For Dulcy: On McKinney, Texas and American Quixotic Impulses

Well, that’s just a summary subtitle. The actual working title is “For Dulcy’. I wrote this some time ago, when the McKinney pool thing was still happening, and when I was fresh and raw and tired and angry at everything and barely had time to create. I’m much happier now.

I was serious about dumping my Google Drive folder on here, by the way. Don’t think for a moment I won’t make good on that threat :p

I was looking at starting this with the passive voice, as I usually do. “It is difficult to express my rage at the recent incident in McKinney, Texas…” That’s bullshit. I’m fucked up. I’m angry. I am divided for love’s sake, for the chance of union, as a book by a man I agree with on a lot of things says. I am divided for love. And yet I owe that love, that division, that anger, saying what I really think. Which is a lot more positive than you think and likely a lot less fun to hear. It’s not rageclick copy, and it’s not thoughtful “I too understand the black female experience” Toni Morrison shit.

It’s different. I understand both sides. If there are only two. You see, I am one, and I’m married to the other.

Let me explain.

I am an American white male, 27, born the year before the fall of the Berlin Wall. My wife is of indeterminate ethnic composition, 63, born 1952. She is a lot more like a lot of us once were, and by that I mean “I am an American white male” who is also of Irish descent. We’ve forgotten. We’ve forgotten a lot. We were pioneers once.

Why am I diverting from McKinney, from police violence? Because most other pieces by now have put this in the context of great injustice and abandoned concepts like sacrifice and the emotional snarls that come from being made of meat, to get you to stop thinking. I’m not going to do that. I’m also not going to discuss the facts. Fuck the facts. They will be distorted until the last cop is strangled with the entrails of the last thug, or until Kingdom Come. Likely both. And definitely all summer.

I will tell you this. The Dallas Morning News’ report, published to the World Wide Web three hours ago as of this writing, is level-headed, a local source, reports only the facts and lets you decide. It does not attempt to contextualize. It does not attempt to think for you. It is real news. It also contains the usual quotes. Every one of the quoted sources is saying what that source from McKinney would say in this situation. Make of that what you will.

But there is a myth here. Not a factual narrative, like Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, the movie version of which was released the year after World War II ended. Not an absurdist manifesto riffing on the idea that the former is what our culture considers “a factual narrative”, like the Big Lebowski, released in the blank space when I was a young boy, when no one knew what to do and we had better movies as a result. Nah. I’m talking some Zeus and Pasiphae stuff. Gods. Dreams. Hopes. Fears. Love. Childbirth. The hopes and fears of women. Murder. Rape. Conquest. Nobility. Civilization. The hopes and dreams of Men. A communion, a cross. A meaning to the madness we can all agree on, because we’re stuck together and that’s beautiful but terrible.

The last week has been hard. The last two weeks. They have seen the death of my grandmother, the announcement of the divorce of my great-niece and her husband, and the release of the movie Tomorrowland. I feel like Frank Walker, like the crises have brought me hope. The national stage has seen much more activity than any end of spring normally tends to. There are rains everywhere. Hails. Storms. There is the whisper of payment due on Devil’s Night. Like in the movie The Crow, another touchstone for dreamers with nowhere to go, it can’t rain all the time. Unlike that piece of film, that’s a bad thing.

Wait. Hold up. Since when did we white boy nerds decide having nowhere to go was our thing? Isn’t that shiftlessness normally an experience our culture extends to minorities alone? Their cross to bear?

And now we begin to discuss my wife.

She was born in a similar time. A time so blank it has only had blandness inscribed. A time whose potential came due with great consequences for the United States and the World. Her father had survived the Depression and raised three girls, one darker, smarter and more alone than the others. He was a ham radio operator, a blue-collar worker, and a science fiction buff. An educator who ran a school for troubled Chicano boys. My wife’s childhood friends. A white man as burned out and as typical of his time in attitudes as anyone, really. A physically and sexually abusive man. A good father. He could have been on the Choctaw rolls when people with a blood claim were hungry, in the South Guthrie sang about, a land time and war forgot. He refused. He did not have the right. Not to pride in people, pride in place, to feed his own blood or to be fed by them.

Her first language was Morse Code. Her first act of heroism was to earn the respect of her father by, at the age of two, pointing out that beatings do not improve morale. Both of these things are true, they are serious. They are truer than what you are being told about McKinney. (yeah, yeah…I’m getting to that.)

You have already gathered that our racial and sexual history is complex. That the relationship of the colonizer to the colonized is best placed in primal terms. This is standard college course sociology. But it is individual stories that appealed to Steinbeck, to Chandler, to Heinlein, to any writer trying to convey the sufferings of a people in an age not meant for them. Those who fought back. Those who loved and remained committed even while pursuing hostilities. My father-in-law and my wife were one of these stories.

As she grew, she traveled across New Mexico and Texas, growing closer to God and to the land, and to those people who shaped her. Chicano punk kids in search of a future where they were men and brothers at Center Tech, the Pueblo and their hippie hangers-on in Bernalillo, St John’s College, a liberal arts school in Santa Fe, for one semester. A world where a white man with a glass eye saw everyone’s rejects as his kids, because if anyone had to be out of town by sundown then he and his wife and daughters didn’t belong either. Never had. A world where the best employment for Indian kids and women was making and programming Texas Instruments microprocessors, respectively. A school with an active hippie environment in 1969, where the professors had built the bombs that hung over us. That the Moon and Stars seemed to have been hung by the Hand of God to remind us of. A world where small steps were rewarded, but giant leaps impossible for everyone of value. A world where the spectre of racism had been dealt with by those who cared so deeply they could summon only the energy to make it worse. A world where righteousness cannot buy the future a Nazi scientist sold you in a glossy magazine the year you were born.

Does that world sound familiar? It should.

So she finally had a path. A future. And then the bills came due. Only one semester, being around boys who write and think like I’m doing right now, who understand her? (I do toot my own horn. It’s so I’m never asked to teach.) This was unthinkable. To someone from New Mexico, who sympathized with our Hispanic and Indian and White heritage alike (ever melt Neapolitan ice cream in the sun? Yeah. Except red, white and blue. And very few raisins), who was steeped in the popular mythology of Don Quixote, the Impossible Dreamer, that was taking the counterculture by storm? It had the effect it would have.

Then she relocated. I told you I would get to McKinney, Texas. Someone hit her on the head with one of our history books. The ones you and I read. Full of gross racist white people doing terrible things. As she lays unconscious on the pavement, waiting to open her eyes to a Kansas full of black and white for the second act, let me unveil the Hiding of Hadit, to again quote Crowley. Let me take you down the rabbit hole.

White people with dreams. Millennials. The very name invokes a promise due, and a Great Disappointment. We have a natural bone to pick with the boomers over the same mythic lands. We were promised a world without Soviet Russia, without nuclear war, and without endless idiotic wars abroad and police and corporate oppression at home. We fight for the same thing. What if I told you we fight against the same enemy? Disillusionment, inertia, and the forces in the culture that want us to think our ideas are new and different enough to work, to spend money on. We are all dressed up and nowhere to go. We saw the first shots fired in a scandal culture, the Internet’s early years, and the resurgence of the nightmare of 1968. When we were kids they had great movies. Movies we have begun to appreciate, like Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, Forrest Gump, and Saving Private Ryan. As we grew, our dreams grew. Star Wars. The Matrix. Marvel Superheroes. The recent rash of movies telling us we can take back THEIR dreams. A political culture marching us in line down the same road.

It’s ingenious, really. Take the best of the moral fiber and B-movie schlock and blind conformism of the brick-like 1950s history book they hit my wife with back there, and the best rebellion and highest political consciousness Atlantic and Columbia Records have to offer…Kanye our John Lennon, our Jim Morrison, comparing himself to Miles Davis the way white boys see themselves as heirs to Neil Armstrong…sell us the Doors of Perception and the street fighting rage of San Francisco Nights for a digital single download price of 99 cents. Tell us we can do it right, unlike disillusioned sellout hippies.

Go fuck yourself.

Anyway, to the personal from the metacultural. I was raised by conservative homeschoolers who didn’t approve of rock and roll or Star Wars. So I love those things. But I also love our space program as it was in the 1960s, the men who made it happen. World War II, the American West. Age and teenage storms have taken some of these away and put them back with nuance. I no longer see Billy The Kid or George Custer as entirely good or bad figures. Let’s put it that way. But my grasp on the West was skewed. I loved Texas and the idea that brave American pioneers might have tried to take from a corrupt Mexican regime enough land to dream. I would have hated McKinney then.

I tolerated Lubbock politely the first time I was there, for medical care for my wife. I tolerated a culture of dismissive, self-assured, insular punks who were taking the part of the country I loved and building a Midwestern city full of cowboy legends on it.

I tolerated it as I was tearing down the mythic structure the Atlantic order has built up around our grandfathers and Richard Nixon. I tolerated it for the same reason I tore those myths down. Those were my people. Right or wrong, I had to live with them. The same way I came to terms with John Randle (my father-in-law) and the perspectives of those who do not at all feel wronged by the racially and culturally charged history he represents. Like my wife.

She lies there, head spinning. We’ll get back to her before she does. Don’t worry. Being told how it really is by people who care is like cutting the wings off a butterfly. It’s harder when those who claim to care keep telling you your values were those of McKinney’s finest, then or now.

I have learned only two things. History is what it is and we cannot change this. Dreams are what they are and we can only change the future. There is very little reason we should change our dreams.

I share more in common, you may have guessed, with Officer Casebolt than it appears. I have learned to believe in Texas. To honor Richard Nixon. To embrace the hard solutions for the right reasons. You see, America has always had a power vacuum. From Emperors of Ice Cream like Joshua Norton, Aaron Burr, Sam Houston, Jeff Davis, Joe Smith, or Brigham Young made by a rejection of royal title and traditional order to pariahs like Mother Ann Lee, Frederick Douglass, Cochise, and Billy the Kid, to a sweeping west in search of dreams, land, gold and this myth of Freedom, to foreign wars and disillusionment with the past, red balances on Friday, and the terminal inability to get laid. We have been a Hollywood movie. A love story of lovers torn apart by war who find themselves. A myth. A myth blown away by the wind until at last it’s gone. Don Quixote was popular with people who believed this like me and my wife. People who historically didn’t understand that there is one side to every marriage of souls, not two. Not so much like me and my wife.

But we forget something. Don Quixote is a conquistador, an outlaw in type. A noble, a learned, landed leader of men. He is vindicated by narrative because he doesn’t really believe that. I mean, who could? Isn’t it dangerous when men try to dream the impossible dream, to turn back the clock by force of arms and old-fashioned values?

She thinks so. We return to her now, rising from the hangover of the long boom. This is how it is, says Aldonza the tavern whore. We are not raisins drying in the sun, between the stink of New Jersey’s landfills and the intellectual heritage of New York, tarred and feathered with the black marks of both and the benefits of neither. We are not so mixed in ethnicity that our traditions and our ways have been as lost to us as what tribe we come from, which is to say either a real White American born in 1952 or 1988 or an Indian. We are not stars hanging in space waiting for a dream. No, Aldonza proclaims. All the earth is a dung heap and we are maggots that crawl on it. And Sophia Loren blames Ialdabaoth, and in doing so forgets her own beauty. She acts like someone the arc of history and material progress have rejected. She acts like she’s realized the moral arc doesn’t exist, much less bends toward justice.

The year is 1970. McKinney, Texas has never not been a segregationist hellhole. It will never stop. It will merely admit what it is, lie about how it really feels, and never change. Aldonza’s heart sings with the spirit of the place and its song. She, too, throws dishrags full of scummy water onto the table and pronounces with scorn that those who are now wet have been made clean of their sins.

Far away, another man sits at the end of his rope. He is the object of hatred of every man in America. He is therefore Huck Finn. He has chosen to go to hell where people told him to go, that he might harrow it, but the Devil has waylaid him with the knowledge that the more you know, the more you realize those who hate you are right. Last night he walked down to the National Mall in a feverish, desperate state. He didn’t know what was wrong with him. He wanted somebody to validate him. Tell him he was not crazy. The students there treated him the way they treat every man who returns from Vietnam. They tell him truth is more comforting than dreams. They don’t understand why that hurts, why that makes him laugh. He should have gone to Texas.

Waking up in the backseat of a car on a Texas highway, watching a Vietnam veteran who won’t tell her what he’s done but will pay the same attention to her her father used to light up a cigarette and curse the sunrise, Aldonza agrees with Richard Milhous Nixon. It is Don Quixote who has done this to them.

Over time, these wounds heal. The world makes its cautious, formal peace with Aldonza, with Dick Nixon, with the black race, the white race, with Vietnam. It continues its march toward justice and peace and equality for all. Toward ragebait think pieces and Amazon shops where you can buy anything for a dollar, so long as it insults your soul by calling it equal before Mammon, because God is a Quixotic notion. Nixon dies, surrounded by all that ever mattered to him, really. All he fought for. I turn fourteen and go insane, realizing my grandfather might have been right all along but hating the truth. She marries a Vietnam vet who actually loves her, who needs her, and begins studying for a job in the medical field, trying to find ways to help the world atone for what it has done to her.

I grow older, I become angrier. I find that there is nothing wrong with this world except that we keep saying so. I grip the steering wheel hard enough to warp the front axle, but to quote a favorite musical group, the car is on fire and there is no one at the wheel. Don Quixote has not done this to me. The villagers have done this to me because I am insane and my views insult their plastic souls. Barreling toward either the Greasy Grass, the Donner caravan, or Pat Garrett’s muzzle end, I continue trying to right the car.

At least now there is a driver in it. Richard Nixon, my grandfather the advertiser, the conservative tradition, and Jim Lovell have done this to me. Don Quixote was torn upon the wheel in a Maryland airport some time ago.

She and I meet. There is a new beginning. Possessed of the dream of wearing a chrome dickhead on my spacesuit and penetrating virgin land in search of gold and knowledge, I forge onward to battle, to conquest. I want to protect her. To hold her. To never let her husband die while she watches. To guard a soul that believes Don Quixote has done this to her, and to do better. I know the only way Don Quixote can and will do better is to actually do what it takes to murder his invisible, gigantic machine enemies. We used to call them Archons, when Philip K Dick and her first husband were breaking at the same time for the same reasons. They hated Richard Nixon and what he had done to them. They did not know their own fathers. I do. It is I who have done nothing wrong to me. It is I who now do this to her.

“This” is a complex, inescapable mess made of meat, writhing, bills, anger, stress, agreement, disagreement, domination and submission. This, I could escape and no one in the world would think less of me. She could too. It is a marriage. The Hieros Gamos of solving problems you didn’t make by love and tenacity you didn’t know you had. Because to those divine, this love is what the world is.

I stand, washing dishes, watching out my window as people who think earth is hell try to make it so, and people who think it’s heaven try to act as if it’s so. They’re on the same side. I wish they’d just fuck and get it over with. A voice tells me, the stones at last crying out. It rejoices, for Don Quixote has at last set his feet upon her and made her whole. It is the llano, redeemed by grace and by storms and hail and good men who do hard things and love harder people.

“Write this, for mija. Make your conclusions yours alone.”

Of course I will. And with this I conclude. Dreams will only happen if people make them so. But the dream must not be changed to fit the facts, and what the dream calls us to do must not be tempered. But we must never forget that we fight against our bilious outrage at both sides of the McKinney cyclone because we understand what McKinney does to people, and also better understand who does it. All is fair in war and love. We shall be vindicated if only we stay the course together, and only if we understand why we stay that course.

I stay that course for Dulcinea. For an impossible dream that we have made real. Tomorrowland belongs to me.

Frank Walker (pseudonymously)

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