Sunday , March 3 2024
"Texans are big-hearted and they know that killing people is not our job."

Part 2 – An Interview With Writer Kinky Friedman, Author of You Can Lead a Politician to Water, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Ten Commandments for Texas Politics

This is the second part of a two-part interview with Kinky Friedman. The first part ran last week.

I want to begin with an excerpt so you can get a taste for his flavor:

There once was a zoo that some folks liked to call Texas politics. In this zoo were hawks and doves, bulls and bears, crocodiles and two-legged snakes, and lots and lots and lots of sheep. But the ones who ran the zoo were not really animals. They were people dressed up in elephant and donkey suits who’d lined their pockets long ago and now went around lying to everybody and making all the rules. Even as a child, I knew I never wanted to be one of them, a constipated, humorless, perfunctory, political party hack. This did not stop me, of course, from growing up to be a party animal.

I think you are right when you write that you are the only high profile candidate who has come out in support of both gay marriage and prayer in the schools. As you say, “A candidate who thinks for himself is always good, even if he’s a little ahead of his time.” Why do you think most candidates don’t think for themselves?

Why don’t most candidates think for themselves? It’s simple. They never have so why should they start now? That’s exactly what keeps inspirational people like (cyclist) Lance Armstrong from getting into politics. He’s always thought for himself and that’s why he says that politics is such a rat-race. It’s very easy for people who don’t think for themselves to kiss babies and cut ribbons. It’s ironic that a person can be such a good politician and yet such a bad leader. Unfortunately, that seems to be the trend these days. The only way to change things is to get the politicians out of politics. How do we do that? Everybody’s got to vote and we’ve all got to remember: never re-elect anybody.

I knew from reviewing some of your novels that you had a colorful past, from Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys to your books to your columns. I didn't realize that you also founded Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch and, of course, entered politics. Is there any profession you have not entered that you want to?

Funeral home director.

Your comments and actions regarding your no-kill shelter show your human side. I love this comment: “I have always felt that what we do when a stray spirit crosses our path – how we react to the hungry, homeless stranger – is indubitably a measure of our own humanity.” Why do you think so many people don’t help strays and feel different about this issue than you and I?

I have always liked stray dogs better than fat cats. Every sinner was once a saint and every saint was once a sinner. You may not be a stray or a homeless stranger today, but at some time in the future you will no doubt know what it feels like to be one. We’re all part of one big soul and how you respond to a stray crossing your path is indubitably a measure of your humanity. Kinky Friedman Cigars — or KFC — is my new cigar company, with the first cigar in America, the Utopian, going exclusively to help finance and support Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch. To find out more about the Utopian and other cigar lines of KFC, go to your favorite cigar bar or just hit the website. We have five lines of cigars: The Governor, The Kinkycristo, The Texas Jewboy, The Willie (with a little twist on the end), and The Utopian. I’m proud to say that the Utopian is our current best-seller. I have long believed that Texas should be a no-kill state. In order to accomplish this we must first abolish the death penalty. This is a big order, but it’s also a big state, in the finest representation of the word.

Texans are big-hearted and they know that killing people is not our job. Vengeance should not be taken by us upon our fellow human beings. Nor should we kill dogs or cats or horses. This list is arbitrary, but it’s a good start. Let us try to reduce death in general; it will come soon enough to all of us. In the meantime let us not trust the people who can’t even effectively run a post office to execute people in our name. Every stray, be it a person or an animal, has a spark of Jesus Christ (or Buddha if you prefer — May the God of your choice bless you) and I believe it is our job as God’s children to reach out and preserve that precious spark. It might be just enough to warm the soul.

I've heard you dislike the Internet. Why do you dislike the Internet?

Millions of chat rooms filled with people pretending to be somebody else. I feel it's the work of Satan.

You wrote some pretty edgy material as country music, i.e. the song, "Get Your Biscuits in the Oven (and Your Buns in Bed" Do you have any regrets about anything you ever wrote?

I have no regrets about anything I ever wrote or anything I ever did, for that matter. The only regrets I have are concerning things I didn’t do. There’s still time, of course. But, as my friend Dr. Jay Wise says, “The clock ticks the loudest in the fourth quarter.”

You’ve watched, as a Texan, George Bush go from governor to president. What do you think is the secret to his success?

You ask “what’s the secret to George W.’s success” and I’m not even sure that he is a success. Like so many other politicians, he manages to be important without being significant. I’ve always said he’s a good man trapped in a republican’s body. Right now, like a good little politician, he’s probably thinking about his legacy. The only way he’ll have one is if Rudy picks Rick Perry for vice-president, which actually is the perfect dead-end job for Perry. After all, he’s been a public servant all his life. If Rudy’s elected and, God forbid, something happens to him, then Perry would be President. That would establish Bush’s legacy—it’d make him look like Thomas Jefferson. If that doesn’t happen, TV’s old sitcom star George Jefferson will have a better legacy than George W.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Probably in a chat room.

Columnist Molly Ivins is one of my heroes. Your tribute to her, ending the book, is inspiring and moving. What’s the best way to remember Molly Ivins? Did any other candidate have her choose their campaign slogan, namely “Why the Hell not?”

Simply put, it is to remember that politics, truth, life itself, are all immeasurably enriched if we keep our sense of humor. Without it we will surely go insane or worse, we will come to accept our current pathetic state of affairs. Most politicians manage to be important without being significant. As I’ve traveled around the country on my recent book tour, I’ve been very gratified to see that even the mere mention of Molly’s name brings warm, prolonged applause from virtually every audience.

She was, and continues to be, “significant.” Her witty irreverence and her passion for the truth and her constant championing of the little fellers, not the Rockefellers, has all come together to make her life mean something to people of virtually every political stripe and persuasion. This is no small accomplishment. To my knowledge Molly has never suggested a campaign slogan to anyone other than me. “Why the Hell Not!” are words to live by in this day and age.

In this “graveyard above the ground” as Bukowski once put it, I will do my best to embrace Molly’s words. It is more important now, I believe, than ever.

About Scott Butki

Scott Butki was a newspaper reporter for more than 10 years before making a career change into education... then into special education. He has been working in mental health for the last ten years. He lives in Austin. He reads at least 50 books a year and has about 15 author interviews each year and, yes, unlike tv hosts he actually reads each one. He is an in-house media critic, a recovering Tetris addict and a proud uncle. He has written articles on practically all topics from zoos to apples and almost everything in between.

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