[Mark Glover is Contributing Editor Alpine. Click here to visit Trans-Pecos Science Moment for more of his thoughts on the Big Bend.]
Marfa – Lineaus Hooper Lorette stands on the wood floor of his old adobe home on the south side of Marfa and nods to an acrylic collage he commissioned — a trio of civil rights workers gunned down in Philadelphia, Mississippi in 1964. He names them one by one as tears roll down his cheeks.
Barrel-chested, bespectacled with a thick white mustache, Lorette is running for public office again. The former 1982 Citizen’s Party candidate for Texas US Senate is on the ballot for Presidio County Judge on the March primary democratic ticket.
“My family has a tradition of social advocacy – and I got struck with the lightning bolt,” Lorette said. He sits down at his desk and his three dogs, Anna Louise Strong, Primo Levi and Kim Philby slink to his side.
The son of an oil field worker and a radical mother whose father was an avowed communist, Lorette’s family moved when he was a young boy from Oklahoma to Odessa. Soon he was part of the anti-Viet Nam war movement at UT Austin, planning protests at night while he earned a degree in accounting by day.
“I’m a communist with a little ‘c’. You can’t expect to be a successful communist in a country that holds private property in the esteem we do,” Lorette said. “It’s the only country in the world where the land owner owns the minerals below the surface.”
He rattles off statistics, stats an accountant would know.
“Ag exemptions for property taxes were once only for those who made their living on the land. Now any rich person can own thousands of acres and pay nearly nothing to the county for schools, roads and services.
And corporations – in the 1950’s they made up half of the IRS revenue, today only twenty per cent. They can write off everything where the family can only write off the interest on their home, if they’re lucky enough to own one.”
He quirks an eyebrow.
“I’m a little worried about this interview.”
Primo Levi barks.
“I won’t get many votes among the big ranchers, but I think they should pay their fair share of taxes.”
He strokes the Blue Healer, then offers philosophy.
“I believe in good and evil and corporations are evil,” Lorette said. “Small businesses still have a soul but when you separate the shareholder from the management, and your only focus is profit, you lose soul, and you lose responsibility to your fellow human and the earth.”
Lorette grew up in the Methodist Church of Odessa but later worked hand and hand with the Catholic Diocese in Austin, helping in the accounting, active in their protests. It was there he was introduced to Liberation Theology and the left-leaning priesthood’s infatuation with love and struggle in Mao’s thought.
“Mao believed that the central motivation for humanity is love and that through contrition and self-criticism, a personal revolution can be accomplished,” Lorette said.
“That’s why Mao was so bent in changing the Confucian ethics of China, because love is more important than rules.”
Lorette became a printer in Austin and offered his services free to people like Brown Beret Paul Hernandez , and organizations like Committee for Solidarity with El Salvador, Mobilization for Survival, South West Afrika Peoples Organization, and others.
“All I asked is that they bring a ream of paper and a set of clean hands,” Lorette said.
What makes him a good candidate for county judge in one of the poorest counties in Texas where 42 per cent of families with children are on food stamps, an 18 per cent unemployment rate, a county presently teetering on bankruptcy, dependent on government programs to survive, state welfare that some might call a form of communism, a county that some might say capitalism has not been kind to, where big ranches dominate the geography and those living under the poverty line dominate the demographics?
“I’m an accountant. I know money and how to manage it.” He rolls a pencil between his fingers. “That’s what I do.”
He gives the present judge, Jerry Agan, credit for bringing in grant money, but faults him for poor fiscal management.
“The county budget went through a two month review and the $150,000 under-estimated revenue was never caught. With us on the brink of bankruptcy, there is no room for error,” Lorette said.
“And I’m a good listener. When you listen to yourself for seven years as I did, you become a good listener.”
Lorette spent 7 years in psycho-analysis during the 1970’s.
In this Freudian method of self-understanding the psychologist’s sole purpose is to ask questions.
“The question is what’s important. And I think asking the right questions are part of the judge’s job too.”
Soon after psycho-analysis, Lorette became a Taoist, an eastern religion that emphasizes the three jewels of Dao: compassion, moderation and humility.
He has written two books including Medicine Ball Exercise Cycles, which compliments his sales and production of the fitness spheres under the sports label – Lineaus Line. He has also written a manifesto of how he believes the world can be governed both at the high level and the community level – called Communitarianism.
In Communitarianism, Lorette writes, “To live in peace, we must live under the rule of law. Peace and democracy demand the creation of Communities capable of making their own laws governing the behavior of their citizens and the creation of a global judiciary to protect individual freedoms and to prevent alienation of life and environment.”
The election of 1982, won by Lloyd Bentsen on the Democrat ticket, was also a success for the Citizens Party who managed to get on the ballot in a pro-business, conservative state. Founded by Washington University science professor, Barry Commoner, the pro-environment platform was not socialist as some believed but was concerned about corporate influence and elitism in government. Commoner’s ideal form of economic democracy was based on the motto “The business of business is to do business, but the business of government is to regulate business to prevent abuses.”
Today Lorette is a god-fearing Buddhist with a sense of compassion for the poor. He is well read, having combed the pages of Mao’s five volume treatise twice, along with other classics including Herodotus, Plutarch, the Bible and Rousseau.
He is presently translating to modern English, a book called The Conquest of Weast India, about the travails of the Spanish Conquistador Hernando Cortez. Written in 1523 by the explorer’s personal secretary Francisco Lopez de Gomera and rewritten in middle-English in 1573 by Thomas Nicholas.
“I’ve worn out two copies so far,” Lorette said, holding a frayed edition in one hand. “It’s an intellectual past time.”
In his office hang a number of icons: drawings of Hank Williams and Bob Wills, Agustin Casasola photographs of Poncho Villa and paintings of Jimi Hendrix, and Tennessee Williams. There’s a collection of nearly identical metal sculptures of a man beating his sword into a ploughshare, a replication of Evgeniy Vuchetich’s work that stands in front of the United Nations Building in New York.
On another counter stands a collection of Mao memorability from China’s Cultural Revolution of the 1960’s.
Lineaus Hooper Lorette picks up a three figure casting: a man in contrition, a woman with a flower and a man with a rifle.
“Before the revolution they made a lot of dragons but after the cultural change they focused on the people.”