Donald V. Watkins
Greg Abbott and George Wallace: Wheelchair-Bound Demagogues
By: Donald V. Watkins
May 3, 2023
An Editorial Opinion
After Texas Governor Greg Abbott felt the need to label the five mass murder victims in Cleveland, Texas last Friday night as “illegal immigrants,” I knew I had to write this editorial opinion.
Regardless of their immigration status, all five victims were innocent human beings who were violently massacred in their home by an assailant with an assault rifle -- a fact that seems to be lost on Abbott.
Abbott's senseless remark represents a new low in American politics. In his own sick mind, Abbott found a way to politicize a mass murder tragedy that included a 9-year-old child among its victims. The child -- Daniel Enrique Laso-Guzman -- was an American citizen -- a fact that Abbott disregarded while peddling his brand of ethnic hatred.
On May 2, 2023, the suspect in the massacre -- Francisco Oropesa -- was apprehended hiding in a house a few miles from the crime scene.
It's the Same Old Song, But Gregg Abbott is the Newest Gubernatorial Singer
Greg Abbott is a wheelchair-bound governor in his second term. He is a modern-day demagogue who peddles his hatred of migrants of color on a daily basis.
For the record, Abbott has NEVER complained about the hundreds of thousands of white indigenous Mexicans, Hondurans, Guatemalans, and Caucasians from other Central and South American countries who sneak into America illegally at the southern and northern boards on an annual basis. He only targets and berates migrants of color.
Greg Abbott is parroting the same brand of ethnic hatred and demagoguery that made Alabama Governor George Wallace an extremely popular governor with conservative white voters in Alabama during the 1960s and 1970s. It's the same old song, but Abbott is the newest gubernatorial singer.
Apostles of hatred have been among us since the first group of Europeans peasants step onto American soil in 1612 -- without any immigration papers. Abbott and Wallace just happen to be the most prominent wheelchair-bound apostles of hatred in the last 60 years.
Wallace did on September 13, 1998.
So, the burning question of the day is: What should we do about Governor Abbott and his ethnic hatred? My answer is: "Nothing."
In July of 1985, I was trying the case of United States v. State of Alabama. This is the case that fully desegregated all aspects of the state’s 32 senior public colleges and universities.
During the trial, the plaintiffs called Gov. George Wallace as an adverse witness. When we took a break during Wallace's testimony, I noticed that he was grimacing with excruciating physical pain.
I stood over George Wallace as he sat in his wheelchair and we engaged in small talk. As I looked down on him, all I could think about was his gross mistreatment of blacks during his first two terms in office.
This was the man who stood in the door of Foster Auditorium in 1963 to block Vivian Malone and James Hood from registering as students at the University of Alabama. This was the man who declared in 1963 that: "I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."
Wallace became the proud national symbol of massive resistance to school desegregation and civil rights blacks in the South throughout the 1960s and much of the 1970s. He spent most of his time sending messages of defiance to the Washington crowd that enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.
Wallace once claimed that "thugs and federal judges have just about taken charge of this country," and that he was the "political barbed-wire enema" these judges needed.
On this day in July of 1985, I was standing over Wallace in a Birmingham federal courtroom, and he was wheelchair-bound. I knew that Wallace would never be able to stand and block progress for blacks in Alabama again, either physically or by using the power of his office.
Wallace looked up at me as if he knew what I was thinking and volunteered this poignant comment: “I know you think God is punishing me for what I did to your people. The pain in my spine is unbearable. The pain pills don’t do much good anymore. I am already in a living Hell.” I didn't say a word because I knew his confession was true.
When I look at Greg Abbott today, I see George Wallace in his wheelchair, all over again. The excruciating pain is in Abbott's face, just like it was present on Wallace's face that fateful day in 1985.
The Abuse of Power Has Consequences
The moral of this story is simple: Whenever you use your power as a public official to stand on the necks of poor people, people of color, and other disadvantaged groups just for political sport, God will send you to a living Hell long before you go to the permanent Hell that is reserved for you after your death. You can count on it.
Like George Wallace, Greg Abbott is in a living Hell every day. There is no escape from Abbott's living Hell.
When he ran for his last term in office in 1982, Wallace publicly repented and apologized to blacks in Alabama and around the nation for all the hurt, pain, and death he caused them as governor.
I predict that Abbott will do the same thing whenever he nears the end of his political career.
If Abbott’s repentance and apology are solely aimed at getting relief from the unbearable physical pain he is experiencing in his wheelchair, his contrition will not work. God gives all of us a chance to do the right thing in life.
Like George Wallace, Greg Abbott had his chance to be a decent human being to everybody, but he blew it for personal political gain.
I predict that Greg Abbott’s excruciating pain will only get worse, as it did with George Wallace. The cheering crowds in Texas to which Abbott panders with his inhumane treatment of migrants of color will never be able to ease his physical pain in the wheelchair.
Only God can do that.
Like Wallace, Abbott has given God no reason to free him from his pain.
Like George Wallace, Greg Abbot has consigned himself to a living Hell. That's where all of history's worst demagogues eventually wind up. They are all waiting for Greg Abbott in God's permanent Hell.