How hell boils over
February 7, 2018 § 9 Comments
A long time ago I lived in Miami. From where we lived it was about 1,660 miles to South Beach, because the Miami we lived in was in Texas.
Stuck up on the High Plains, Miami had less than 600 residents and was the only town in the county, which itself was almost a thousand square miles in size. The closest big town was about twenty miles east, Canadian, Texas, with about 2,000 people. The closest big city was about twenty miles west, Pampa, Texas, with about 20,000. There was nothing to the north or to the south worth driving for, unless you were looking for some extra dust to go in your bowl.
Had my family not finally shaken their heads in disgust and left, I’d probably still be there. In a lot of ways, Miami had everything I ever wanted in life. Neighborly people, cheap living, clean air, stunning panoramas, fantastic birdwatching, and endless miles of empty roads.
I had a loop that went due south out of town, up a little hill out of the valley and onto the flat farmland, then left after about six miles, then left again after about another six miles, and then finally back down to U.S. 60 so that I wound up with an even 25 or so. If I saw one car on the road it was a pretty busy day. Most days I saw no one.
In the winter, when northers blew down from Canada, it could get down into the single digits, but usually it never got much colder than freezing, and in summer it could be in the low hundreds but it was never humid. The part of the weather that made you decide whether or not you were a cyclist was the wind, because up on the High Plains, the wind blows and it blows hard and it doesn’t ever let up.
I can still remember just bending down over the bars and pushing into that wind, alone, crawling along at six or seven miles an hour, wondering what in the world I was doing out there. Of course the answer was never any farther than the next turn where you’d go from vicious headwind to slightly less vicious crosswind, and then finally to howling tailwind, at which moment it was big ring, small cog and I could no more remember the pain of the headwind than I’ve heard women say they can remember the pain of childbirth.
I was the most famous cyclist in Roberts County, that’s for sure. And the fastest. And the best climber, sprinter, time-trialist … I was also, of course, the only cyclist in Roberts County.
The reason I would have never left Miami unless my family had made me was because I was also its only openly avowed Democrat and therefore had a permanent job as the local contrarian. The town had seven churches, apparently because in such a small town so far from the big city, one or two churches weren’t enough to cope with all the sinning. And from my perspective, the folks in Miami sure knew how to sin. It was a dry county of course, so they sinned pretty hard with the booze.
And since it was a family values town, they sinned so darned hard with each others’ husbands and wives that I think one of the churches could have stayed busy day and night just de-sinnifying the fornicators. In those days before the opioid crisis, Miami youth loved meth, so they needed a church for all the meth sinning, too.
But the biggest sin of all was Miami’s politics. It wasn’t simply Republican. It was way to the right of Trump before American Nazism was the fashionable political philosophy that it is now. The Miamese never made any bones about hating non-whites. If you didn’t want to be white, that was your business, but please take it somewhere else. Of course we found a handful of people there who really did appear to believe in civil rights, and the rights of man, and things like that, but with one or two exceptions they were never public about it.
So imagine my non-surprise when I came across this news story about the Most Trumpful Town in America, about, where else, Miami, Texas. I watched it with interest not because it surprised me, but because I knew some of the people who were quoted in the story, and it reminded me what racism and race hate really are, however artfully they are masked behind neighborly smiles and small acts of kindness. You can help an injured kitten and still start a lynch mob.
The story tries to find out what Trump’s die-hard supporters really feel after his first year in office, and, no surprise, they love him. But the most interesting part for me is the part where they interview, extensively, Mitchell Locke and his sister, Erin Breeding. But first about how I know them.
Mitchell and Erin’s mom, Diana Locke, taught elementary school in Miami. My youngest son had her for first grade. Diana was a wonderful and kind teacher, and her husband David was a relatively intelligent guy who at least had some vague notions of a world bigger than cattle ranching. I’m not sure but I seem to recall that he hadn’t been cattle ranching for very long. Although the news story paints the Lockes as a six-generation ranching family, when I met David I think that he had only been ranching for ten years or maybe even less; I forget what had gotten him into the cow-calf business but it was most assuredly not something he’d been doing his whole life.
What was interesting at the time is that their son Mitchell was a student at Texas Tech and an English major; hardly the model for most Miami-area ranching families, where “you only needed to read one Book.” It seemed, however, that the frat life had had a significantly bigger impact on Mitchell’s intellectual development than the Great Books, and whether he dropped out or scraped through, he eventually drifted back home with a terrible resume for the real world but a perfect resume for a Miami kid: “Will work for daddy.”
The daughter Erin, who I don’t remember well, finished college and got a teaching degree, because one of the maxims in Miami is “Hate the government, love the government’s money.” As with most deep red Republican bastions, the first families of Miami invariably wind up working for the school, or the county, or as the beneficiary of government contracts.
The t.v. documentary revealed Mitchell in his late 30s, no longer an inquisitive English major, but rather a self-centered, self-absorbed, “What’s in it for me?” employee of his father’s barely profitable cow-calf operation–or at least that’s how it sounds in the documentary when we learn that the ranch, with it’s “thousands of acres” worth “millions of dollars” can only afford to pay one full-time employee.
Early on, Mitchell makes it clear that for him, Trump support is all about the estate tax. He repeatedly talks about “our land” and the risk of “not being able to pass it on” if the tax isn’t repealed. It’s easy to see Mitchell as an intelligent, dedicated tax-relief voter, and he even goes so far as to call Trump a buffoon and a blowhard.
The ironies for someone like me, who has actually lived in Miami, are almost too many to count. First is the fact that Mitchell is unable to do anything more inventive with his life or education (assuming he completed it) other than go back home and work for daddy, then hope and pray like hell that the government will give him a huge tax gift upon his dad’s death so that he can still putt-putt over the prairie and pretend to be a cowboy.
Second, and incomparably richer, is his line that the failure to repeal the estate tax might mean that “what we’ve been trying to build for six generations is over.” Newsflash, Mitchell: If you couldn’t make it work in six generations, you don’t deserve a seventh. In fact, your inability to make it a thriving, going concern after six generations ought to mean you lose the whole thing out of sheer incompetence.
Finally is Mitchell’s navel-gazing worldview: “I’m not concerned about the DACA people because they’re not concerned about us. I have to take care of me and my own and that’s what it comes down to.” In short, there is no reason to ever do anything that doesn’t support Mitchell Locke. He is not smart enough to see that “everything for me, nothing for you” cuts both ways. Until, of course, the end of the program when we learn that his hero, Donald Trump, has indeed passed a tax bill, but has left the estate tax intact. “Everything for Donald, nothing for Mitchell” doesn’t feel nearly as good.
If you’re expecting someone to be angry or disappointed or betrayed, don’t look to Mitchell Locke. “At least they’re trying … ” he mumbles incoherently at the end of the show, demonstrating what I could have told you from the beginning: Trump represents race hate for the Lockes of the world and tax giveaways for the billionaires, and as long as he delivers those two things they will never repudiate him, ever.
And speaking of billionaires, the t.v. show makes it look like the ranchers they’ve interviewed are the big shots in Miami. They aren’t. The people who run Roberts County are oil millionaires and billionaires, and they don’t live in town and they don’t care about Mitchell Locke’s tiny little shoestring ranch operation. Remember T. Boone Pickens? He has one of the biggest ranches in Roberts County, and he’s not feeding cattle from the back of a broken-down pickup. The other ugly fact about the ugly politics in this ugly corner of America is that as much as they malign Hillary, Roberts County has been deeply Republican forever. Republican county judge, Republican county commissioners, Republican congresscrook, Republican senators, and Republicans across all statewide offices, yet they still claim that Hillary was going to take it all away from them. Take away all what? Answer: Their whiteness. Because the single unifying thing across Roberts County is how deeply its white overlords hate those who aren’t white.
Mitchell’s sister, Erin Breeding, is another person profiled in the show. In Miami tradition, she is on the government dole as a schoolteacher; these sinecures are considered plum jobs for ranching families because they come with health insurance. Yet of all the people who should be most virulently opposed to Trump, teachers, Erin thinks he’s just fine. At the same time she can’t seem to understand why her health insurance keeps going up. But that’s okay because she is too busy to keep up with the news …
The only time anything approaching self-awareness crosses Erin’s face is when the conversation turns to sexual harassment and she expresses pleasure that politicians have resigned as a result of their behavior. But not Trump, because in Trumpland, everyone is wrong all the time except Trump.
The documentary is so filled with tropes and falsehoods, mindless repetition of fact-free Fox News throwaway lines, gibes at immigrants, racial slurs at Muslims, and a celebration of being white that it made me grateful beyond words that I’d actually lived there. The belly of beast should be mandatory viewing, but only if you are lucky enough to have someone eventually fish you out.
Below are a few photos from my time in Miami. Seems like a long time ago. Thank dog, it was.
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About Cycling in the South Bay: This the all-things-cycling blog about cycling in the South Bay and cycling in Los Angeles, maintained and authored by me, Seth Davidson, Torrance-based bicycle lawyer, bike racer, and personal injury attorney.