The heat still sits on us here downtown, at least (they say) through the rest of the week. Cooler temps coming this weekend.
Yesterday Danielle and I walked down to check the chickens and collect eggs at the coop behind the old Rogers House, and the thermometer said it was well over 100 degrees, but it didn’t feel too bad. We walked down Brown Street past the Manor and I noticed the pepperweed growing up in cracks in the road along the way and even in cracks on the sidewalks. Back when we were living on the farm all those years I’d come upon the pepperweed in the rough land, the disturbed ground, and I’d reach down and pull along the little “branches” and get a tiny handful of the little pepper seedlets and toss them into my mouth and chew them up. They have a delicious peppery flavor (thus the name,) but every year and every plant is different. Sometimes you’d barely get a hint of the pepper flavor and then once in a while you’d get a really strong pepper kick. I taught the children that since we couldn’t really grow black pepper here easily, collecting the pepperweed seeds in the spring and early summer would become a priority if the system collapsed or we had to truly survive for a long period of time without buying things from stores or going to town.
I always looked forward to pepperweed season, and I have one of those strong sensory memories of walking (when the children were small) over to the old community center in our church community and picking the pepperweed seeds along the way and tasting them hoping to find a really peppery sample. It is interesting to me how some things from another kind of life can come to the city peacefully and make themselves at home here just like they were back there.
Danielle and I have been living here downtown for maybe four months or so and even though we are rural transplants, like pepperweed we’ve found it quite easy, sometimes, to feel at home here.
Brownwood has been very hospitable to us. We came out of a system that seemed to invite controversy and drama. You wouldn’t think that a peaceful, idyllic country life in an Amish-like Christian community would be rife with drama and warfare, but it was. 16 years of it. But it has always been that way. The Apostle Paul himself said “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.” There are always wolves.
But it happens in all kinds of communities.
Prior to the last few Presidential elections, I was often invited down to Austin to speak to author groups. We had a blast. It was a fantastic community. We’d have meetings and discuss publishing and world-building and then we’d all meet up at a bar or a restaurant and have beers and laugh until we cried. It was fantastic. But after the election in 2016, all of that stopped. People got mad at each other online and “unfriended”. Even those of us who were considered moderate, or non-partisan were attacked because we were not activist enough. People with whom I’d grown very close blocked me online and that was that. I wasn’t outraged all the time with my hair on fire and I wasn’t willing to burn down all my relationships for the cause. Apparently I was insufficiently committed.
Fast forward… We came to Brownwood, and we found a community of people. All different kinds. And everyone really gets along well. People seem to want to live in peace and to see others do well. Sure, there are politics, but for the most part, the hyper-division of the social media world and Internet world didn’t really have anything to do with the way people treat other people. We were welcomed with open arms just about everywhere we went. That’s rare and it is special. People with disparate views and lifestyles working together and building something really cool.
This post will have twists and turns but hopefully will end up alright. Don’t get down, I know what I’m doing.
Now for a history lesson from an old pepperweed who has been around:
Prior to the Russian Revolution in 1917, Lenin lived in Zurich and hiked and went to cafes and theaters. He liked the town. He ate Swiss chocolates with his wife… and wrote tracts and pamphlets teaching the disciples of revolution how to disquiet peaceful communities. Agitation became a political goal, specific and prescribed. Everything was to be manipulated and designed to increase discomfort, drive wedges between people and friends, and to manufacture dissent. EVERYTHING IS POLITICS. Lenin wrote extensively of the need to manufacture injustice… to “cry injustice,” though he knew perfectly well that there was, in his system, no “justice” or “injustice” outside of the necessity for class struggle. Everything was to be seen as a tool. Injustices were handy weapons and where they did not already exist, they would be manufactured. Agitation and Propaganda were swords to be used to incite, divide, and discomfort all those who were not adequately participating in his idea of the necessity of class/sectarian struggle. This isn’t a private interpretation of his words; it is what he directly taught and wrote.
In a town, we’ll call Kisechensk, a young man and his friend return to the young man’s father’s estate after having attended college in France. There they learned the new revolutionary ideas and they’d been taught to hate the quaint old village life of the father. They have no sense that the people in the village are individual humans with hearts and souls and who love and who want to live peaceably and without pain or drama. They have learned the way of class struggle and they know that every man must be turned against his neighbor, every child against his parent, and every friend must be made a foe. In particular, the engineers and the farmworkers are supposed to hate the farmers. Everyone must hate the farmers first because the time will come when this hate will itself be farmed and used to bring the right people to power. People who have lived in peace for centuries are riled up in hatred of one another and the peace is the victim. The factual, historical result of this agitation is some 30 million dead in just a few years.
In Rwanda prior to 1994, Hutus and Tutsis had lived in peace for centuries – but a long-planned agitation was in the works. Agents of agitation and propaganda infiltrated the media, the radio stations, the government, and the villages. You’ll notice that agitators always focus on differences and always diminish similarities. Hurts are magnified, real or imagined. Every wound must be laid open. Agents of change are sent in to magnify every offense. Like Lenin had said, “The agitator… will take as an illustration the death of an unemployed worker’s family from starvation, the growing impoverishment, etc. and utilizing this fact, known to all, will direct his efforts to presenting a single idea to the “‘masses.'” The single idea is that there is an enemy OUT THERE, and they want you destroyed. They want to steal and kill. They want to enslave you. They hate you. In the case of Rwanda, the enemy was the Tutsi – the neighbor with whom the Hutu had once lived in peace. Long story short, the result was upwards of 700,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus murdered in less than 100 days. An extreme example, I grant. But it is how agitation works. Everything else is just statistics.
In Russia, the enemy was anyone and everyone with “more.” And the enemy changed based on the needs of the dictatorship.
In Cambodia, the agitators worked against the educated, the lighter-skinned, the Chinese, the Vietnamese, and anyone speaking French. Anyone who had worked in the military was an enemy, or who spoke well of doctors and hospitals. Anyone who would admit to having read a book. Anyone who owned anything or thought well of property. Anyone over the age of 30 might become an enemy too. Or anyone who didn’t dye his work clothing the same color as everyone else. I wrote a whole book about it (See GOD IN THE STORM.) The result was millions of dead in just a few years.
Saul Alinsky taught Americans how to do it.
Agitation always has an end-game, and the end-game is division and strife and power. If it isn’t true, then make it up, if no one resists you, manufacture resistance. If there isn’t enough hate, create it.
In Paul’s time, they even got people arguing about who baptized them.
There are no new stories.
Not all agitators know who they are. Some are zealots, others are just damaged misfit toys. They have in common this one thing, they do not want peace and love and friendship or even peaceful coexistence.
This seems to be a downer post, but it isn’t. The point is that Danielle and I have found a place, after a decade and a half of warfare, where people seem to have evolved past the need to destroy one another for political reasons. We have met people who, with humility, can admit when they are wrong and go out of their way to try to keep and maintain friendships and build new ones. We’ve seen business competitors go to extremes to help new businesses survive and thrive. No place is perfect, but we’ve been pleased with what we’ve found here.
As displaced pepperweed refugees we notice things. We know a good thing when we see it.
Let’s hope it lasts because sometimes Brownwood Feels Like Home.
Michael Bunker is a local columnist for BrownwoodNews.com whose columns appear periodically on the website.