My deeply Southern mother, the love-child of Edith Bunker and Scarlett O’Hara, with a little Lucy Ricardo thrown in for time and place, taught me that the worst adjectives anybody could ever use to describe a person were cute and nice. As a result, I have lived a life surrounded by interesting people, rarely cute and occasionally nice.
What nice in the venacular doesn’t require, though, is polite. And polite is something we all are, being from the South, even when casting the darkest aspersions. You know what I mean, “She eats with a fork even though she’s from The North, bless her heart…” or “Sure he reads! He takes the same newspapers as Sarah Palin, bless his heart.”
Aside: I have been a writer, essayist, satirical observer, and social commentator since I got my first number two pencil. It is who I am in my soul and nothing else I have ever done matters a smidge by comparison. You need to know that to understand this story…
Shortly before The Great Storm of 2008, I got wind that Karl Rove, ethicist extraordinaire, bless his heart, had been invited to be the Keynote Speaker at the Texas Association of REALTORS® annual convention. I found the selection ironic at best and repulsive at worst and wrote a little something privately to my list of colleagues, politely suggesting we should perhaps ask our leadership to reconsider, given the whole perception of and judgment by association thing we all live by, like it or not.
Well! One of them sent it to the newspaper, and I was quickly slapped down and told in no uncertain terms that as a business person with stakeholders, I had abdicated my right to free speech and that I was expressly forbidden to speak out or write about anything remotely political ever again.
Take a moment to picture it, if you will… I’ll wait…
I was still licking the bloody stump where my right arm had been when Ike rolled in a couple of months later, and when I woke up on the other side of the looking glass, to paraphrase Grandmother Scarlett, I vowed never to be silenced again. Anyone who’s been reading my work — first on the Galveston After Ike blog and more recently on this site — knows what happened after that. I began living OUT LOUD!
I get it everyday: “Are you sure you want to tell people so much? Why don’t you just live by example?” And I say the same thing each time: If the Sulzbergers had given me a New York Times column in 1980, I’d have been thinking aloud like Maureen Dowd and Molly Ivins regularly for the last 30 years with a much larger readership. As for my “private life,” I learned from Ike that nobody knows how to help if you don’t give them a list and a road map. That’s my mission now. I’m a regular GPS of social and political problem-solving, or at least explanation.
Don’t tell my mother, but I’ve always been a nice girl. Of course, I don’t want to offend anybody — perish the thought — but there are bound to be casualties here and there. And I can live with that.
By the way, did you know that there are only two African American Republicans in the House of Representatives? Apart from the obvious oxymoron, shall we revisit the diversity of the GOP? Bless their hearts.