Dear Sen. Ted Cruz,
You don’t know me, so I hope this missive doesn’t strike you as overly forward. I assure you I am only here to offer my services. And after the week you’ve had, you could use the help.
Your state is reeling from every lesson that politics built on Manifest Destiny has to teach, and there you are, flying out of the country. To Cancun, no less, so it’s not like you could paint it as a mission of diplomacy. And then, when you finally reached the sandy shores of tone-deaf relaxation, you had to come back to Texas and face the maelstrom of public opinion.
You’re dug in deeper than a fallen Texas power line frozen over by a climate-change-propelled snowdrift. But as a public library employee of many years, I embrace the challenge of marrying books to people for whom literacy is not a natural fit.
I’m not going to lie to you, Rafael: If cancel culture were a real thing, this incident would have put you out of a job before your plane ever left the tarmac.
Fortunately for you, you’re a senator in the United States of America. By congressional design, it is notoriously difficult to unseat one of you once you’ve got a chair with your name on it, and your seat has been warm for almost eight years now. You’re dug in deeper than a fallen Texas power line frozen over by a climate-change-propelled snowdrift. But fortunately for you, as a public library employee of many years, I embrace the challenge of marrying books to people for whom literacy is not a natural fit.
Please understand that when I say “literacy,” I am not suggesting you cannot read. Literacy is a broad term these days, encompassing all manner of engagement with information. For instance, if you possessed tech literacy, it may have prevented you from getting busted flying away from a disaster by a few cellphone photos and an internet full of sleuths. So while I may say something slick here and there, these recommendations aren’t cheap shots. They’re books that, should you actually take the time to read them, might reward you with deeper insight into your fellow man, a lick of common sense, or (failing those) a drop of humanity.
If nothing else, it wouldn’t be hurt to be seen in public with them — especially seeing as how you blew that photo op with the bottled water.
Matthew McConaughey, Greenlights
What’s happened in your state is an “all hands on deck” kind of situation. You don’t get to fall back on your usual move and treat a natural disaster like a states’ right issue — not when it’s your state. When GOP congressman and multimillion-dollar slumlord Michael McCaul (who also used more water than any other resident in Austin in 2017) is giving you grief, you know you’ve blown it.
Not to worry. A-list actor Matthew McConaughey’s engaging travel journal/memoir may be a way for you to see getting away less as an escape and more as a time to reflect on how to deal with future challenges. I highly recommend the section where he talks about confronting massive hair loss right before his role in Reign of Fire, where he plays a warrior who leads people into battle against an apocalyptic disaster. I’ll let you suss out which part of that story I think is relevant.
Stephen King, The Dead Zone
You said the following words, out loud, to a group of reporters: “I started having second thoughts almost the moment I sat down on the plane because on the one hand, all of us who are parents have a responsibility to take care of our kids, take care of our family. That’s something Texans have been doing across the state.”
Kids, am I right? I’d like to believe that a part of you is in knots wondering how much throwing your children under the bus is going to cost them in therapy, but this quote suggests I shouldn’t bother. You don’t see how anyone else’s problems are bigger than yours in any given moment, so I’m going to recommend a book that comes with a 40-year-old spoiler. In The Dead Zone, presidential hopeful and horrible person Greg Stillson tries to protect himself from an assassination attempt by using a child as a human shield. It is a decision that ends his political career, so take heed.
Mychal Denzel Smith, Stakes Is High: Life After the American Dream
I hate to bring it up again, but those tweets of you putting bottled water in someone’s car aren’t going to do it. And we both know you are unlikely to do what Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did and raise $5 million for Texan relief. So if you’re not going to actually do the work, it’s important that you at least be seen as reckoning with what you’ve done. I can think of few books that better demand that those charged with delivering the American Dream contend with the consequences of not doing so. With sections focused on the nature of modern justice, accountability, freedom, and the delusions that prevent us from realizing that trinity of ideals, it’s great homework for politicians. It’s a quick read, which makes it perfect for a two-and-a-half-hour flight to Cancun.
Kiese Laymon, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America
Listen, man. You know damn well you had no business getting on that plane. Once you were busted you should have just said “my bad” and turned the Uber XL around. Instead, you actually left the country to get away from it all. That’s not just a faux pas; it’s the sort of shameless offense that demands penance. I’m not so much recommending this book, then, as I am demanding you carry it in public, knowing you wouldn’t otherwise have been caught dead owning it. I hope you like Black essays on the blooming of Covid-19, the macro-aggressive legacy of the Confederacy, and the sometimes beautiful gut-wrench of ancestry. If it’s any consolation, when someone asks you about it, you can say, “Oh, it’s an excellent read” and still be telling the truth — even if you haven’t read a word.