2. Reassurance that the gossip about Karl Rove house-hunting in my Austin neighborhood is only a cruel joke.
3. Ditto on the Perry-for-President-in-2012 rumor. Not funny, not in the holiday spirit; stop talking about it or you’re going to have to spike my eggnog a lot more heavily.
4. When you’re of a certain age, as I am, you begin to wish for practical gifts that can’t be packaged attractively. This year, I vote for a virtual colonoscopy. An idea whose time has come!
5. All of which brings me, not terribly mysteriously, to Sharon Keller. Remember her? She’s the presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Three years ago, she told the court clerk to close the office at 5 p.m., as usual, even though a condemned man’s attorneys were seeking to file papers requesting a stay of execution. So the office was closed on time and the man, Michael Richard, was executed that night. For the holidays, will somebody bring this woman a conscience? Or how about a heart?
6. As long as I’m asking for the impossible, will somebody please enlighten me about why UT football coach Mack Brown got a $1 million raise last year?
7. If you think we’ve had a hard year on this side of the border, consider what it must be like to live on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande. Given the continuing bloodshed and violence there, will somebody in Texas initiate an intelligent, serious discussion about decriminalizing drugs? Only the El Paso City Council, just across the river from the bloody streets of Juarez, has considered this action. Could decriminalization possibly cause worse carnage and destruction than we’re already seeing in Mexico?
8. Living in Austin, you automatically think of yourself as being one of the Chosen. Trees, lakes, hills, music, liberals, laissez-faire lifestyle. What more could you want? I’ll tell you what: mass transit. How on earth did Texas’ supposed beacon of progressivism let Houston and Dallas—two cities Austinites routinely scorn—get so far ahead on something so important? This year, I want light rail under my tree.
9. Can we all agree that specialization has its strong points? All right! Now that a certain dentist has been sent back to Bryan to presumably pull teeth and perform root canals, can we agree to listen to evolutionary biologists—and not witless, uninformed amateurs—talk about science?
10. I realize that I have a hopeless conflict of interest when it comes to higher education in Texas. After all, my husband teaches at the University of Texas at Austin and I used to work for the UT System. Still, before state legislators begin to slash funding for higher ed, I hope they’ll pause to remember a few important matters. Such as: universities and medical schools educate new generations, spur innovation, attract industry, and sponsor research that enhances lives and cures dread diseases. I told you I had a conflict of interest. But if you care about this state, I think we all do.
11. I see that George W. and his newly svelte sidekick Dick Cheney have broken ground on the Bush Institute at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. May the institute surprise us all and be intellectually rigorous and non-partisan.
12. Will everybody please stop playing The Little Drummer Boy?
As you can see, I saved my least realistic request for the last of my list. But I can dream. After all, Bristol Palin was finally sent packing on Dancing With the Stars and Tom DeLay just got convicted of money laundering. Doesn’t that teach us that, around Christmas-time, anything is possible?