These last few weeks have been difficult, and I don’t mean on a personal level. With the news getting more horrific every week, this year has already become one of the worst I’ve ever witnessed. My only hope is that all the horror of the last few weeks and months will ultimately jolt the world into action. It is obvious that reform on all sorts of levels is more than overdue, be it guns, corporate greed, political megalomania or elections (which seem to incorporate all of them). Seriously, how much worse can things get? Unfortunately, there is plenty more scope for nastiness: the UK has just voted to leave the EU, which will -and has already- caused all sorts of nasty havoc, and the US elections are still ahead later this year. There seems to be so much anger and hatred in the world, it’s hard to stay upbeat.
I just read about a few women being kicked out of a California (!) cafe for wearing headscarves, and about a shooter in Germany, taking hostages in a cinema before being killed by police. And now, Turkey. Every day you read things like this, and trying to explain what’s happening in the world to your children is becoming more and more complicated. It seems like there are dangerous, stupid and ignorant people everywhere in the world. And a total lack of empathy and compassion.
What makes me feel upbeat, however, is how much the younger generation loathes and rejects the current greed and megalomania. Maybe there is hope. Although getting them to vote is another matter.

And of course, there are great things like the Democrats’ 26-hour sit-in in Congress to make a stand against those blocking gun reform. And just a couple of days ago, Supreme Court struck down Texas’ ugly, politically-motivated anti-abortion laws. I hope we’ll see much more of this kind of thing in the months to come. But so much is still amiss.
Among those senators voting against gun control were proud Texan Sen. Ted Cruz and fellow Texan Sen. John Cornyn, who received around $75,000 and $57,000 respectively from the NRA (tiny sums compared to the over $7 million which Sen. John McCain, former Republican presidential nominee pocketed, but still). And it was Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick who, in the aftermath of the Orlando shooting, quoted bible passages along the lines of “they had it coming”, “those who choose a gay lifestyle deserve what they get”. Texas is deeply religious. And Texas loves guns.

seen in a shop window in Wimberley, one hour south of Austin

Here in Austin, in our liberal, Bernie-loving, craft beer brewing, Hipster bubble, you could almost forget that you’re in a deeply red state. Red, as in conservative. In this country, blue is the colour of the left/more liberal side, i.e. the Democrats, while red belongs with the Republicans. But this wasn’t always the case; in fact up until the 20th century, parties were aligning their colours with vast parts of the rest of the world, equating the color red with socialism. But towards the end of the 20th century, the colours were switched around (“r” for red, “r” for Republicans, amongst other reasons). Anyway, Austin – often described as the blue dot in a sea of red, or, by more pessimistic observers, a purple dot – can fool you big time. And of course the fact that I’ve only spotted one Trump sticker in 5 months doesn’t mean that there aren’t hundreds of supporters right around the corner.

The city is full of artists, musicians and other creatives, has a huge LGBT community and generally seems to like a happy, down-to-earth lifestyle, with big dislike of huge corporations. As I said in a previous post, people here are very friendly and easy to talk to. But also very proud to be Texan, with Texan values going back a long way. So even here, in the middle of blue-dot-in-a-red sea Austin, you get your chunk of Texas attitude from time to time.

Last week, as I waited for F’s dance class to finish, a fellow waiting parent started chatting to me. That’s what happens here when two people are in a room. In Britain, you would acknowledge each other, maybe say something like “ah well can’t be long now till they finish?” or maybe even “Which one’s your daughter?”, but here a short exchange like that would be impossible. Everybody likes to chat. So we got talking, and I like those conversations, as it’s always interesting and eye-opening to hear people’s opinions, especially when you don’t know them and probably won’t see them again.
Anyway, obviously I had to come clean and talk about moving here from California. He went off into one of the typical “Austin is overrun by Californians” chants, but in a jovial way. “All we want is for people who move here to be nice. And unfortunately that’s not always the case.” Yes, I can see that. Silicon Valley money making mentality and an overinflated sense of self might rub an Austinite the wrong way. Covering Teslas (Texas man: “how pretentious can a car be”), house prices and In-n-Out Burgers v. P.Terry’s, we moved on to cycling. I explained that S was a keen cyclist, but hasn’t been out as much here as back in CA. Partly, I told him, because he hasn’t found nice roads and tracks that felt as safe as what we were used to because of big cars not taking too much notice of cyclists in the roads. “That’s because we have all those Mexicans here. They just….” and he pulled a face. Well, I’ve seen my fair share of dangerously fast pick-up trucks, driven by white men, as well as SUVs cutting corners near schools, big blonde Texas hair at the wheel. I waited for more “interesting” nuggets. “So, what’s a good road then?” I asked him. “The one right at the back of this area”, he said. “It would be named after Lance Armstrong, as it was his training ground.” Talking about Lance Armstrong, very controversial Austin-born legend, is an interesting topic in this town. There still is a bike path in downtown named after him. “Lance Armstrong, really?” I said. “That man, what a shame he turned out to be…” I trailed off to find the right word, a word that wouldn’t be too scathing but leave no doubt as to what a loathsome personality that man had. Texas man cut in: “Yeah, what a shame he got himself caught!” Well, I guess that’s one way of looking at it.
Unfortunately the class had finished by then, otherwise we might have covered religion and gun control next.

sticker spotted a couple of times on car

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s