Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Poor Waco...and poor Texas

The city of Waco seems doomed to bad publicity. Over a century ago, they had journalist William Cowper Brann in their midst, publishing his Iconoclast newspaper and savagely attacking Baptists, Episcopalians, the British and black people. The city, home of Baylor, the state's most revered Baptist university, could hardly stand it. Then Brann published evidence that Baylor officials had been importing young South American girls as house maids and that one young girl had been impregnated by someone from a prominent Baylor family. Scandal! Brann was silenced when a Baylor supporter shot him in the back. Fort Worth's own Jerry Flemmons wrote a one-man play featuring Brann.
Waco probably had other scandals in between but the one that really caught national attention was the raid on the Branch Davidian compound. David Koresh, a charismatic self-anointed leader of the sect, was accused of child abuse and statutory rape. When an attempt was made to serve warrants, federal agents were fired upon. Ultimately ATF agents raided the compound, losing four of their own men and killing several Branch Davidians. Ultimately they burned the compound, killing men, women and children. It's a blot on Waco, a blot on US law enforcement, and a cautionary tale about extreme religious sects.
Then they had the Western White House in nearby Crawford, which was a blessing, a tourist attraction, and a source of pride--except it drew many protestors of the war in Iraq until the Bush ranch was nearly besieged. I'm not sure the protestors were dealt any compassion, but the whole thing blew over. And today you rarely hear of the Bush family going to the ranch.
And now--Waco has the biker rumble, which has made national headlines. While police described it as one of the worst bloodbaths they've ever seen, some complain that the bikers were treated leniently--not handcuffed, allowed to keep their cell phones. That apparently ended when 170-some were indicted for organized crime activity and murder and were put under a million-dollar bond.
The question is what will happen next. Apparently rumors are flying that there will be a retaliatory rumble, and law enforcement is readying all its resources. Wouldn't surprise me if the rumble took place somewhere totally different. But meanwhile the fight that took nine lives, wounded I don't know how many others, gives Waco (and Texas) yet another black eye.
Just when things in Texas aren't going well--depending on your point of view. If current legislature passes--and apparently it will--even unconvicted criminals (how do you tell the difference?) will be able to walk the streets carrying any manner of guns they want, and police can't question them until they catch them in a criminal act. Is that locking the barn after the horse is gone? There will be a ban on banning fracking--cities can no longer determine the policy for their own boundaries--just when all scientific evidence points to the dangers of fracking and its part in causing earthquakes. And clergy cannot be forced to perform same-sex marriages--which looks like it's headed for a national law.
Texas is and always had been a nation onto itself. But our national reputation is getting ludicrous. I need to re-study the glorious history of this state to remind myself why I stay here...and hope good times will be here again. Meantime I'm not moving to Waco.

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