We’re now on day eight of Texas’ winter crisis and day four of widespread power and water outages across the state, and my overwhelming feelings are fury, despair, and a desire for Ted Cruz to go straight to hell.
I’m fine, really. I haven’t left the house since Saturday, but my utilities never shut off. I haven’t showered in days — water is only to be used for cooking and drinking in my city, and they’ve asked us to conserve water so that the treatment plant can conserve electricity. I have been so lucky.
But I feel so much despair for Texas. At least 4 million people have been without electricity at some point over the past week, sometimes for upwards of 60 hours. Pipes burst in apartment complexes and froze in homes, leaving millions of people without water and resorting to melt snow and ice in their bathtubs just to flush toilets. We were told to drip water from our faucets to stop pipes from bursting, then to stop dripping them because the low water pressure was compromising water safety. Many of us were then told to boil water to make it safe to drink and cook with. Boil water with what electricity or gas? With what water? And that was only if people were able to receive communications through shot cell service and the internet. Though power seems to be returning to homes, at least hundreds of thousands of people are still without electricity.
Then I think about the people in charge of this state, and my despair turns to pure rage.
The top spot on the rage list today goes to possibly the most hated man in America right now, Sen. Ted Cruz. I am furious, absolutely fucking furious, that Cruz had the audacity to tell everyone else to “stay safe” and then got on a flight out of Houston to Cancun with his family while people are freezing to death on the street, making sure to get the Houston police to act as his servants in the process. I simply cannot think of a more callous, entitled, shameful way for a United States senator to respond to a once-in-a-lifetime catastrophe in the state he is supposedly there to help and represent.
Cruz is now returning after being blamed and shamed on social media for taking a vacation. He will be on his way home this afternoon. Before he arrived, he put out a statement blaming his daughters for asking him to go to Mexico. A class act. (He’s also likely lying by omission when he says “I am flying back this afternoon,” since he was reportedly originally set to come back on Saturday.)
Meanwhile, others are trying to use their platform to boost resources and callouts, and call Texas seniors to see how they can help them. Cruz could have tried to do that. Instead, he fucked off to Mexico. “Scum” does not even begin to describe him.
Cruz is not alone. Everyone in charge of this state has refused to take responsibility for getting us into the crisis currently engulfing us—from Republicans like Gov. Greg Abbott and Sen. John Cornyn, who have tried to frame renewable energy as an enemy in this crisis, to protect their own interests in oil and gas amid an oil and gas crisis, to people like former governor Rick Perry, who said that people are fine freezing themselves sick in their homes in order to keep Texas’ energy grid unregulated. Sure, what else can these people do given the current crisis they’re in but, I don’t know, use the myriad Rich People resources at their disposal to help the people suffering instead of pointing fingers at ERCOT or renewables or the federal government, as if anyone who hasn’t had power in three days cares about that?
These people hate us. They make us suffer and then spit in our faces when we ask for help. How many times do we need to tell ourselves that we deserve better, that the people of Texas, regardless of whatever backwards Northern liberal thinking dictates about states that vote red, don’t deserve to suffer like this? Unhoused Texans deserve housing, at all times, regardless of weather conditions that are likely to kill them. Jailed and imprisoned Texans don’t deserve to freeze and go hungry during this crisis, and while we’re at it, don’t deserve to be imprisoned! The migrants in tent camps in Mexico waiting for asylum and jailed in ICE and CBP attention don’t deserve to be stranded and detained there, let alone freeze in these conditions. These are the people on the margins in Texas. None of us deserve this, but especially not the people who we often believe deserve the conditions that the state puts them through. And we especially do not deserve leaders like Ted Cruz, who would rather abandon us and go to a whole other country when we’re at our lowest than do anything that would help.
I’m also furious that it’s taken so long for this crisis to get the attention it deserved. I’m mad that local Texas reporters have done everything they can to inform their communities and keep them safe all the while not having running water or electricity. I have colleagues who’ve lost utilities and are still doing their jobs.
I’m furious that mutual aid groups have been so needed right now. Mutual aid has truly become the story of this crisis. It is those groups and other local organizers who have been doing the work to take care of unhoused people and people whose homes have lost power. It’s so messed up — the very people who have lost their electricity and water too are the ones mobilizing and trying to save other people in their communities with the few resources they have at their disposal.
People who can’t help out are pouring money into these mutual aid funds, which is a kind and correct reaction, but these groups are not big. They’re run by smaller groups of people, and staffed with unpaid volunteers. Few of these groups will be able to spend all this money now — grocery stores are cleaned out, or have lost power and can’t check people out to pay, and hotel rooms are booked up. We’re dealing with crises upon crises here. I’ve seen so much understandable fixation on the mutual aid efforts, and “Texans helping Texans,” and all the neighborly love, and I get it. What else can we do to avoid this despair but focus on the resilience of Texans? But we would not have to be funneling money to local organizers if it weren’t for the people who have abandoned us in the first place.
And we are not out of this yet. South and East Texas are expecting another storm and San Antonio and Austin are supposed to get more snow today. I look at so many of my friends and how they’ve been keeping up with their families from afar or are stranded in Texas themselves and I don’t know how to not be angry and hopeless. We’ve been totally, literally, abandoned by the people who are supposed to give enough of a shit to at least pretend to be in solidarity with their suffering constituents. The mask is off, and only once the ice thaws will we begin to even gauge just how fatal this crisis was.