May people from Texas Texas
In the heart of Texas, most people still like Trump
In Utopia, Texas, one has nothing to do with change and visions of the future. The residents of the 250-strong village are satisfied with their lot - but it should be a little more «like before».
Do they still meet? In any case, two chairs are still there, in the back of the General Store, Utopia's general store. The plastic seats, on the left the refrigerated shelf with the milk, on top the neon lamp. This was the place where the old men came together for a chat, as New York journalist Karen Valby described in her long-term observation. Utopia, Texas. The “real” America of the whites in the country. The main street, the gas station, the café, the voluntary fire brigade. A smoker grill in the shape of a revolver. Almost everyone voted Donald Trump here.
The drive to Utopia in Uvalde County goes along a small back road and leads through a sparsely populated region. Left and right are grass and pastureland, a few trees, fences, here and there horses and now and then a farm. This is the heartland of Texas, an hour and a half drive west of the big city of San Antonio. Dallas is a good 400 kilometers away in the north. And at some point the street sign with the meaningful name appears: Utopia. But if you expect a place of the future now, you are wrong. The real existing utopia is more of a hoard of the past, where change is viewed with skepticism.
The name goes back to a young man suffering from tuberculosis who came here from Alabama in 1876 on the advice of his doctor. He became the city's first postmaster, and as the climate favored his recovery, the place previously called Montana was renamed. The state novel by Thomas More was the inspiration.
A humble paradise
Utopia, Texas. The place consists mainly of the main street, lined left and right by flat buildings and wooden houses. A few children hang around the sidewalks in the midday heat. The place with just 250 inhabitants has no administration of its own, law, order and parking tickets are not dealt with by the sheriff, but by the justice of the peace. The last available statistical data comes from the census in 2000. At that time, 111 households were counted, almost a quarter of them with children. The median income for a household was $ 36,000 a year. Over 90 percent of the population are white.
"This is a beautiful place to live," says Patty, "yes, a paradise."
Public life in Utopia takes place primarily in the Lost Maples Cafe. Various notes are hanging on the front door: The voluntary fire brigade from Tarpley, a neighboring town, is auctioning a water pump and a tanker. In addition, a call to take part in the local recycling campaign. And the Republicans invite you to a meeting in the next small town on Thursday. Inside, the aluminum tables date from the 1970s, and there are deer antlers on the wall and a telephone with a rotary dial. Patty and Charles Bishop are sitting in a corner of the room, drinking coffee and waiting for the reporter. Both are retired teachers, they have lived in Utopia since the mid-1970s. "It's a beautiful place to live," says Patty, "yes, a paradise."
Paradise is a conservative stronghold, most of them voted for Trump, "and most of them still like him," says the former teacher. They are doing so well, they say, with their two pensions and additional health insurance. And why did you choose the controversial president? The economy is burdened with too many laws, says Charles, taxes are too complicated and they just want less state.
Utopia also has its museum
At this point, Kathy Lewis greets from the other table. You know each other from the various charities, because "we do everything here ourselves and voluntarily," emphasizes Patty. Kathy and her husband Butch Lewis are Trump voters too, and the reason for them cannot be a depressing economic situation either. Butch worked as a Houston police officer for many years and is now 66 years old. They already know each other from school, but only got married a few years ago after their marriages ended. Kathy's family has lived here for 100 years, they own a 1000 hectare ranch near Utopia. One hectare of land is currently being traded here for $ 5,000, depending on the degree of development.
You live on your own land, you have your own water, you shoot a deer every now and then, you don't need a state.
We drive over to the small local museum. Everything that has to do with the past has been collected here. Cowboy boots and old phones, photos, a bathtub, old local high school magazines. A piano, a family Bible, a baseball uniform. "If you want," Butch says to the reporter, "we can go out and show you our ranch." The people here are very friendly.
If you drive with Butch in his pick-up, you will notice the rifle that he has placed under the roof of the car. There are a couple of cartridges on the dashboard - Texas as you imagine it. Butch and Kathy do not actually raise livestock on their Four Sister Ranch, they have 40 cattle, but they do it on the side. Kathy rents two wooden houses on her land for city dwellers who are looking for peace and quiet here. Her 92-year-old mother also lives on the ranch, in her own house, and she still takes care of herself. That is the world of conservative America: You live on your own land, have your own water, shoot a deer every now and then, you can Caring for yourself and paying for yourself, you don't need a state and you have little to do with the “Liberals from New York”.
And why did Kathy and Butch Lewis elect the current president? Butch thinks something has to change in the country. "We need more jobs," he says. We are in the living room of the ranch house, a large open fireplace, antlers, a Winchester is leaning against the wall next to the door to the veranda. And here again: there are too many regulations, taxes are too high, and the economy must be strengthened. And then Butch says: "And where else is that where the police no longer go because Sharia law applies there?" "Wasn't that in Wisconsin?" Kathy knows. But Butch also fears that there could be an impeachment and impeachment of the president. "It will be a difficult time for Trump," he said.
With the Colt under the bed
Kathy is an independent, intelligent woman. “We already know that we are considered incorrigible backwoodsmen here,” she says. Her children live in the cities, she knows Europe. Once a year, her son organizes an open-air music festival on the ranch grounds. And a couple of years ago, Kathy offered accommodation to a young journalist from New York.
And then Sarah says it should be the same as it used to be, America was still big back then.
Karen Valby works for New York's Entertainment Weekly, and in 2006 the editor hired her to find and describe an American city untouched by ubiquitous popular culture. After a long search, the journalist came across Utopia. The report turned into a long-term project that resulted in a book in 2010: “Welcome to Utopia: Notes from a Small Town”. In it she describes the life of the people of Utopia, for example the coffee group that meets regularly in the general store, grumpy old men like Ralph. The 72-year-old ran the shop with a partner for decades and sleeps under the bed with a 22-inch Colt - “like most people in town”.
It was like a revolution when the coffee drinkers tolerated the journalist for the first time as a woman in their circle - although the journalist was well aware that she was viewed as a “bloody communist from New York”. And that in Utopia the cause of all evil - the condition of the streets, drugs, alcoholism, divorces and the sale of land that has always been in the possession of old families - is seen in the newcomers. Karen Valby tells how modern times are conquering even the most remote corners of America and what it does to people.
When was it?
But back to the utopia of the present, the America of Donald Trump. Sarah's gift shop is on Main Street across from the café, she sells soap, candy and T-shirts, and her two children are playing in front of the door. “It's nice here,” says the young woman, the little ones can go get their own ice cream and grow up without a cell phone. If you want to go to the big city, San Antonio isn't far.
Sarah is also a Trump voter. The USA is too dependent on foreign countries, on China, and one should produce more in one's own country again. She thinks that her generation is too lazy, nobody wants to work properly anymore. There is simply too much government support, such as food stamps. And then Sarah says it should be the same as it used to be, America was still big back then. When should that have been exactly? Sarah pauses, thinks. “That was sometime before I was born,” she says. Sarah was born in 1980.
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