By Bill Oakey – May 20, 2020
“Dancing is discouraged.“ Those three words tumbled out of the radio and jolted me awake this morning. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has announced his official guidelines for the reopening of bars under Phase 2 of his back-to-business pandemic initiative. But like most of the language found in Trump’s Federal response papers, it’s all about “should,” and…gosh…”Ya might want to consider.” There’s nary a trace of “You must” or “Thou shalt not.”
After all, to Republicans there is nothing worse than a dreaded government regulation. Even ones that could save millions of lives. I have to wonder, though, if the Republicans ever stop to think how ridiculous this stuff looks. In the published protocols on the Governor’s website, the word “should” appears 16 times. “Dancing Is Discouraged” would look absolutely hilarious on a big sign at the front entrance to Billy Bob’s Texas. It would also be perfect as a historical meme to represent Trumpism during the 2020 pandemic.
Some of the big Texas dance halls are not ready to open yet. When they do, the tables are supposed to be well separated, and only 6 people will be allowed per table. Employees are considering wearing masks. It seems like club owners, employees and customers would all be better served if they had clear and firm rules. But it’s pretty easy to guess why all the “shoulds” are in there instead of “musts” – lawyers. Trump, Abbott and the rest of the Republicans want to make sure that no business faces a liability lawsuit. So, it’s up to you to protect yourself.
Many bar and nightclub owners have been busy trying to prepare for their reopenings. These are hard working folks who deservedly want to get the revenue flowing again. But their challenge is a little bit different from, say, a bookstore or a dry cleaners. Alcohol and good behavior have been known to diverge, at least once in a while.
One of the biggest dangers in a Texas honky-tonk is simply temptation. With beer and whiskey, things can get risky. If they didn’t, a lot of country songwriters would find themselves out of work. If dancing went away, how easy would it be to steal somebody’s wife away. With social distancing, it would be harder to approach the woman you might want to commiserate with over a broken heart.
Using good old fashioned songs as an example, Tanya Tucker could not sing, “Shuffle with me Houston stranger, it’s a cowboy loving night.“ And the character in the George Strait song couldn’t walk right up to a gal with a beckoning smile and say, “Pardon me, you left your tears on the jukebox. Let’s fall to pieces together. Why should we both fall apart?”
We are all tired of staying cooped up at home. Yet, there are no enforceable, common-sense protections to keep us safe while going out. Most business owners are left largely to police themselves. Masks are one of the most basic means of preventing spread. But those are often regarded as optional. There are no standards or certifications for consumer-grade masks. Any old “face covering” will do, even if it’s made of thin, porous material. If the economy does not rebound quickly, it will be because too many well-informed, reasonable people will not subject themselves to risky, flimsy and ridiculously absurd “protocols,” issued by politicians without the good sense that God gave a garden grasshopper.
Musical Accompaniment for This Blog Piece
1. “Cowboy Loving Night” – Tanya Tucker
2. “Let’s Fall to Pieces Together” – George Strait
3. “I Won’t Dance” – Frank Sinatra
4. “Your Mama Don’t Dance” – Loggins & Messina
5. “I Should Have Known Better” – The Beatles