Campaign Notes from North Texas

Jeffery and I had to get out at a decent time on Thursday (October 22) to be in Sherman for their 6PM anti-monument rally. I was running late, of course, but I was able to send the .pdf of the pamphlets to a Kinko’s in Sherman and get them printed in just a couple of hours — one of those marvels of late capitalism that seems like it’s actually a good idea. We had a couple of dozen of us and about a dozen counters, two of whom were wearing “Dixie Defenders” jackets. The man of the pair told me to set up farther from the monument. I said that, no, we’re good here. He asked me really politely to move our equipment, flags, and other paraphernalia away from the monument. I told him really politely that we were good where we were. He tried to out-lawyer me by saying that we had no right to be that close to the monument. It turns out that I know more about the First Amendment than a certain new SCOTUS Justice and could explain to him that we were well within our First Amendment rights to assemble and speak. This guy gives the impression of being a person who gets his way a lot from being very tall and having a long beard, gravelly voice, and one of those faces that’s sunken inward from self-consuming hatred. Frustrated by the Constitution, he agreed to let me exercise my rights as long as I didn’t object to him exercising his by standing by the monument. “Sure, assemble away, if you could just keep a couple of feet away.” He seemed annoyed that I agreed that he had every right to be there. Some people just want to fight.

This was more-or-less a one-man show. Since I hadn’t been to Sherman, I went through the whole lesson — talked through the Confederate flags and the anti-American, white supremacist sentiments of their designers, talked through Confederate songs, newspapers, and other artifacts to show that the ordinary southern white man understood himself to be fighting for slavery, and then talked through the repeated white supremacist lies about how Abolitionists/Civil Rights Activists/Black Lives Matter organizers are communists and incendiarists/looters/rioters — they haven’t updated their rhetorical toolkit since the 1860s. They just scratch the serial numbers off the lies.I had one of the experiences that I’ve had several times at these events: the instant I pull out the Confederate flags, the Confederati hush. I think they’re afraid that I’m going to light a fire — which would be fair, but not very educational. And then… they listen. Not very intently, but they seem to understand finally that I’m not there to appeal to someone’s emotions or to repeat something that’s been said a gajillion times. I’m there to educate. This has a salutary effect on their behavior.

The inimitable Jessica Luther Rummel engaged in her tactic of trying to see to it that white supremacists are uncomfortable. Not threatened — just uncomfortable. Whenever I see some poor bastard about to engage with her on any but the most civil terms, I scream out a warning to save him. As yet, no man has heeded me.

Friday was Kaufman, where some people don’t have senses of humor. Some nitwit up there decided to light up Facebook with warnings about the “dangerous antifa”, and so I made a smartass remark about how dangerous we were gonna be (“I’m gonna get out muh best arsonin’ clothes”), and that’s when the threats started rolling in. There were a couple of dozen cosplayers in jungle camouflage trying to hide in an urban setting, very loud people who can’t have an effect on people other than by trying to annoy them, and so forth. I don’t know whether they’re so epically stupid as to actually think that someone actually has arsonin’ clothes, or their lives are so meaningless that the only thing they could find to care about was someone’s internet joke. But anyway: we were there; the police were there and, in my opinion, did their jobs reasonably well; the good people of Kaufman and their civil servants took a stand for our country and against terrorism. Decent people should be able to attend an educational event in the county square. While we were waiting, I read some of the things that southern politicians said should happen to people advocating abolitionism as early as the 1830s. Things never change.

Saturday was a small event in Dallas having to do with Lamar St, followed by a small event about the Throckmorton statue in McKinney.

Early Sunday was Durant, OK, where the street sprained my ankle. (Old man shakes fist at infrastructure!) What was charming there was the Son of a Confederate Veteran who showed up with a sign. On one side of the sign were the noises that are supposed to prove that the southern states did not secede over slavery, none of which do and some of which actually help demonstrate the contrary. He was kind enough to hold that up so that I could use it as a visual aid. On the other side of the sign was a set of accusations about how we’re all communists who hate America. The guy who held it up deeply resented being called a Klansman. He can call us traitors when we are holding a patriotic event, but we can’t call him a white supremacist when he’s there representing a white supremacist organization?

(We need to normalize calling someone a “son-of-a-Confederate” as an insult.)

Later Sunday was Gainesville, with an appreciative crowd in the rain who only got the parts of the long presentation that we hadn’t done back in August. Then we wrapped it up in Paris with the whole talk. The County Judge there made an accidental appearance and apparently was so terrified of his constituents saying, “Hi!” that he made a beeline for his car and locked it faster than a Klansman in Harlem. The Paris monument is one of the silliest and gaudiest that I’ve seen; it was designed by Coppini, the same guy who did the Alamo Cenotaph and most of the nonsense disgracing the UT-Austin campus.

If you’re looking for it, you can find history lessons everywhere. Now, I’m as familiar with chilly, wet weather as anyone can be who’s from southeast Texas, which is to say, not that much. But I’ve never done a whole “campaign” in mediocre weather and I learned a little about why armies just stop in winter. We’ll be back on the road, but not this year.

Meanwhile, on Saturday in San Antonio, “This is Texas Freedom Force”, possibly the worst-named organization since “Mothers Opposed to the Occult”, held a victory celebration for their so-far successful efforts to prevent the Alamo from being used as a high-quality historical resource. What’s fun about this is that when we go to Durant, OK, to give an hour-long lecture in the rain on what ordinary Confederate soldiers said, we can attract about as many people as they can attract in a major Texas city on a nice day with an actual, you know, budget. I swear that I’m not going to understand these people. They don’t have anything to say. They just repeat the same fact-free emotionalizing, day after day, year after year, while I keep presenting new historical information and refining the presentation of the argument for removing the damned monuments. Don’t they get bored?

Obviously, I’d love to have thousands of adoring fans throwing their G-strings at me. But for a niche issue, mostly in the cold and wet, during a pandemic, when the politically active are beyond exhausted by campaigning — it went great and I’m proud of the work that every local organization did and that Jeffery and I did.

Published by Bryan Register

By day, I teach philosophy. By night, I'm an historical education activist.

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