Joyce Warshaw was the mayor of Dodge City, Kansas, a town that revels in its outlaw past. The great cattle drives turned Dodge City into a roiling prairie fleshpot of saloons, brothels, gamblers, rustlers, and gunslingers. Both Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp worked the town as U.S. Marshals. In 1883, one of Warshaw’s predecessors, Mayor Lawrence Deger, was elected on a platform that promised to clean up the town. He tried to close down the Long Branch saloon and run its proprietor, Luke Short, out of town. Deger succeeded, briefly, but Short came back with some Kansas City money, as well as Masterson and Earp, behind him. Nevertheless, the mayor issued a proclamation that closed all the gambling houses in town.
The announcement of this new regulation coincided with the heart of the cattle-drive season, when the town was flooded with transient cow-hands and their money. Deger had blown up one of the pillars of Dodge City’s local economy. On the night of June 7, 1883, Dodge City was divided between two heavily armed groups of men: the state militia, under the command of the marvelously monickered adjutant General Thomas Moonlight, and Short’s crew, which by then included Doc Holliday, as well as Earp and Masterson. General Moonlight, however, managed to broker a late-night deal between the two factions. For the good of the local economy, everyone agreed to forget the whole thing. Luke Short got his saloon back, the dance halls were reopened, and the “Dodge City War” ended without anyone’s getting shot.
That was then. This is now, and Joyce Warshaw is no longer mayor of Dodge City. From the Dodge City Daily Globe:
Warshaw’s heavy decision was made with concerns for her safety after being met with aggression, including threats via phone and email from Dodge City citizens, following extreme backlash due to an article by USA Today published on Dec. 11, regarding the mask mandate. Warshaw is quoted in the article as saying, “We just felt like we had to do something so everybody was aware of how important it was for everybody to be responsible for each other’s health and well-being.”
In an interview with the Dodge City Daily Globe, Warshaw said she does not have any regrets regarding voting in favor of the mask mandate. Warshaw said she feels her life has been threatened and reasoned that it is because she finds society to be unpredictable at this point. Regarding investigations into the threatening emails, Warshaw said that some of them have been turned in to the police.
The USA Today article in question paints a grim picture of Dodge City in the midst of the pandemic, one that makes a very strong case for a mask mandate. But then again, this is the United States in 2020, and the bloody freak flag waves high and proud.
But weeks later, residents openly defy the mandate. And, as of early December, police have done nothing to enforce it. At Red Beard Coffee on Gunsmoke Street this month, there were no signs reminding people to put on masks. Neither the staff nor most customers wore them. At Tacos Jalisco on Wyatt Earp Boulevard, signs in English and Spanish alerted customers to the mask protocol, but neither staff nor most customers wore them inside during a recent visit by USA TODAY…
As of Dec. 4, authorities had issued no tickets for violations of the mask ordinance. The police department had received only a few complaints about people flouting the rule, said Dodge City Police Chief Drew Francis. Other complaints, he said, have come from opponents of the mandate. “We have taken several complaints from community members speaking directly to officers about their position that this is unconstitutional government overreach and wanting to know if the police department is going to allow itself to be used to oppress the people,” Francis said.
Most residents who testified said that the mandate would infringe on their rights, that it would be hard to enforce or that children were being psychologically traumatized by having to wear masks. Casey Fitzgerald told commissioners the pandemic had been overblown. “I’ve been in the community for 12 years, served in the military 21 years, still serving,” Fitzgerald said. “You all know this is the land of the free. So I’m asking you to allow everyone here to remain free and make the choice whether to wear a mask or not.”
All of the bats are out of the belfry now. The president*’s lasting contribution to the American republic is an epidemic of idiotic self-destruction, and an amplification of so many paranoid political delusions that Richard Hofstadter would have given up and opened a smoke shop. And there’s money behind the crazy as well, which brings us to some lunatic events in Houston. From the Texas Tribune:
A former Houston police captain was arrested after allegedly running a man off the road and threatening him at gunpoint — what prosecutors say was part of an elaborate attempt to find evidence for a false conspiracy theory of widespread voter fraud in Harris County…Aguirre ran his black SUV into the back of the technician’s truck to get the man to stop and get out, according to a court document describing probable cause for the charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He pointed a handgun at the technician and forced him to the ground, according to the affidavit. One of the other people Aguirre was with allegedly stole the technician’s vehicle after searching it; police later found the abandoned truck a few blocks away.
A few days before Aguirre allegedly assaulted the man, he called Lt. Wayne Rubio with the Texas attorney general’s office, requesting help with the investigation. Rubio declined and reported the call. Days later, he got another call from Aguirre, who was upset that police would not intervene based on his uncorroborated accusations, according to the affidavit, which referred to a phone call and email from Rubio reporting the call to authorities. Aguirre allegedly told Rubio he had been in a car wreck with “a voter fraud suspect.”
Aguirre, it seems, was a cashiered Houston police officer who had gone to work for a private security firm hired by something called the Liberty Center for God and Country, the creation of a wingnut Texas millionaire named Steven Hotze. Again from the TT:
Hotze is one of most prolific culture warriors on the right in Texas. He is a fierce opponent of same-sex marriage and was a key figure in the 2015 defeat of Houston’s nondiscrimination ordinance — and then in the unsuccessful push for the 2017 “bathroom bill” in the Texas Legislature. More recently, Hotze and his allies have been in the headlines for the lawsuits he has been filing during the pandemic. Hotze sued Abbott over his stay-at-home order in April. In late May, Hotze asked the Texas Supreme Court to strike down the law that gives Abbott broad executive power to respond to disasters. And earlier this month, Hotze sued over the state’s contact tracing program. The lawsuit over Abbott’s mask order was filed Friday in Travis County District Court.
Hotze also allegedly left a voicemail for Texas Governor Greg Abbott advising him to shoot all demonstrators in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. His most recent hobby-horse, however, besides defending liberty against the public health, is the notion that the presidential election was stolen. That’s how Aguirre came to running an innocent air-conditioning repairman off the road at gunpoint.
While working on behalf of Hotze’s group, which has been attempting to find evidence for the GOP’s allegations of election fraud, Aguirre surveilled the air conditioner technician for four days with the help of at least two other unidentified people before the Oct. 19 incident. He later told authorities that he believed the technician was behind a huge voter fraud scheme in the Houston area, according to an affidavit by the Houston police officer who responded to the incident. Aguirre told police that he believed the technician to be transporting fake ballots in his vehicle and to have as many as 750,000 in his possession.
“There were no ballots in the truck,” according to a Harris County district attorney’s office press release. “It was filled with air conditioning parts and tools.”
The most frightening part of the story, to me, anyway, is the fact that according to the Houston prosecutors, Hotze’s organization paid Aguirre almost $270,000 for this bizarre escapade. There is money and power behind the crazy now, and there is no such thing as the unthinkable anymore. The president* has made all things possible.
Charles P. Pierce
Charles P Pierce is the author of four books, most recently Idiot America, and has been a working journalist since 1976.
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