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The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You...

And eyeing you hungrily

By Frank Van Riper

Photography Columnist


          It’s not news when sentient beings look down at Texas with disgust and despair. The ‘Republic,’ as it prefers to be called, has been an abomination on the national stage for too many years to remember.

          What is news is that, left unchecked and unchallenged, the latest round of judicial and legal atrocities committed by the Lone Star State—on abortion rights, gun control and voting rights--simply will reflect the rest of this country if we allow it to happen.

          Make no mistake: Texas will be our future, as more Neanderthal states (mostly in the South and West) enact similar repressive laws, unless we take our future back. And we take it back by doing what we did last November, when we rousted the worst, most corrupt, president in American history. We need to come out in huge numbers at the polls next year during the critical off-year elections to maintain and, God willing, increase our majority in both the House and the Senate.

          It was true in 2020 and it is true for ’22: the future of our democracy literally depends on it.

          Between now and then the Biden administration will have to use the slim majorities it now has in both chambers of Congress to push through its progressive agenda, including most importantly a massive bill to improve the nation’s infrastructure on many fronts. I take nothing away from the importance of protecting voting rights, or of safeguarding the environment, or of preserving a woman’s right to choose. However, the infrastructure package contains within it the means to make important, tangible and immediate improvements in the lives of all citizens—and that can translate into vital voter approval in 2022. Joe Biden knows this and that’s why—after his successful effort to end child poverty (a signal achievement for which he has not gotten sufficient credit)--he is pushing his infrastructure bill so hard.

          Yet not so hard as to turn off such important centrist Democrats (and, frankly, pains in the ass) as West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, who at this writing is balking at the infrastructure package’s multi-trillion-dollar price tag. My guess is that both Manchin and Biden know they have to reach a deal—and they will. And, in the end, we all will be grateful for Joe Biden’s decades of experience in the Senate, where the Art of the Deal actually had been performed—and not merely plastered on the cover of a semi-literate’s ghost-written book to hype sales.



          There is some room for optimism. Even Republicans know there is just so much they can oppose bread-and-butter projects in their own districts on the laughable grounds of “fiscal responsibility.” These, after all, are the same hypocrites who passed mammoth tax cuts  for the rich during the Trump years.

          But the real cause for GOP concern right now should be the national firestorm of opposition, indignation and ridicule generated by Texas Republicans’ grotesque assault on a woman’s right to decide for herself whether to have an abortion. I covered national politics as a reporter for more than two decades and I never have seen so ham-handed and obviously unconstitutional a proposal as the one passed by the Texas legislature, and, as of this writing, allowed to take effect, if temporarily, by a Trump-heavy US Supreme Court.

          [For those just returning from Mars: the Texas bill, signed into law in May by rightwing GOP Gov. Greg Abbott and taking effect this month, effectively prohibits all abortions and allows private citizens to sue abortion providers or anyone who helps a woman get an abortion, including anyone who escorts a woman to an abortion clinic or helps pay for the procedure. If a plaintiff is successful, they are entitled to at least $10,000. A 5-4 Supreme Court voted to let the vigilante-loving law take effect as court challenges go forward. All three Trump appointees sided with Texas

          In a furious dissent, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor declared: “The [Texas] Act is a breathtaking act of defiance — of the Constitution, of this Court’s precedents, and of the rights of women seeking abortions throughout Texas.” She continued: “The Court should not be so content to ignore its constitutional obligations to protect not only the rights of women, but also the sanctity of its precedents and of the rule of law.”]

          The anti-abortion yahoos may have been jubilant but, significantly, Trump and his enablers at Fox News were much more subdued—Trump not even willing to say he supported the Texas bill. And that’s because the dog finally has caught the speeding car and now hasn’t a !#^!!@ clue what to do with that fender in its jaws. All due to the simple fact that the vast majority of Americans believes in a woman’s right to have an abortion on her terms, not the state’s.


          Writing after the Supreme Court ruling, historian Heather Cox Richardson said: “Until yesterday, Republican politicians could pay lip service to opposing the Roe v. Wade decision to get anti-abortion voters to show up at the polls, without facing the political fallout of actually getting rid of the decision.

          "Now, though, Texas has effectively destroyed the right to legal abortion. 

          "The fact that the Fox News Channel is not mentioning what should have been a landmark triumph of its viewers’ ideology suggests Republicans know that ending safe and legal abortion is deeply unpopular. Their base finally, after all these years, got what it wanted. But now the rest of the nation, which had been assured as recently as the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh that Roe v. Wade was settled law that would not be overturned, gets a chance to weigh in."

          Not a great look as we approach the off-year elections and a tidal wave of pissed-off women start to mobilize again.




          Decades ago, as a White House reporter covering Lyndon Johnson, I happened in to a Neiman Marcus in Texas around the holidays just to ogle the wretched excess. (The store didn’t disappoint. That year, if memory serves, a one-off Xmas gift it touted on its main floor was a pickup truck that appeared to be encrusted in diamonds.)

          As I wandered without direction, I encountered a short, wizened old guy in jeans, boots and cowboy shirt—the whole getup. I might have ignored him except that, for a terrible moment, I thought he might have been a burn victim. He had little or no hair and his blue-veined skin seemed unnaturally tight. His nose was beak-like and his bright blue eyes shone in his skull-like head.

          Where you from, he asked me, eyeing the press card that hung around my neck. New York I said—I write for the New York Daily News.

          He stared up at me, fixed me with his blue eyes and said without emotion, “You know we hate you,” then walked away.

          Funny how that incident came back to me as Texas soiled itself (once more) as it supported a fatuously unconstitutional assault on abortion rights, a wholesale gutting of gun controls that even the state’s cops think is ridiculous and proposed voting legislation that might as well say “Blacks and Latinos need not apply.”

          And I haven’t even mentioned the idiot governor and Covid.

          Love to see that old guy from Neiman Marcus now. I’d put my New York arm around his skinny Lone Star shoulders, lean in to his withered ear and whisper in all the sincerity: “Fuck you and die.”



Frank Van Riper Fall photography class at Glen Echo Photoworks, Glen Echo, Md.





REGISTRATION: ‘Photographing Artwork’:

REGISTRATION: ‘Glen Echo Night Photography’:

Section one, October 20th

Section two, November 9th


Lubec Photo Workshops at SummerKeys, Lubec, Maine

Join us for another magical summer NEXT year--2022


      Master Photo Classes with Frank Van Riper

       These intense, three and a half-day, limited enrollment classes are aimed at the more advanced student, who already has taken a photo workshop and who is familiar with basic flash. Maximum enrollment of just five. NB: previous Master Classes were fully booked almost immediately.


        2022 Master Photo Class dates:TO BE ANNOUNCED

        Come photograph in one of the most beautiful spots on earth.



Van Riper Named to Communications Hall of Fame


Frank Van Riper addresses CCNY Communications Alumni at National Arts Club in Manhattan after induction into Communications Alumni Hall of Fame, May 2011.   (c) Judith Goodman

[Copyright Frank Van Riper. All Rights Reserved.  Published 9/5/21]