Editorial: Red-state rulers and razor-wire envy

Texas National Guard members man a stretch of the border along the Rio Grande River, where they have laid triple-strand concertina wire across its banks. 

Column By John Young

“Drowning Pool” no longer is just a 1970s Paul Newman flick. It is now a homicide scene in Texas.

Gov. Greg Abbott is the killer.

Even if we don’t know how many have drowned in the face of a floating buoy barrier in the Rio Grande, it’s clear that Abbott set a death trap.

Nets under the current. Flotations wrapped in razor wire. Reports that women and children have been pushed back into the river.

Oh, and if they reach shore, no water for them – state’s orders.

Shame, shame on those who would make our side of the border so inhospitable that these desperate people would be safer among the cartels and narco-terrorists.

What red-state rulers have done to one-up each other in these shameful times reveals their true character and the character of those whispering in their ears.

It’s been an absolute orgy of oppression in red-state America, a horse race with Abbott and Florida’s Ron DeSantis vying at the rail.

What hopeless, helpless person can they scar next? Who can they stick in an airplane or bus and eject at some distant landing?

Whether it’s trans people seeking to affirm their identity, women facing life-threatening pregnancies, or workers needing a water break, these elected “leaders” are intent on racking up MAGA merit badges for cruelty.

What’s that about water breaks?

If you aren’t in Texas, you may not have heard about the issue, and what’s contained in House Bill 2127, signed by Abbott. Critics call it the Death Star.

The measure, which goes into effect Sept. 1, strips cities of a host of local regulations that the power-drunk players in the red granite castle of the Texas Capitol don’t like (prodded by their big-business donors).

One regulation out the door is the requirement in cities – Austin and Dallas most prominently — that outdoor workers are entitled to 10-minute water breaks every four hours.

Wow, what an imposition on big-bucks employers (aka Republican campaign contributors). Twenty whole minutes in an eight-hour workday!

And what a time to dash precautions against the heat, with the Texas sun the true death star.

Forget that canard about “the government that governs least.” Red-state rulers are going to stick their noses into everything they can if it’s good for business or a right-wing talking point.

Forget that one-time conservative virtue of “local control.” What a joke. The Texas Legislature has stepped in to tell local governments they can’t regulate this, that, and whatever.

They can’t regulate the pounding, pouring, and drilling of fracking in their city limits.

They can’t set their own noise ordinances or control invasive species.

Abbott and Co. have even gone so far as to reject city initiatives to limit plastic shopping bags.

Did these people run for the city council or the statehouse? When did the governor become the city manager?

Some of these things seem trivial. Some are life-and-death matters.

When workers gathered in Houston to protest the ridiculous Death Star limits on required water breaks, boots formerly worn by a man named Felipe Pascal sat silently among them. Pascal, a Houston laborer, died of heat stroke at a work site on an unspeakably sweltering July day.

“The temperature outside may change in October,” said Linda Morales of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, “but our human temperature will not forget what Greg Abbott has done to our Latino workers.”

Nor should anyone forget the horrible things contrived by Texas leaders to harm and belittle people desperate for asylum or opportunities on the other side of the river.

Right now Florida’s DeSantis is envious of Abbott. Such was the case when he was so hard up for the kind of inhumane anti-immigrant spectacles modeled by Abbott and then-Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey that he had asylum seekers from Venezuela conned on the streets of San Antonio to fly them to Martha’s Vineyard.

Now DeSantis wishes he had a river like the one Texas has on its border, so he could set out his own razor wire.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email him at jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

The opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the author.