Decatur, Texas In the predawn, the three-week long veteran night clerk at the Motel 6 along Highway 287 in Decatur, Texas north of Dallas confirmed, “it’s rough out here.” Looking for a cup of coffee, walking back from my truck, I mentioned that I had inadvertently woken up two different carloads of people sleeping in their cars in the parking lot. He said that was common in the crash of the economy.
The US had just recorded our 19th straight week when over one-million Americans had filed for unemployment. The US had also managed the worst single economic quarter in our history with over a 9% drop in the GDP. Driving through Texas was one thing, but since most of our trip had been through the Navajo Nation’s reservation, southwestern Colorado, and then the northern, Hispanic tier of New Mexico, we had also been seeing a footnote of the worsening pandemic in the southwest, even as cases and fatalities have dropped in the northeast and New England. As the Washington Post reported,
“When the virus first swept across the country, it devastated Black communities, killing African Americans at a disproportionately high rate in nearly every jurisdiction that published race data. In recent weeks, Hispanics and Native Americans have made up an increasing proportion of covid-19 deaths. The disease now accounts for nearly 20 percent of all deaths among those groups, higher than any other race or ethnicity in recent weeks, according to a Post analysis of the CDC data. The count now is reaching 150,000 deaths with many uncounted.”
Our destination had been a visit to Palo Duro Canyon, a spectacular Texas State Park south of Amarillo. We had camped there in the past. I once held a staff meeting there for ACORN’s western organizers. Five miles out, we saw a sign saying on-line reservations were required. We implored the ranger at the gate window that we were only passing through for an hour, but she was adamant. Noticing that another state park, Copper Breaks outside of Quanah was roughly on our route, we pushed on.
I hit four bars on my phone as my son took his driving shift, and I scrolled my messages. One seemed more urgent than the others. An independent fact checker was reaching out. The message was brief:
There is an audio host named Dave Weinbaum, who, among other things, insists that ACORN is supplying weapons and funds to a new Red Army of Antifa supporters.
No matter how ridiculous, it seemed like I needed to help him get the facts out there. We fell out of coverage after my first call, but trying again 20 miles later, I connected with Eric Ferkenhoff of Lead Stories in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, who was monitoring the panic-demic of conspiracies that the president with the help of far-right zealots is trying to create to save his faltering campaign. How could I deny something so bizarre? Simply and straightforwardly, was all I could figure. I briefed him on ACORN’s current work, none of which fell within a million miles of the radio reports that he described. I also mentioned that hallucinatory drugs were now legal in many states, and that might be part of the source for this story. I added, perhaps unnecessarily, that anarchists organizing an army seemed a bit of a philosophical contradiction for the right whacks to get their heads around.
This arch conservative fascination with ACORN continues to intrigue me. We really got under their skin and, frankly, seem to still be scaring the bejesus out of them. The Louisiana legislature recently added a couple of sentences on a pandemic relief bill to make sure none of the money was going to ACORN to distribute. Probably a notion one of Weinbaum’s hyped up listeners planted.
All in a day in these strange times in America. Copper Breaks was a nice relief and the park staff there was the best. We had an hour before closing, greatly enjoyed the park and our experience riding their back-canyon trails to new adventures. We made it to the gate three minutes before their 5 PM closing.
America the beautiful, no matter how much some folks like to ugly the scene with death, despair, division, and destruction.