On Sunday, January 21, 2018, in Stephenville, Texas, the Erath County Democratic Party held a rally and then members walked down to Jake and Dorothy’s for some burgers, CFS and a host of other comfort foods. The weather was great and the 150-plus people at the rally were excited to hear from 3 candidates running for national and statewide offices. It was a peaceful event, the National Anthem blared from the speakers at the start and a good time was had by all.
An opinion piece appeared here in the Flash on January 23, written by a high school student who attended the rally. She was not the only person in her in age group to attend, she wasn’t even the youngest child there–the youngest was a baby who can’t even sit up yet. (The oldest person’s age will remain a secret but suffice to say we had an age-range of almost 5 generations!) I really like to see kids at the rallies, regardless of party affiliation, because that is how they learn about getting involved and being part of the process. I hope that when Ms. Graves is old enough, she will vote, too.
Writing for a publication as a high school student is good experience, both for what it teaches and for college applications. I do wish, though, that she had a more objective attitude. She came to the rally with a mindset that was already contrary to what was going to happen so instead of learning from the event, she took notes or recorded the event (how else could she have quoted the speakers?) and then wrote about it with sarcasm and negativity. I’m not going to respond to all the things she said, but there are a few things I think it’s important to correct.
In the headline of her piece and in the article, there is mention of “vagina hats”. I’m sure someone thinks that’s a funny term, although I can’t think why. I didn’t see any hats in the shape of a vagina nor did I see any with vaginas on them. What I did see were a lot of pink hats, some with cat ears formed on them and some not, that symbolize solidarity among women. Many women in our town, county, state and country feel marginalized for lots of different reasons and wearing the hats is a way to connect and is a visible acknowledgment of sisterhood and shared ideals. I see nothing funny in that, though as a child of the 1970s I understand more of what my mother, aunts and older cousins were talking about when they said that we women need to come together and stand up for ourselves.
The Erath County Democrats is an organization made up of many of your friends and neighbors. You may not know it, but we have a large membership so when we’re disparaged with the comment that we don’t look like “the typical Stephenville resident at all,” I wonder what that means. Does the typical Stephenville resident wear some kind of emblem that sets them apart from the rest of the world? We had people at the rally in boots, jeans and cowboy hats; people wearing diamonds and gold; people in shorts and t-shirts; people wearing band shirts and campaign shirts. It was one of the most diverse crowds I’ve ever seen here and some of the folks were even from Travis and Palo Pinto counties. Your local Democrats look just like you and they do the same jobs you do. There is no ‘typical’ look for a Stephenville resident, we’re as diverse a city as you can have in a rural area.
The candidates who spoke at the rally espoused Democratic ideas, as we would expect them to. I hope that Ms. Graves takes the time to learn what those are so she can comprehend the perspectives. That way she will understand what she sees as contradictions are not what she thinks they are. I hope she’ll come to one of our meetings and talk with us so we can explain to her face to face what that she’s being told is what “the left” wants is not quite what she thinks it is. Platitudes and soundbites are barriers, not facts.
Where I am most disappointed with this article, and where I see real potential for change, is in the tone. Using an opinion column as a venue for making fun of a group of Americans engaging in their civic rights is not in the best interests of anyone. She admits that she enjoys making fun of us, of “the strange creature that is a Democrat.” I hope that, in time, she realizes that making fun of someone is not a way to engage them in discussion and calling them names reflects on her, not them. Democrats are human beings with sets of values. If you don’t understand them, find a Democrat to talk with, to ask questions. I have friends who are Republicans, Libertarians, Independents. I need them to help me understand other perspectives. We don’t have to agree to be able to have civil conversation. It’s also important not to generalize about people. I am a Democrat. I’ve never thought of spitting in the face of someone wearing a MAGA hat and I have never heard of someone doing it. I do hope that we see more high school students and other young people coming to political events and getting involved locally. It’s never too early to start learning and figuring out your own beliefs and values and where you stand on the issues. Listening to candidates, asking them questions, holding them accountable, is also important. I know we had people at the rally who were not Democrats and I’m proud of that. I’m proud they felt it was worth their time to come and listen and I look forward to them coming to more of our events. Let’s see more folks engaging locally, whether it’s through The Flash or at forums or at J&D’s or anywhere else in town. We’re not a community that can be defined by any one thing—nor should we be.
Dr. Marcy Tanter