Who needs a statue of Gandhi – we’ve got Leslie
Although I grew up in India, I agree with many Austinites who wrote to this newspaper in opposition to placing a statue of Gandhi in Zilker Park.
Jimmie Smith of Cedar Park is surely right in objecting to the statue because he “cannot seem to remember when Gandhi visited Texas.” Unlike Gandhi, I have lived in Texas for the past four years, so I know that Texans fall into two categories:
People whose bumper stickers say “Native Texan.”
People whose bumper stickers say “I wasn’t born in Texas but I got here as fast as I could.”
Sadly, Gandhi did not fall into either category. Not only did he not own a car, but owing to an unfortunate oversight on the part of his parents, he was born in the city of Porbander in India. To compound this mistake, Gandhi does not seem to have been in any hurry to get to Texas, having gotten distracted by minor matters such as leading the independence struggle of 200 million Indians.
In fact, the words “Austin” and “Texas” do not occur anywhere in Gandhi’s autobiography. This is shocking because Austin is the most important city in Texas, which is the most important state in the U.S., which is the most important country in the world. And yet Gandhi seems to have been utterly unaware of our existence.
Having lived in Massachusetts and New York, I know that non-Texans like Gandhi fall into two categories: People who have never heard of Texas. People who have heard of Texas but wish they hadn’t. We must conclude that Gandhi is in the first category of non-Texans, which is better than being the second category, but scarcely merits a statue in Zilker Park.
Michael Bishop raises the problem that Gandhi was “a skinny dude in a diaper,” so his statue would not inspire Texans. How can one disagree with his beef ? In the old days, people tried to emulate their role models, but in this narcissistic age, our role models are supposed to resemble us.
Gandhi was indeed a skinny dude, but everything is bigger in Texas, especially Texans. Most Texans look like Moby Dick squeezed into a pair of cut-off jeans, so Gandhi cannot be a role model for them.
In the interest of accuracy, I must point out that Gandhi’s garment is actually called a “dhoti,” not a diaper. You can ask U.S. Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana if you don’t believe me.
Perhaps the most telling criticism comes from Bill Fischer of Cedar Park, who writes that as an advocate of civil disobedience, Gandhi has no place in Texas because “we (in Texas) vote for what we want, and, if we don’t get it, we try to convince others to agree with us and wait till the next election.”
This respect for democratic norms has been a salient feature of Texas since its birth. Some say that Texas seceded from Mexico because Santa Anna was a staunch abolitionist, but visit the Alamo and you find out that the real issue was that Santa Anna was a dictator who had no respect for the property rights of Texans, forcing them to secede peacefully from Mexico.
After that, the U.S. Congress voted peacefully to move the border between Texas and Mexico south from the Nueces River to the Rio Grande. Unfortunately, Mexicans once again had no respect for our democratic decisions, which led to more unpleasantness. Fortunately, we are all friends now because although most Mexicans were not born in Texas, they are getting here as fast as they can.
Who, then, deserves pride of place in Zilker Park? Although I am not a native Texan and I took my time getting here, permit me to suggest a worthy candidate: Leslie Cochran, the flamboyant Austin transvestite who walks around in a feather boa and leopard-skin thong and makes his living posing for pictures with bemused tourists.
This choice should please Jimmie Smith, because unlike Gandhi, Cochran has been a fixture of the Austin scene for decades. Cochran has run for mayor of Austin several times, which should satisfy Bill Fischer’s democratic yearnings. There is a small possibility that Michael Bishop might object to a skinny guy in a leopard-skin thong, but then you cannot please everyone.
Finally, Cochran makes an excellent role model for our kids — now that the State Board of Education has gotten rid of evolution, astronomy, Newton and Thomas Jefferson from the curriculum, our kids too soon will be earning a living posing for pictures with rich tourists from other countries, the way so many kids still do in Gandhi’s country.