Jay Janner / Austin American-Statesman via AP
Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021 | 2 a.m.
Although some of my happier-go-luckier friends would disagree, during this pandemic it seems some of us have too much idle time on our hands.
I am constrained to plead guilty to a charge of using this extra time to consider issues and themes that during normal times most people wouldn’t have the interest nor the inclination to pursue. But the plea comes with an explanation.
You see, I am an optimist, which is a condition that these days could prove figuratively fatal. Or, at the very least, way out of touch with society’s fringes.
Being optimistic means that in 2021 a person must look past the craziness, the inanity, the hypocrisy, the mean-spiritedness and the downright malevolence that seem to define who and where we are if we are to envision all that is, can and should be good about this great country.
This is a long way of saying that perspective in today’s world is essential for a state of mind that is needed to see our way into a better tomorrow. I have always drawn on the movies and entertainment — art, if you will— to imagine life as I wish it could be.
For example, I thought of one of my favorite movies the other day when the U.S. Senate voted to acquit Donald Trump of inciting an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Actually, a bipartisan majority (a rarity these days) voted to convict Trump.
The 57-vote total included “The Magnificent Seven” Republicans who did the right thing but — in today’s timid world — didn't get credit for being courageous.
The original movie was about a bunch of gunslingers who gave their lives to save a village of people unable to defend themselves. It was an act of nobility. And far more courageous than just a vote to convict, if you ask me.
Another classic, sort of, was “Dumb and Dumber.”
It doesn’t matter what the movie was about because I use it only to define Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who is the “dumb” part and the rest of America — all of us, if Abbott convinces us he is telling it straight — are the “dumber “ part.
Texas is facing two major disasters. The first was a snow and ice storm the likes of which few people could have contemplated before global warming and the resulting climate change. Few people in Texas, that is.
Most of the rest of America has long understood that climate change is real. Texas represents a sort of throwback in today’s world that thinks denying reality is smart and sane and safe. Well, it ain’t and now far too many people are suffering as a result.
And the second disaster is Abbott’s effort to avoid responsibility for the devastation committed against the lives of millions of Texans by taking a page from the Donald Trump playbook that reads: “Lie until you’re caught and, then, lie until you can’t.”
Texas has always believed it didn’t need to be told how to distribute electricity over the national grid — that’s the federal government’s plan to provide redundancy in case of a once-in-a-lifetime snow and ice storm. Surprise!
So, instead, Texans operate their own grid. The kind that makes them wholly dependent only upon themselves.
There is a saying in the Lone Star State: “Don’t mess with Texas.” Well, Mother Nature and Texas-size hubris have made a big mess of far too many people's lives and there is no one else to blame. Despite what Gov. Abbott would have us believe, he is in charge of what has just messed with Texas.
He kind of reminds me of Bud Abbott from the famous comedy duo. Except as a straight man for the very funny Lou Costello, Bud was talented and entertaining. And believable.
Texas’ Abbott is none of those things and he is not one bit funny. Just ask the millions of people who went without heat or water or food or any other of the standard comforts of living in the greatest country in the world!
And that brings me to one of my all time favorite movies, “Coming to America.” As much as I enjoyed the movie, it is only the title I need to make a point.
Electrical grids, highway systems, bridges, tunnels and railroads in America are all in need of repair and significant upgrades. If what we are witnessing in Texas is a sign of what will come — and it most assuredly is — then now is the time to get cracking on an infrastructure bill in Congress.
Wouldn’t we all like to see high-speed rail, 21st-century smart, redundant electrical grids, roads and highways built to handle automated driving, tunnels and bridges designed to last another century and the rest of our country’s infrastructure designed or upgraded to lead the world and not trail it from far behind?
President Joe Biden wants to do all of that. He wants us all to believe the United States is “Coming to America.”
Brian Greenspun is editor, publisher and owner of the Sun.