By Greg Ritchie
Editor’s note: Greg’s Corner is a section for our Thursday edition where Messenger Reporter Greg Ritchie shares odds and ends from the job and unusual or interesting facts from across the world and across time.
MESSENGER OFFICE – On Tuesday, Oct. 4 the City of Crockett along with Houston County law enforcement celebrated our first National Night Out – sponsored by the Crockett Area Chamber of Commerce. The idea is to connect local law enforcement and first responders with the community – to show we’re all in this together. Kids can enjoy food and games and see the ambulances, fire engines and other tools used to keep us safe.
I was happy to attend the event and see such a good turnout from the public. After a while, I left to see the slugfest that was the Latexo-Lovelady volleyball game in Latexo.
Then I started to receive messages about a surprise guest who showed up, seemingly unplanned and unannounced. Texas gubernatorial candidate Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke came through Crockett and spoke to the attendees.
An old friend of local businesswoman Keisha Thomas, O’Rourke decided to stop and see her and she invited him to the National Night Out.
I sat down with Thomas and – say what you will – she is not afraid to share her opinions and to listen to opinions on the other side. She told me how she herself had evolved from believing every Trump supporter was a racist to trying to listen to them and understand them.
She shared that she has opinions across the political spectrum and cannot be pigeon-holed always into one party or the other. She told me communication is key.
“I would not vote for Trump, but I am not going to look at a Trump supporter as a stereotype. Some people online were saying they couldn’t even talk to Beto because he makes them so angry. I couldn’t criticize them because that is how I thought, too. But I have spoken now to many Republicans and people with other ideas. We may not always agree, but I don’t attack people now – I at least listen to what they have to say,” Thomas explained.
“But when we only focus on the border, or abortion or guns – I think we are missing the point of education,” Thomas said. “We are focused on guns – but many of our kids across America can’t compete in math and science.”
Some might argue a secure border, an armed population – and not aborting babies would be a big help to a safe education, too.
I told Keisha many people would consider her to be an activist. I asked her if it is difficult to balance being an activist and being a business owner – where her outspoken political views could cost her business.
“I am an activist,” Thomas replied. “I am an activist for principles. I make people mad on both sides. I am pro-life – which angers the pro-choicers. My principle is learn and listen – to go right to the source. When Beto came here, if there was something someone did not like, my principle is, ‘Go and speak your truth to that power.’”
Some law enforcement officials were not pleased about the visit. Some could not speak their minds since they were in uniform and officially “on the job.”
Houston County Sheriff Randy Hargrove had no problem with anyone inviting candidates to Houston County or supporting whomever they wish – but didn’t think that was the right time and place for such a visit.
“In my opinion, every citizen of this country has a First Amendment right to vote for who they want, support who they want and I honor that,” Hargrove said. “This was an event to bring together the citizens of our community and help strengthen that bond. That (O’Rourke’s visit) offended me, because this was not meant to be a political event. It was meant to bring the community together and that was affected. Any party can bring anyone they want to Crockett. Republican or Democrat, let them come and have their voices heard. I took an oath to protect that right – and I will. I just think for that event – it was the wrong time, the wrong place and the wrong reason.”
Love him or hate him, O’Rourke has a talent for causing a stir and getting publicity. He was criticized for interrupting Texas Gov. Abbot’s press conference shortly after the shootings in Uvalde.
It is not my place to express more of an opinion on politics than this. I think Keisha is right when she says that we need more dialogue. However, there is a time and place for everything. Keisha may have had her heart in the right place – but “Beto” and his handlers knew all too well what such a visit might mean to the people of Houston County.
Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]