It seems like Texas has been living inside a series of movie titles. Where Were You When the Lights Went Out?, shifted to Don’t Drink the Water, and moved on to Once Upon a Time in Mexico.
This week, Governor Greg Abbott took it to a whole new level when he lifted COVID-19 restrictions on businesses and rescinded a statewide mask mandate. This provoked many Texans to cry out, “Oh, God, I wanna know why…why?…Lord, I wish I could understand” like M’Lynn in the graveyard.
President Biden described the thinking behind this decision as “Neanderthal,” which I would more likely agree with were Rick Perry still governor. But I give Governor Abbott more credit than to dismiss this policy as uninformed or regressive. If we want to pursue M’Lynn’s question, we’ll need to do better than that.
The decision to allow businesses to operate at 100% capacity, including in spaces where doing so is clearly unsafe, could have been the result of bowing to pressure put on Governor Abbott by business owners. But removing the restrictions on bars, restaurants, and the like will do little, if anything, to help many other small businesses like dry cleaners and all of the small shops and stores that depend on foot traffic for much of their business.
Eliminating the mask mandate indicates something entirely different, and possibly sheds more light on the real motivation. There seems to be nothing to indicate that this change will help businesses at all. Folks are going to the grocery store whether or not they have to wear masks, and pushing the mask wearing decision to the store owners themselves does not appear to be helpful to those very businesses.
What that decision does do is appeal to some Texans whose independent streak outstrips their respect for the communities in which they live. That is not to say that they are unfeeling, lack compassion, or are somehow bad people. It just means that some Texans will go to the Tom Thumb maskless to buy the fixings for a tuna casserole that they will prepare and drop off at the house of friends or neighbors who are grieving a COVID death. The irony will escape them.
To be sure, all Texans didn’t denounce Governor Abbott’s decision; in fact, some folks embraced it. No doubt those who did are likely to be part of the electorate that will turn out to vote in the Republican primary next year. The last time a Democrat won statewide in Texas was 1994, so having the support of that relatively small group of voters (something less than 2,000,000) will get one’s name on the ballot for the general election with an “R” beside it, which practically assures the win.
This last explanation is clearly the most damning. Any elected official who would include the very health of their constituents, who would expose them to increased risk of illness and even death, as part of a calculation to determine what is best for himself politically is operating within spitting distance of a personality disorder.
So, M’Lynn, barring something as yet unknown, the answer is Abbott is either foolish, weak, delusional, or borderline sociopathic. I take no pleasure in this conclusion.
But whatever the reason, the bare truth is we remain on our own to deal with the pandemic, the power grid, and at least one senator and a governor who seem to be more interested in their political futures than the current safety and security of their constituents. But, this is still Texas, and that independent streak sometimes comes in quite handy.
Back in elementary school, I always loved when we would have music time in the cafeteria. There was a lady named Mrs. Knaak, as I recall, who floated between several schools, playing the piano and leading the singing. We’d sing “Down by the Old Mill Stream” and a particularly raucous rendition of “Li’l Liza Jane.”
My favorite, though, was always “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” sung as a round. Being distracted by what another group was singing and not focusing on what one’s own group was supposed to do could result in the whole thing falling apart.
Today, we’re rowing, or at least some of us are. I’m not sure we’re going “gently down the stream.” It seems more like paddling furiously against the current, and it’s getting less “merrily” and more scarily. As for the “life is but a dream” part? Well, I’ll just leave that right there.