Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Beto O'Rourke Goes On A Road Trip

Beto O'Rourke's blog offers an introspective, somewhat introverted voice as he contemplates what his next steps should be.  An LA Times piece on O'Rourke's maybe yes, maybe no candidacy for president mentioned the blog on a platform I didn't know about (Medium), so I checked it out.

He offers himself as wanting to learn about the people he meets rather than talking about himself.  Last week he was traveling. Before this trip, his last post was in December.  The next post is January 16 and he's in Tucumcari, New Mexico.
The next morning I ran. Just a couple of miles. Down 66, then through neighborhoods, past the History Museum. My leg has really been bothering me since the campaign and so I had stopped running for a while. This was my first run in more than a month. Felt good, running in new shoes. 
Have been stuck lately. In and out of a funk. My last day of work was January 2nd. It’s been more than twenty years since I was last not working. Maybe if I get moving, on the road, meet people, learn about what’s going on where they live, have some adventure, go where I don’t know and I’m not known, it’ll clear my head, reset, I’ll think new thoughts, break out of the loops I’ve been stuck in.
I'm trying to piece together the trip on maps.  From Tucumcari he stays on 54 to Liberal, Texas.   Driving alone it appeared.  It's not clear how many planned stops there were.  His great grandparents had lived in Tucumcari.  In Bucklin, Kansas, where they were married, he went to the library to find their wedding certificate.  He reads about Bucklin history and offers tidbits, like this one in his Jan 17 post:
"From 1923: 'Visit by the Klan at revival services of Methodist Church. 5 members of the Ku Klux Klan, wearing the robes of the order, visited church and contributed $50 but refused the invitation to stay for the services.'”
January 18, 2019, he's in Ulysses, Kansas where he's in a funk.  This is a long quote, but I think it all needs to be there to get the context.

"I drove back to the hotel, passing the First Baptist church where kids were throwing snow and slush at each other in the light of the headlamps of their parent’s car. Made me think of our kids, and I missed them. Added to the low altitude I was experiencing. 
Maybe I’d been hoping for some kind of connection that day and hadn’t found it. All the conversations had been pleasant, everyone was kind, but there hadn’t been anything more than that. The waiters at Alejandro’s were nice but they were finishing their shift, they wanted to eat their dinner after having served everyone else all night and close up.
I called Amy. Kids were in the car, she was a little distracted, we didn’t connect either. Maybe you could meet people at a bar she said as we hung up. 
I pulled into the bar next to the hotel and started to feel self conscious. They aren’t going to want some stranger from out of town at their place. I walked in and took a seat at the bar, said a quick, probably nervous, hello to everyone and ordered a beer. Pro forma acknowledgement from the three or four guys who were already there. 
I focused on the college basketball game, thinking I’ll finish this beer and then get out of here. I told myself at least I tried. 
And then two seats down to my right the guy says do people ever tell you that you look like Beto O’Rourke? 
I said yes, all the time. 
The guy next to him says who the hell is Beto O’Rourke? 
First guy says oh he ran against Ted Cruz in Texas, and goes on to talk about Beto O’Rourke and I’m worried that it’s going to get weird and so I say sorry I meant to say that I am Beto O’Rourke. 
No shit! Laughter."
I'm thinking, "How do you write a blog that's honest, somewhat self-revealing, yet doesn't make you look foolish or disingenuous?"  Of course, I think about those things all the time as a blogger but for me it's about giving context for why I think something.  I'm not running for office, nor do I intend to, so what I'm writing won't be scrutinized by opposition research teams looking for pictures of me in blackface or admissions that could be twisted for political gain by others.

The impression is that he's writing all this himself, like Trump tweets.  (The analogy is only about who does the writing and editing.)  But clearly he's making points about issues - like the story of Klu Klux Klan visit to the church above.

The January 20 post has him arriving at a scheduled visit at Pueblo (Colorado) Community College where he meets with students:
What followed was one of these transcendent moments in public life… something so raw and honest that you want to hold on to it, remember every word… a flow between people. But going through my notes right now, I know that my recounting of the words and themes won’t do it justice. 
Raw. People adding to what the previous speaker had said, or challenging what someone else shared, respectfully but directly. Moved to speak up, to share, to add. At first politely raising hands and asking questions. And then, just speaking, having a conversation and not asking polite questions but sharing experience, suggesting solutions.
He goes on at length about the different people who spoke and what they had to say.  Was he really alone and taking notes on all these people and what they said?  Impressive.

The next post comes four days later (January 24) where he gets to the Taos Pueblo Day School in Taos, New Mexico.  An excerpt: 
"She told me about movie nights back then. Since the village had no electricity (and still doesn’t), movies were shown in the school gym. She said it’s hard to believe this now, but they’d often show Westerns, cowboys and Indians movies. And she said all of us kids, not knowing any better, would be cheering for the cowboys! She made the point that back then, the school suppressed the culture of the Pueblo, confusing children about their identity and roots. How dangerous for their development, their sense of self and their possibilities. And yet, that didn’t stop Mildred. Not only is she now teaching Tiwa at the school, she also opens her home in the summer for language classes and as the point of departure for nature walks with the children of the community. 
It made me think of the evolution of dual language education in El Paso. In the same schools where kids were punished for speaking Spanish in the 1960s, they are now being encouraged to speak Spanish, in fact to learn throughout the day in every subject in both English and Spanish."
Again, he recounts many people and the conversations and how good it felt to be connected to people who want to make everyone's lives better.
"We’re all connected, related, part of one another’s lives through the stories we tell ourselves and each other. For good and for bad. Our long memories hold the stories of what our people accomplished, but they also hold the prejudices, the injustices, the harm that we’ve received from others. Our short term memories can forget the kindness most recently rendered, our vision can become focused on the divisions and lose sight of the way up and out. And there is always someone, usually on cable TV or Twitter, to remind you how small or stupid you’re supposed to feel. Our side is truly American. Yours, not so much."
That's the last post.  I supposed being on the road, staying at hotels by himself each night, gave him plenty of time to write these long posts.  From Taos back to El Paso is an easy day's ride, so maybe he went from their home and life is more hectic so he hasn't written more.

Other politicians I've followed, have been on Twitter and that's a much, much different medium.  I'm going to link to this blog on the side column and see how it progresses.


  1. Hey, thanks for the tip on Medium. Always looking for another way to start my morning read and this is a help. Cup of coffee and writings of the many.

    Btw, E and I did the deed on Jan 24th as planned. The shutdown made the London embassy visit quiet and unpeopled -- a bit like a science fiction movie set after takes. For us, nothing 'official' until we receive 'The Letter' from the State Department (CLN) in 3-5 months, followed by our names listed among the many recently departed in the Federal Register end of year or so.

    It's an end of small drama. Life most definitely goes on...


Comments will be reviewed, not for content (except ads), but for style. Comments with personal insults, rambling tirades, and significant repetition will be deleted. Ads disguised as comments, unless closely related to the post and of value to readers (my call) will be deleted. Click here to learn to put links in your comment.