There could have been a riot last night in the Texas Capitol. I don’t know how to put what happened into words. I have been involved in Texas politics for maybe thirty years and I have never seen anything like it. I suspect few of us had.
After the Republicans appeared to have won the day and passed a bill that added a horrible burden on poor rural women seeking reproductive healthcare, as soon as it became clear that the Republicans were going to make up the rules as they went along, including a final dirty trick of letting the bill pass after time had expired, it was clear that the women of Texas had had enough.
Words fail. It was like a Kafka novel where humanity and the structure of a building merge. Suddenly, from the capitol extension, one could feel a vibration coming from the Rotunda where people had begun shouting and stomping and producing a noise that was so loud it was hard to make out the words being chanted.
At the time, I could not make out what people were saying, but the men were chanting a refrain and the women were answering. It turns out the chant began with the men asking, “Whose house is it?” and the women responding in deafening thunder, “Our house!” Through the early years of this movement in Texas I always expected to be one of a handful of men at such a gatherings. My eyes filled with tears as I realized those days are over. The women of Texas have found their beautiful angry voice and the men of Texas have their back. We have all begun to realize that reproductive choice isn’t just a woman’s issue. It is a human rights issue as basic as any other.
The people seemed to realize they had to stop asking for their own power. They needed to stop asking permission to be fully human. When this bill passed, it could have been just one more indignity for Texas women. After all, the Republicans of Texas have launched a tireless assault on women for decades. As one more anti-choice bill passed in the Texas House and then Senate, suddenly a realization seemed to dawn on the masses all at once. They realized that these Republicans will never stop trying to control Texas women. They will never really listen to what Texas women have to say. And they will cheat at every turn because they believe they are right by definition.
After the bill appeared to pass another reading, people ran toward the rotunda for what might mean certain arrest. One Republican talked about removing the people if they would not be quiet, and then something happened. I saw a look of determined peace in the peoples’ eyes as they ran toward what might be their own arrest. It was the peace one only sees in those who have given themselves to do their duty at any price.
As the politicians struggled to justify their anti-democratic actions, democracy broke out all around them. It must have been hard to think with apocalyptic thunder ringing from the heart of the building. In the end, the Republicans agreed to throw out the bill. I have no idea what happened behind closed doors, but this much seems clear. Last night would not have happened had the people lacked a revolutionary courage and a willingness to be civilly disobedient. Nor could last night have happened had there not been people who stayed to work within the system to translate the peoples’ energy into law. And we must not forget the x factor. Last night could not have happened had not at least one Republican done the right thing. Republicans are not our enemies, they are our friends, but they cannot be our overlords. This world belongs to us all and if necessary the people will rise up to make it so.
The evening ended with Cecile Richards leading us in a song that, as a native Texan, always seemed trite, “The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You.” I have never heard the song as a revolutionary anthem until last night. Our nation is a representative democracy. And, as Jefferson warned, if the powers that be do not represent the people, then the people must rise up and remind them where all real legitimate power resides, not in the government but in the people. Last night Republicans were served notice that they must represent every Texan or find new employment.
The Eyes of Texas are upon you,
All the live long day.
The Eyes of Texas are upon you,
You can not get away.
Do not think you can escape them
At night or early in the morn-
The Eyes of Texas are upon you
‘Till Gabriel blows his horn.
Magnificent rendition Jim. You’re a gifted writer whom I always read. Hope it makes the Statesman and beyond! Thank you!
Inspiring story until conclusion with singing Eyes of Texas. Hullabaloo!
Thank you. I feel like this letter should be run alongside Ken Herman’s column in the statesman today. He saw last night as a breakdown of democracy. I saw it as you did (I was on the 2nd floor rotunda balcony). We were not a mob, we were practicing the last, best hope in the face of an overwhelming wrong: civil disobedience.
The way you stated this choked me up. Again. I’ve been in the verge of emotional tears many times today as I recall the immensity and power of what happened last night. I also feel like people should be reminded that this incredible lopsided balance of power in our elected bodies is the result of blatant gerrymandering for the last decade. The state is not 2/3 republican, and is definitely not 2/3 wingnut republican!
We live in a county in Illinois where this should also happen…the people have sat back too long..they need their voices to be heard without fear or consternation…older generations tell stories that go back several decades and tis amazing this is history repeating itself except in present day generations…..stand up and be heard …one man can’t make a dent …..OLD habits are hard to break….
they so forget who they work for and it’s not themselves..take the step..
Praise for the standing up !!!
we live in a county in Illinois where this could be implemented if the people could find their voices again and know that they matter..stand up and be heard.. without fear or consternation..get involved..older generations will tell you this is the way it’s always been and stories that will match the ones of today..just a different time..change is difficult and we need to get our legs back… one man cannot stand alone and expect to get results. The facts are about ready to come out so pay attention.. unity is the verb that can make changes …heads up….start in your own neighborhood..It does not have to be this way…we allow it….by standing by with ourselves on idle…
This is the best piece of journalism written in modern times
Cried deep, deep tears upon reading this … all the millennia of powerlessness and invisibility … and we are DONE. The relief that the women of Texas found their voice and their power rushed through my heart … and through your words I was right there with them. If it can happen in Texas … joy to the world.
This is a great piece. I WISH I had run down to the Capitol to be there but instead watched all night, with 180,000 others online.
One phrase comes to mind.
“You can’t slap Texas women around any more…”
I hope Wendy Davis runs for Governor and kicks Perry into retirement.
Except for the fact that we live in a Democratic-Republic, your article was pretty good.
“Benjamin Franklin said, ‘We have given you a democratic-republic… if you can keep it.”
I hope this patriotism spills over into Mississippi. The pundits would have you believe that Mississippi is blood red, but it’s not! We’ve fought against personhood and for women’s rights unceasingly; you just don’t ever hear about it–just like anyone who depends upon MSM didn’t hear about Texas on Tuesday night. I watched it from Twitter and the Livestream, and I’m so grateful for both of those entities.
Thank you for posting this. It is an elegant read.
Unfortunately, that is the common sense.
What is the difference between most Republicans and most Democrats?
In both cases it would appear to be taxation, and the contrived justification for taxation, with representation.
Travis county had numerous UNCONTESTED RACES in 2012?
The persona Emotionality construct and public presentation and defining/airing of ABUSE [and accompanying caused real harm from the several forms of ABUSE], OPPRESSION, SUPPRESSION can be official or unofficial. Abuse, oppression, suppression can be a functional of unofficial authority, or official authority. Most often there has to be, and is a colluding aspect of the/a official authority LOCAL COMMUNITY component to affect and institutionalize the WRONG. It is for this line of reasoning that I have been a long time activist and advocate for the FBI creating a Black Robe crime division to correspond with the White Collar Crime Unit. [Academics wear black robes too.] With religion fueling religious Emotionality in the world and the numerous genocides since the 1917 Communist Revolution. I do not want to live under sharia in Christian or Muslim form. It would seem to me there will not be peace in the world until we do not have mob rule in any form. The standards of BEHAVIOR Rhetoric, and discourse [and press coverage] in our leaders in every dynamic need to be raised. Every side of every issue needs to be working to avert a police state, and taxation or work camp to death, by working to civilly make the press media better define the issues towards a more true and genuine Peace. Is freedom to talk and vote in a fouled and flawed process a good thing? Do you want to be controlled by who/the mob [that] can shout the loudest, or who can shout down the minority voice*, or can contrive the shrewdest bit of sophistry or sound byte? I am for choices and would choose to not be ruled by mob rule, or phony religion political correctness. * I am forever reminded of an episode of a popular western years ago where Marshall Matt Dillon held off a lynch MOB of intentionally incited Emotionality, in order for an innocent person to not be hung the day/night before his “fair and unbiased” trial and equal justice like we have in Travis and Williamson counties. John Bradley said Ken Anderson told him there was no problem, so there was no need to trust but verify, and follow arm’s length business principles, and most of us have seen the videos of Rosemary Lehmberg on YouTube. I am going to toss out a hypothetical – if you or I had done the same thing exact Behavior would we have gotten the same punishment. In all three cases what is the ATTITUDE towards the law, laws, and respect for the law and decorum of the courts and the house and senate chambers?
Mob rule is not how a civilized nation is run, it is how a dying nation is run.