Dallas went viral twice this week. Let’s hope our immune system can take it. First time was for the local visit of Donald Trump, champion of all angry white people everywhere on Earth, living, dead and unborn.
Second time was for the handcuffed arrest of a ninth-grade student named Ahmed who made his own circuit-board clock, which a teacher thought was a bomb because his first name was Ahmed, this in the inner ring suburb of Irving where Mayor Beth Van Duyne has been campaigning against the imposition of Shariah law on Christian residents.
Wow. Talk about blowback. Sometimes it’s kind of hard just to hold on to our hats.
So this is just between you and me. Not for outsiders. They have their own image of the place, and there’s not much we can do about it. But for our own sake, we need to keep our heads on straight about a few things.
Dallas County is solid Barack Obama country. Last time around, we voted for him by 57.11 percent against Mitt Romney’s 41.66 percent. And Romney was a reasonable centrist, not a racial stick-poker. Think about Trump for a half second.
Almost 40 percent of Dallas County’s population is Hispanic. Of the over-18 voting age population, 33 percent are Hispanic. Now try to imagine a really sharp-stick-in-the-eye deliberately offensive Republican presidential candidate who would galvanize Latino voters to get to the polls to vote against him.
Trump would get trounced here. Face it. We would kill (his word) Donald Trump. Kill! Which makes it all the more galling to see those tens of thousands of insanely grinning white people in the Trump crowd here waving their placards with “Trump in Dallas” in the crawl at the bottom of the screen.
Wait a second. What was that I said a second ago about the mayor of Irving campaigning to prevent Shariah law from being imposed on the citizens of Irving? Is somebody trying to do that?
Of course not! It’s totally crazy. We’ve talked about this here before. The mayor, Van Duyne, who is a local version of Trump, invented this entire scenario out of the blue, out of her head, out of her wherever, in which old white people in Irving would be forced to bow down before an Imam and forsake Jesus. Then she went on the loony-tunes circuit around the country speaking to Tea Party groups and getting fanatical rave reviews from them for sticking up for Christ.
Look, as we ought to be able to see by now, the whole Tea Party thing is one big national Mr. and Ms. Insane America beauty pageant, only pretty short on the beauty part if you ask me. Beth Van Duyne is not representative of the population of Irving any more than Donald Trump is typical of Dallas.
Irving is brimming with upwardly mobile immigrants from all over the world. Last time we talked about Van Duyne, I told you about an entire fancy new subdivision on the border of D/FW Airport where all the streets are named for famous places in the Arab world.
In the crude racial categories of the national census, Irving is barely “white” – 53.1 percent in the 2010 Census. It’s 41.1 percent Hispanic, slightly higher than the countywide average. Asian residents accounted for 14 percent of the populace in 2010.
John Danish, a lawyer, Irving City Council member and chair of the regional transportation authority, told me for that last article that the immigrants in Irving — from Asia, the Middle East, Mexico, all over — are front-seat passengers on the local bus, very successful, ambitious and influential in the business world, less so in local politics because they haven’t engaged yet. But he is sure they will, and with a notably positive effect.
Van Duyne is a creature of and appeals to the same dynamic that Trump evokes — the anger and confusion of mid-20th century white people who can’t get their minds around the new diversity because they don’t get the new planet. Their dearest hope is for someone to put them in a time machine and take them back to the America of leisure suits and white supremacy.
That’s not us. That is not Dallas. We have become a global magnet for opportunity-seekers from everywhere. They see the best in us — the freedom we offer for people to forge their own destinies unbridled by the hatreds and biases of the places they leave behind. We see the best in them — people who come here two-fisted and bright-eyed, determined to make things work.
I know I started with a blue/red paradigm, but that was just to make a distinction between how we are portrayed and certain realities on the ground. I don’t think for a minute that our tolerance, openness and respect for newcomers are partisan qualities. Those things are shared pretty evenly by the reasonable Democrats and the reasonable Republicans in our midst.
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We’re not the Lone Ranger for having a lot of the other darker qualities sloshing around at our ankles — the xenophobia and racism exploited by a Trump, a Van Duyne. Those things seem to be in ample supply across the nation these days, not to mention Europe, by the way.
Trump, when he was here, told us we were “a dumping ground for the rest of the world.” There’s something deeply counter-intuitive about that as an appeal for our votes.
In the saga of the kid named Ahmed, who was arrested for inventing a clock, my favorite line was from his 17-year-old sister, Ayisha, who held up her cellphone to reporters and said, “We’re trending No. 1!”
Hold that thought, Ayisha. You are the real Dallas, not Beth Van Duyne, definitely not Donald Trump. Meanwhile, does someone somewhere in Dallas not have a video of a cat petting a puppy? A talking pig even? We could use the other kind of viral.