Thursday, October 05, 2006

Garrison Keillor Comes to the Big D

Garrison Keillor, the biographer of fictional Lake Wobegone, "where all the children are above average," came to the Big D to deliver a dose of his wry midwestern humor, and left with more than the taste of Texas red clay in his mouth. As Jacquielynn Floyd notes,

Garrison Keillor must have come to Dallas itching for a fight.

He must have come here expecting – even intending – to have his worst expectations confirmed.

There's no other explanation for the deeply insulting remarks he directs in a syndicated opinion column at the fans who went to Highland Park United Methodist Church last week to hear him speak. An adoring crowd could not have been rewarded with more contempt if they had gone to see the Sex Pistols.

The metaphorical beer-spewing that Ms. Floyd alludes to was this column, written by Keillor after a visit to President Bush's former church during a book promotion for his latest book, Homegrown Democrat.

I got some insight last week into who supports torture when I went down to Dallas to speak at Highland Park Methodist Church. It was spooky. I walked in, was met by two burly security men with walkie-talkies, and within 10 minutes was told by three people that this was the Bushes' church and that it would be better if I didn't talk about politics. I was there on a book tour for "Homegrown Democrat," but they thought it better if I didn't mention it. So I tried to make light of it: I told the audience, "I don't need to talk politics. I have no need even to be interested in politics - I'm a citizen, I have plenty of money and my grandsons are at least 12 years away from being eligible for military service." And the audience applauded! Those were their sentiments exactly. We've got ours, and who cares?

Methodists of Dallas can be fairly sure that none of them will be snatched off the streets, flown to Guantanamo Bay, stripped naked, forced to stand for 48 hours in a freezing room with deafening noise. So why should they worry? It's only the Jews who are in danger, and the homosexuals and gypsies. The Christians are doing fine. If you can't trust a Methodist with absolute power to arrest people and not have to say why, then whom can you trust?

Ms. Floyd contacted Mr. Keillor in regard to several of his comments in the column, including how Mr. Keillor would have gotten the notion that a political discourse might not be welcomed.

I also asked Mr. Keillor about the "three people" who warned him off of talking politics at the Bushes' home church.

"One was a woman from the church, the other two were friendly old men who told me that people would walk out if I did," he told me in his e-mail.

Again, Mr. Rasmussen [the minister who organizes the lecture series] says he's bewildered. Mr. Keillor arrived at the church, declined an introduction and took the stage without an opportunity to mingle with the audience, he said. So he doesn't know when these warnings might have been dispensed.

Now where would Mr. Keillor get such a notion? Well, apparently somewhere he found time to talk to a few people. And apparently so did fellow journalist David Flick. This is from the "GuideLive" section of the Dallas Morning News covering the event.

[Keillor] may have been right to avoid criticizing Mr. Bush in a neighborhood where the president remains popular.

Bill Holland, 81, a church member, said before the speech that he had never read Homegrown Democrat, but that he was a fan of Mr. Keillor's radio show, which he praised as "so homespun, so common sense. I like the way he depicts small-town life as it used to be."

But when shown passages of Mr. Keillor's book, Mr. Holland, a Bush supporter, appeared angered.

"I'm frankly surprised," he said. "If the things in this book were more widely exposed, half of these people wouldn't be here. They'd get up and leave."

Yeah, small-town life as it used to be- bucolic and serene, as long as you didn't challenge the provincial mind-set.

1 comment:

Bradley Bowen said...

Good old Highland Park.