• Wednesday, November 29, 2023
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Worst state in America (1)



This time it was I that phoned Africa-Man, the polymath, in his hide-out at the Institute for Study of Foreign Economies in Vladivostok.

“Why are you holed up in Vladivostok?”

“Where else should I be holed up?”

“Well, if you must be holed up somewhere, why not in some more sophisticated location?”

“Like where?”

“Well, like Tokyo, Hong Kong, Mumbai, Dubai, Rome, London, New York, Los Angeles or Accra.”

“Those are all within rowing distance of large bodies of water, are they not?”

“What of it?”

“Well, so is Vladivostok, so what’s the difference?”

“Three quarters of the earth’s surface is ocean. But if you prefer an inland town, what of Berlin, Johannesburg, Warsaw, Budapest, Minneapolis, Nairobi or Kano?”

“You call Kano a sophisticated location?”

“OK, what of Dallas? That should suit your taste.”

“You mean Dallas in the state of Texas, USA?” Africa-Man laughed a voluminous laugh that went on as if it would never stop.

“O. J., my friend,” he said at last, “listen to me. One of my favorite comedians was an American named W. C. Fields. He had no use for mischievous little urchins. He didn’t find them cute or funny. And he believed in getting even, even if your tormentor was a child. ‘Kick ’em in the alley,’ he’d say of such little brats.”

“That’s child abuse, isn’t it?”

“Nonsense. In fact, in one of his skits, two little boys have been especially nasty to him, pulling at his shirt, throwing mud at him, and generally making his life miserable. Finally he gets them alone where no one is looking, and he kicks their little butts until they tumble on the ground and run crying to their mothers.”

“Sounds a bit like the Igbo saying that if a child doesn’t mind shit and bites you in the butt, you shouldn’t mind shit and bite him back.”
“O. J., you can be so vulgar!”
“But, frankly, I didn’t know that oyibo practises the same get-even philosophy with children.”

“They do—or at least they did in those days, before their current child-worship took hold.”

“Anyway, why are you telling me all this about Fields or whatever his name? What does he have to do with Dallas or Texas?”

“Sorry I digressed and got lost a bit. But W. C. Field’s greatest line, to me, is the line he chose for his epitaph. It’s engraved on his tombstone: I’d rather be here than in Philadelphia.”

“My goodness! Was Philadelphia that bad? Was he chased by a gang of ten thousand urchins bent on revenge?”

“I don’t know. But that’s exactly how I feel about Texas. Texas is the worst state in America.”

“Wooh! What ever happened? What did Texas do to you?”

“All of America’s evil, and very little of the good, is concentrated in Texas. Except for Alaska, which is strung out over the Arctic Ocean somewhere, Texas is America’s largest state. Whatever is wrong in America is three times as wrong in Texas.”

“I don’t see why you’d say that. After all, America’s recent President, George Bush, came from Texas.”

“Exactly. Look what a mess he put the country into. The economic crisis the world is still suffering is a product of his ineptitude and the greed without controls of his partisans. So is the war which has laid waste the nation of Iraq and consumed millions of Iraqi lives.”

“But only a few thousand of American lives. That’s the usual economics of war, isn’t it?”

“That’s right: seize other nations’ resources if you can—even if you must wipe out half their population. Bomb the women and children and civilians, apologize and weep crocodile tears, and explain that the enemy soldiers were hiding in their midst. That’s the winning strategy.”

“Africa-Man, you were born harsh.”

“Truth is harsh, my friend.”

“Anyway, so you won’t go to Texas.”

“I won’t tell you all my misadventures in Texas . . .”

“Tell me just the beginning . . . and the end.”

“Well, my misadventures in Texas began when I flew to Houston on a routine weekend visit. I had a special discount ticket, courtesy of my nephew who was a pilot with the airline. I was already seated in the plane when a steward came and yanked me out. That was grossly irregular.”

“They thought you were a terrorist?”

“That was pre-911. When I asked to know why, the fat lady at the counter took my ticket, tore it in two and dumped it in the trash.”

“What did you do then?”

“I thought of all the things I could do but none seemed quite right. The entire thing was so absurd it was hilarious. I broke into laughter so hard tears ran down my cheeks.”

“Texas is wild country allright.”

“A black man has little or no chance in Texas. In fact, just the day before this incident, two white men had tied an innocent black man to their truck with a long rope and dragged him to his death over the rough rural roads of Texas. The news was showing on the airport TV screens that very day.”

“Na wah-o! Did they put you on the next flight?”

“It was the last flight to my destination that day. They offered me no overnight hotel accommodation, no transport back to the city, no replacement ticket. I paid $100 to taxi back to town, came back next day, bought a fresh ticket, and felt lucky to fly out with my head still on my shoulders. . . .”