The Year Was A Rose, And Every Single Goddamn Day Was A Thorn: Meet The Asshats Who Ruined 2019 For The Rest Of Us In Dallas-Fort Worth.
Skepticism and conspiracy theories would eventually insinuate themselves into the JFK assassination like sutures into skin, but the people of 1963 were pretty ready to buy a scenario where some nut job in Dallas might hurt the president.
Long before President Kennedy’s fateful trip here, our city was regarded with suspicion from outsiders, many thanks to our general hospitality toward right-wing extremists and also because of concerning incidents from earlier that decade — like how, in 1960, protesting Dallasites spat on Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson or how, a few months prior in 1963, an especially raucous protest against the United Nations led to then-ambassador Adlai Stevenson being struck in the head with a sign post.
Lee Harvey Oswald’s political views may have run counter to what those mobs believed, but the fact is his violence felt native to the Metroplex in those times. In turn, even though the assassination seemed unthinkable, the public was primed to think of Dallas as the kind of place where something like this could happen. Then, in the aftermath of JFK’s death, we became nationally known as The City of Hate.
As far as nicknames go, The City of Hate is less corny than Arlington calling itself “The American Dream City” — but it still isn’t the sort of appellation you want if you’re interested in things like attracting tourists or, well, just having any self-respect.
Through the decades, Dallas has proved itself to be richer, more interesting and stronger than the millstone placed around the city’s neck in the ’60s. But we also can’t just blithely hide our past horrors like a sofa stain under a throw pillow. We look back at what happened on November 22, 1963, and rightly believe that the city is better than that day’s awful events.
But what we can’t do is say, “That’s not Dallas” — because it is literally part of Dallas. If we insisted on forgetting, we’d be as out of touch as the people espousing the wildest conspiracies around “what really happened” to JFK. To our credit, we’ve never tried to forget; we have the Sixth Floor Museum, and also we have an “X” painted on Elm Street to mark the spot where the assassination happened.
Our relationship to the burden of civic infamy is worth considering as we take stock of 2019.
This year was so venomous, cobras could worship it as their god. We endured mass shootings, hate crimes and political corruption taint our country, state and city. This may not be fun to reflect on, but it’s true.
While Dallas can still feel grateful for its terrific restaurants, talented artists and Luka Dončić, we cannot deny that the calendar was also a catalog of bruises — and, just as ever, that our community was befouled by asshats.
Yes, we should be ashamed of any association with the people and actions on this annual list.
But this is not an exercise in shaming the community. Ideally, a review of our low points and low people can reveal what we don’t want this city to be, while also helping us understand how to both avoid and exorcise our asshats.
That may be a lofty goal, sure. But if we can persevere against a reputation as the City of Hate, we can find a way to deal with having these rotten bastards as our neighbors.
Allen resident Patrick Crusius confessed to the mass shooting in El Paso that killed 22 people and wounded an additional 26 — and then he would go on to enter a not guilty plea in his trial.
The evidence suggests that racism, anger and fear corroded his humanity to the point where he decided to seek out and kill innocent people as a protest against immigration.
Words of consolation and condemnation all feel too small and self-evident to be of much value when discussing violence committed by human monsters like Crusius. There were more mass shootings in the United States than days of the year in 2019, but the volume of unspeakable acts we’ve experienced in these last 12 months doesn’t make them easier to endure, and the lack of action on gun control just makes these incidents — including this weekend’s shooting at a church in White Settlement — feel inevitable.
Crusius deserves the worst punishment a just society can impose on a person, and he should each suffer his sentence in anonymity. Meanwhile, no matter what happens to men like him, the rest of us still have to contend with the persistence of racist and xenophobic beliefs in our society that are able to mold deeply broken people into something dangerous.
Arlington representative Tony Tinderholt made waves in 2017 because he tried to pass a bill against abortion that was so repulsively severe it made national headlines. Those headlines then led to public outrage, and secondhand shame for the state. It also led to death threats against Tinderholt, which is absolutely not okay.
In 2019, Tinderholt made waves because – you’re not gonna believe this! – he tried to pass an insanely strict law against abortion. Yes, again. This man’s political white whale is apparently murder charges for women who have abortions, and for the doctors who provide them.
Tinderholt’s latest attempt to out-Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood’s seminal work The Handmaid’s Tale was so extreme that even the strident anti-choice demagogues he wanted to win over were turned off by his actions. As a result, he managed to look like a clown among his colleagues and fall out of favor with the weirdos he hoped to court.
Put a quarter in your ass, Tinderholt. You played yourself on this effort. Just don’t go out and try to get that quarter aborted, though. Because that would obviously be immoral.
Attackers of Dallas’ Trans Women
For several years, Texas has been the deadliest state for members of the trans community. North Texas is part of the problem too, with four trans women of color have killed in Dallas in the past 16 months, and two killed this summer.
Muhlaysia Booker and Chynal Lindsey were both in their 20s when their lives were taken from them in acts of bigoted violence earlier this year. In a sense, we’re lucky that the number of trans women of color murdered in Dallas in 2019 wasn’t higher: One area woman survived a stabbing in April, and another survived after being shot several times this September.
Unchecked transphobia, compounded by cultural hostilities toward minorities and women, creates a dangerous environment for trans women of color around these parts. Texas, which previously became entangled over an effort to police what restrooms people can use, covers sexual orientation in its hate crime laws but does not include gender identity or expression under those same regulations. That lack of formal protection is often joined by the informal public barriers around social and professional opportunities that arise when people lack understanding or interest in the experiences of another group.
In both Booker’s case and Lindsey’s, suspects have been apprehended. Ruben Alvarado is on trial for killing Lindsey, while Kendrell Lavar Lyles has been charged with Booker’s murder. While individual incidents of violence are being pursued, larger threats will loom as long as we fail to provide adequate political and public support for our city’s trans community.
There is no kernel of wisdom to be found in the turd of a belief system that is white nationalism, but CNN still felt like Richard Spencer ought to be on television earlier this year. Spencer is Dallas’ problem because he was raised here.
There’s no reason anyone else should have to suffer his existence, but the guy’s still around — at least partly because a cable news network thought it would be cool to prop up an advocate for ethnic cleansing. Fact is, unless he’s about to be punched in the face again, there’s no reason to point a camera at Spencer. For years, Spencer has attempted to play himself up as a kind of reasoned ghoul, superficially sanding down the edges of his ideas about making America a white ethno-state in an attempt to make his platform palatable for the public. It shouldn’t have worked, but it did, and he’s still receiving prominent media profiles despite being less appealing than having a rusty nail pushed up your urethra.
At the end of the year, the world’s lousiest mask finally slipped, thanks to some leaked audio that seemed to depict Spencer using the kind of racist language you probably already assumed he uses.
From the moment he first made waves in the media, Spencer’s only managed to show us what the worst-case scenario for a human being looks like. Thanks to this year’s leaked audio, we can hope that even the most tactically credulous news shows and websites will finally, finally prevent him from speaking further.
Before he finished high school in Coppell, Thomas Rousseau was being monitored by the FBI because he was posting flyers that agitated in the name of white supremacy. That isn’t the kind of thing you want to include in a college application, but it sure is an extracurricular that makes sense for someone who would go on to front a white nationalist movement.
These days, Rousseau leads Patriot Front, a group of avid propagandists that assume cheap plays at patriotism can sanitize the sort of racist sludge these organizations inevitably want to spew everywhere. If you’ve ever been grossed out by an aggressively racist or xenophobic flyer hastily taped to the window of a storefront, it was probably the work of a Patriot Front member. While the group is largely focused on vandalism and other forms of relatively minor provocation, two members of the group were arrested this year for possessing illegally-owned weapons.
Rousseau doesn’t appear to share Richard Spencer’s ravenous hunger for media attention, but he does seem to share the conviction that the right messaging can give noxious values greater purchase among the public. His group’s passion for leaving slime trails of propaganda in public spaces is presumably a lure for like-minded freaks, but it’s effectively a reminder that angry young white men can be every bit as insufferable in the real world as they are on social media.
Former Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean was responding to a non-emergency call when he killed Atatiana Jefferson by shooting through her window and into her home. Incidents where police officers have shot or otherwise killed unarmed black people have commanded national attention for years, but it’s always disquieting to see just how far removed from apparent danger an officer can be when they’re willing to use lethal force.
Dean’s case resonated because the circumstances were galling, and because Jefferson’s murder very much deserved an outcry. Its occurrence a year after Amber Guyger’s murder of Botham Jean in his Dallas home – and roughly a month after her conviction and sentencing – made it feel grimly familiar.
Sure, there are big distinctions in the cases — a major one being that Dean was on duty when he killed Jefferson — but the similarities further clarify how systemic racism and a lack of consequences for so many past police-involved shootings have made some of our citizens vulnerable to indefensible acts of state violence.
The protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline made national headlines a few years back, and it looked at the time like those protests would lead to a victory for people against a giant oil company — until both the Dakota Access Pipeline and the similarly controversial Keystone XL pipeline were approved by the Trump administration.
While the major protests took place in North Dakota, the events had ties to our city, as the Dakota Access Pipeline belongs to Dallas company Energy Transfer Partners, led by CEO Kelcy Warren. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe feared the contamination of their water supply by a pipeline leak, and while most people could understand their concerns, Warren’s assessment of the matter was less than sympathetic. When discussing these events, he actually referred to the loss of profits from protest-related delays as tragic.
While challenges to the Dakota Access Pipeline have continued into 2019, the company is happy enough with its efforts that it now plans on doubling the volume it carries. Meanwhile, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has gone on to form a partnership with North Dakota to create a response plan in case of a spill. Yes, the people who protested the development of the Dakota Access Pipeline now have to be trained on how to perform a clean-up for its potential spills. If there’s a bleaker example of life’s downward trajectory these past few years, I’m not ready to hear it.
In case you think this pipeline saga is one rotten slip from an otherwise upstanding energy company, 1) you need to disabuse yourself of the idea that there are upstanding energy companies, and 2) you should know that Energy Transfer Partners is currently facing bribery charges and accusations of criminal conspiracy concerning recent work in Pennsylvania. Will Warren and his company face real consequences for any of these actions? It’s possible, but if oil producers and other major industrial giants continue pulverizing the climate, we likely won’t live long enough for it to amount to much.
Joshua Brown’s Murderers
Joshua Brown’s murder occurred 10 days after he testified in the trial against Amber Guyger — a proximity that caused people to wonder if police officers might have been involved in his killing. Before suspects were named or apprehended, the Dallas Police Department forcefully rejected the idea that his death was connected to the trial or one of their officers, ignoring public calls from Brown’s family for an independent probe or an investigation by a neutral party.
Four days after the shooting, three suspects were identified – Thaddeus Charles Green, Jacquerious Mitchell, and Michael Diaz Mitchell. Two of the three were arrested, and all three have been indicted.
According to the police, the circumstances of Brown’s death involved the alleged killers embarking on a cross-state drive to do a drug deal with a high-profile witness in a murder trial for a police officer that had attracted national media attention. Those details were somehow less-than-compelling to people who suspected a conspiracy.
Gosh, if only someone had suggested an independent probe, or the use neutral investigators, which could have helped the DPD clear themselves of suspicion!
The story, as it stands, is still an awful one to bear. Brown had been reluctant to speak at the trial, was overcome by emotion while reliving the night of Jean’s murder, and only had 10 days to put it all past him before he was killed.
It was an unfair end to the life of a man who had just tried to help someone else receive justice.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is still facing felony charges, but after years of delays and disputes, the case against him seems to be sputtering to an anti-climax.
Earlier this year, Paxton attempted to have his trial moved to Collin County. This came after a 2017 ruling that took the trial out of Collin County to avoid issues of bias, which seemed pretty reasonable when you consider how lawmakers in the area were caught discussing an interference play on Paxton’s behalf.
Even if the felony charges against Ken Paxton have yet to come to a trial, the attorney general has already received a vigorous defense from allies. Members of “Team Paxton” — the informal bunch rallying around this sanctimonious husk of human skin and hair — have actually tried to drag matters out by suing the victims of his alleged crimes.
The only thing more uncomfortable than watching our attorney general cannily slip through our justice system is the idea that he has influential allies, mostly because the idea that he has any allies suggests that he might even have friends.
When he’s not making a mockery of the idea no one is above the law, Paxton stays busy by finding ways to fuck over the LGBTQIA community. On October 31 of this year, he dragged the state into a federal lawsuit because he wants to make it legal for faith-based adoption agencies and foster care centers to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation. That’s not the most fun way to spend Halloween, but it’s certainly monstrous enough to be in the spirit of the holiday.
Former city council member and mayor pro tem of Dallas Dwaine Caraway received a lengthy jail sentence this year for charges concerning various bribes collected over the course of six years.
It’s possible to earn a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in the time Caraway spent accepting bribes while in office. Hell, it might even be possible to pay tuition for a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree with six years of bribes lining your pockets!
Prosecutors recommended a four-year sentence after Caraway agreed to cooperate and enter a guilty plea in his case, but the judge felt the case warranted more, and gave the former city council member 56 months in prison, with three years of supervised release. He also owes $500,000 in restitution.
With a sentence that goes above and beyond prosecutors’ recommendations — and a clear admission of guilt — Caraway’s tainted tenure seems to have reached an ugly, but neat, conclusion. Unfortunately, we still have to deal with the cynicism that his corruption fosters among the public, which can easily outlast his time behind bars.
What happens when abuses of trust erode any sense that politicians can be counted on to act in good faith on the community’s behalf? Well, we start to believe that we deserve cynics and crooks in office, and we watch unctuous opportunists exploit contempt for public service to win over jaded voters and stick to positions of power like blood-swollen ticks. And we don’t even feign surprise when they drain away the state’s power to help people. That’s what happens.
Low-income housing developer Ruel Hamilton isn’t the only person entangled in Dwaine Caraway’s corruption scandal, but his recent attempt to extricate himself from it is slimy enough to make him stand out among this rogues’ gallery of bribers and the bribed.
Back in September, Hamilton’s defense team put forth a defense of their client insisting that the money he gave Caraway and former city council member Carolyn Davis was entirely meant as charity — and never intended as bribes. To bolster this defense, attorneys even attached a witness statement claiming Davis intended to change her story about Hamilton and affirm this. Why not have Carolyn Davis speak for herself on Hamilton’s behalf? Because she’s no longer providing statements for the case, having died in a car accident in July.
Was Davis actually planning on changing her statements to the courts? To do so, she would have had to contradict sworn statements that she’d already made, and later confirmed. While this could prove to be more than just a gross exploitation of someone’s death to wriggle out of a legal jam, it’s pretty fucking unseemly even in the context of a corruption scandal as is.
Sexual Abusers in North Texas’ Baptist Churches
In early December, the Arlington-based Baptist pastor Brett Monroe was arrested for possession of child pornography. Taken on its own, the story of a pastor in possession of child porn would be spirit-crushing enough to be identified as one of the many reasons 2019 felt like a 365-step flight of stairs that we’ve all been shoved down. However, a major investigation released at the beginning of the year reveals it to be just one of many upsetting cases with ties to Baptist churches in North Texas.
A February report from the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News exposed a staggering number of sexual abuses linked to Southern Baptist churches in the country. The joint investigation pointed to at least seven people involved with the church who committed crimes in the North Texas area. Some of the abusers identified have since faced legal consequences — like pastor Larry Nuell Neathery, who is currently serving a life sentence for 25 felony counts of molestation. But others who were accused or charged with abusive or criminal behaviors were able to continue with their church work.
The matter ultimately concerns more than the abuses, as victims have alleged that church leaders have tried to hide charges, or were at least guilty of mishandling them. Either way: The volume of cases, the examples of perpetrators who escaped meaningful punishments and a general lack of institutional readiness to address these issues made for some damning revelations against the denomination this year.
The Dallas Straight Pride Parade’s Organizers
This list usually stirs up something like the opposite of civic pride, but it’s to Dallas’ credit that the inaugural “Straight Pride” event in our city managed to attract a whopping turnout of…two? Four? Three?
Depends who you ask.
Is there something to the idea of straight pride? Sure, if that “something” is just bigotry. Somehow, this deeply stupid event – which first took place in Boston – is even worse than it sounds, as it’s been accused of operating as a Trojan Horse for white supremacy. Wait, what? Who could have anticipated that the same people excited by a transparently obvious and tedious form of homophobia might also be interested in other kinds of prejudice?
The event was doomed from the beginning — and not just for being sophomoric and sinister. The organizers didn’t want to pay the municipal fees required of them to host their program in Dallas, which meant the event was technically canceled, even though the planners still seemed to go through with it. In the end, the two-to-four people involved in the event were met by a contingent of counter-protesters, which might seem unnecessary until you consider how the last several years have been defined by the improbable successes of craven, untalented and unlikable jerks.
There have been threats to attempt to re-throw the event – perhaps as a full-blown parade, even – at some point next year. If it actually happens, expect to see: a lineup of men whose sexual orientations are reduced to the realm of the hypothetical thanks to their astounding lack of fuckable qualities; zealots in service of the hollowest and most spiteful kinds of faith; Pinochet-fetishizing Proud Boy members who want to wage a battle against leftism but appear to be waging a battle against dignity; and, unfortunately, some sad, morally underdeveloped people who could go on to be fervid antagonists against a decent society after being galvanized by their experience.
As for us? We hope that any future Straight Pride parade will again be met with a spirited challenge from counter-protesters who know Dallas to be better than this coalition of the worst fucking people. If we’re really lucky, their parade will also be met with a sinkhole that opens somewhere along their route.
Yes, the events of 2019 have broken us on the wheel of senseless trauma and left our spirits calloused and numb. Someone must pay for our collective suffering. Someone has to bear the lashes if we want the release of anguished cries.
That someone is the perhaps-very-soon-to-be-former head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Jason Garrett.
No, Garrett has not taken us to the Super Bowl. In nine years, he’s secured all of two playoff wins for America’s Team. Throughout that run, he’s continued to disappoint Cowboys fans as a head coach, while also proving himself more than capable of serving as the city’s premiere lightning rod when we need a target for our electric rage.
He’s far from the worst person in our city, but he is arguably the best at bringing out our worst moods.
When the Cowboys lose (and, boy, have they lost), fans have used social media, sports radio and water cooler talk to call for everything from his firing to his excommunication from the Metroplex.
The trash-talking and second-guessing of Jason Garrett has been de rigueur from the time he took his position, but it’s all been unsanctioned and messy. Without a greater purpose, our frustrations just diffuse and atomize before they can be put to positive use.
Garrett’s time in Dallas may not have brought us a Lombardi Trophy, but it has allowed us to concentrate our anger and use it to carve channel in our collective psyche through which we could flush our hurt out to sea.
Unlike the others on this list, perhaps Garrett is the one asshat here who deserves to be celebrated. With the catharsis of sports-related outrage harnessed and exploited, we can relieve the pressure on our wearied souls and peacefully prepare for 2020, which – God help us – is an election year.
Folks, you love to see it.