I want to talk about what’s going on in Texas.
Well, two days ago I wanted to talk about what’s going on in Texas. Now I hardly know where to start.
I have good friends who live in Texas. They’re always trying to get me to move down there and live near them, and I’m always joking about how my fibromyalgia reacts to hot weather and that I’d have to wear a Mr. Freeze suit just to walk from my house to the car. That seems especially ironic right now.
I keep checking on my friends on facebook from time to time this past few days. They are safe, for the time being. At least one of them got a generator before the storm came in. The children are sledding for the first time in their lives, having fun. Most people in Texas aren’t that lucky. They aren’t having a good time.
The power grid in Texas has completely collapsed, leaving millions of people without electricity. Texas houses were built to keep cool, not warm; they don’t have adequate heating or insulation. Pipes are freezing up. The whole city of San Antonio is on a boil order. People are being told to get water from “another source” than their faucets, which is ludicrous because all the stores are closed and the roads can’t be traversed. Hospitals are having trouble staying open. At least twenty people have frozen to death, and that number is only going to go up.
Texas is the only state to have its own independent power grid, which is partly responsible for this mess; it means it’s very hard for them to bring in more electricity if something goes wrong. They have an independent power grid because they wanted to avoid government regulation which was considered “socialism,” and now they’re trapped. Texas apparently also doesn’t have snow plows. And this isn’t just because it’s in the south. It does snow in Texas occasionally. They could have been better prepared if they chose. There are eerie drone videos of the roads at the Arkansas border, with the Arkansas side carefully plowed and the Texas side completely covered in snow.
The powerful and well-to-do in Texas don’t seem concerned. Dallas Cowboys general manager and natural gas baron Jerry Jones is reportedly raking in money on his energy investments. Former Texas governor Rick Perry claims that this is all what Texans want, to protect them from depending on other people’s energy grids, though that’s not what anybody else who lives in Texas has told me. One Texas mayor gleefully opined that “Sink or swim it’s your choice! The City and County, along with power providers or any other service owes you NOTHING! I’m sick and tired of people looking for a damn handout.” He had the decency to resign. More Texas politicians ought to follow suit.
One Texas politician who certainly ought to follow suit is Ted Cruz, who abandoned his constituents entirely and went to Cancun.
Yes. Senator Ted Cruz, who wants a wall built on the Texas border to repel refugees coming to Texas through Mexico, flew out of Texas to take refuge in Mexico this week. He seems to have thought he could quietly slip away, but he was photographed at the airport and social media went wild. Last I checked, he’s now claiming that he had to go to Cancun because his children wanted to go and he couldn’t let his wife and kids fly first class alone. I wonder what the fathers currently separated from their children in immigrant detention in Texas have to say to that. I haven’t seen such an internet roasting since R. R. Reno’s public meltdown last year. Even conservatives are furious. I didn’t think any amount of selfishness could shock me after the displays I saw in 2020, but this is the worst selfishness I’ve ever heard of.
One person who hasn’t fled Texas is Beto O’Rourke, Ted Cruz’s failed 2018 rival for the senate. O’Rourke stayed in Texas manning a call center checking on Texas seniors and evacuating them if they’re in danger.
Another person I want to commend during this disaster is our old friend Mattress Mack, a Catholic gentleman from Houston famous for his giant furniture warehouses and for his philanthropy. Mattress Mack used his warehouse as a shelter for evacuees during the Houston flooding years ago. He handed out grab-and-go lunches to hungry people during the COVID lockdown. He’s now opened his furniture store as a warm shelter for freezing people in his community.
Americans idolize businessmen. Scrappy and resourceful people who open a business and work hard at it to provide for their families are treated with a kind of reverence, as if they’re models of sanctity according to our state religion. Reverence for hardworking independent businessmen who don’t take a handout is sometimes mistaken for a trait of Christianity in America. And that’s wrong. Hard work, thrift and resourcefulness are not the same as the charity and justice the Gospel requires of us. Still, they’re good traits to have and can be turned to good ends. Many saints have taken a path to sanctity that involved faithfulness to their family industry– just think of Saint Joseph at his carpentry shop or Zelie Martin and her lace business. Republicans have long crowed that they are the champions of American Christianity and of the scrappy and resourceful businessman, protecting the businessman’s ventures from the wasteful Democrats. I certainly hope this nightmare in Texas reveals what a lie that’s been. Democrats are nothing to write home about either and neither party is the Christian’s friend. But in this case, one party is squarely to blame. The Republican party ruined Texas and left their constituents to die. And genuinely virtuous scrappy Christian businessmen like Mattress Mack are left holding the bag and trying to do good without them.
It would be easy to blame the individual citizens of Texas for this, to paint them all as stupid backward yokels who deserve what they get. But remember how hard the powers that be have worked to suppress voting in the state. Texas is an oligarchy, not a democracy. And the powerful oligarchs who ruined the state are not the ones suffering this disaster. The people who worked hard and organized against them are. The forty-six per cent of Texans who voted against the Republicans in 2020 are freezing. People of color in Texas are freezing. God alone knows what the people still imprisoned in immigration facilities in Texas are suffering. They are not responsible for this crisis, and those who are are not the ones suffering.
If you’d like to help the victims of this disaster, here’s a list of charities to get you started.
Image via Pixabay
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.
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