Updated: Jan 3
If you can't click through to read this linked article in the Austin American-Statesman, the essence of it explains why Bill and I left Lakeway, a golf-resort community on Lake Travis outside of Austin. In Lakeway, if you're not a Trump-style Republican, you will be socially ostracized by the reigning powers that be, a gaggle of far Right Wingers who think they run the place.
For those who don't know, Lakeway is a lovely, lakeside community that touts four golf courses and many community activities. It seemed perfect for our retirement, and my husband and I were excited to move there. We plunged right in, joining the country club, golf group, dinner-speaker series, and several social and charity groups. But we quickly realized from the arch-right-wing conversations that we must keep our political views to ourselves. In spite of Austin being a predominately liberal city, we had landed among a cadre of liberal-hating Republicans who watch Fox News 24 hours a day and spew misogynistic lies about Jane Fonda, Nancy Pelosi, and Hillary Clinton.
As middle-of-the-road independent voters, Bill and I fared well socially for the 13 years we lived in Lakeway. But the election of Trump made our silence impossible, as Trump’s lies, porn-stars, and corrupt administration brought our nation to the brink of civil war. When we finally spoke up/spoke out against him within our various social groups, we were instantly black-listed by a bunch of old biddies and country club golfers who HATE anyone who is not a Trumpster. And I do mean “hate.” These people seethe at the very words “liberal” or “Democrat,” as if they’re a disease.
Wanna Be Harassed at Your Own Country Club?
Bill and I have voted in Republican or Democratic primaries when it suits our purposes, like in 2016, when Bill voted Republican so he could choose someone other than Trump, while I voted Democrat so I could vote for Hillary. I have also voted in Republican primaries, and Bill has voted in Democratic primaries. Since this is America, we figured it was okay to vote for the candidates of our choice, except I didn’t realize it was not okay in Lakeway.
In 2016, at a Hills Country Club dinner where you were supposed to mingle with other members, a fellow next to me asked me who I supported for president. When I told him Hillary, he fumed until he almost exploded, then seethed viciously that she was a C-word and a lesbian. Shocked at his anger, I murmured flippantly, “Oh, you just don’t know her the way I do.” Then he got up and left. So much for making friends.
Throughout our membership there, I started avoiding the club's fitness center because FOX News pundits were blaring from each and every TV. And FOX News runs full-time in the bar areas of each of The Hills four clubhouses. When one of my liberal friends complained, she was told that club policy was to have one political news channel running in each clubhouse. Why is that?
Far more recently, I went to the club with what girlfriends I had left to celebrate my recovery from knee surgery. On the way in, I walked past a group of gray-headed biddies who call themselves "the Mafia" because they think they control most of what happens in Lakeway.
As I walked by, one muttered loudly, "Is that ...?" Another said snidely, "It sure is," and then they shook their addled heads as though I didn't have the right to be at my own club for dinner.
"Us Christians will fall in and disappear . . ."
I used to dread voting in primary elections in Lakeway because you had to identify which party’s primary you were voting in. One time, after I picked up a blue (Democrat) sample ballot, the group behind us started directing loud insults my way.
One fellow said something like, "There used to be only about 10 percent of ’em [meaning 'Democrats'] out here, but now it's something like 20 percent. I tell ya, the liberals and Muslims are going to dig ditches around our voting booths so us Christian Republicans will fall in and disappear before we can vote."
If my husband were not there to keep me calm, I would have given that guy a piece of my mind. But this type of harassment continues at the polls in Lakeway. A politically active Lakeway friend told me recently that a former Lakeway mayor was walking up and down the early voter line in 2020, literally telling people how to vote on certain city issues. (His ballot is not the blue one.)
Republican or the Silent Treatment
I don’t want this to sound one-sided. During our 13 years in Lakeway, we did meet some wonderful, intelligent people who remain friends, and, yes, some are Republicans. However, many of those who are members of the formerly civil Republican Party are as disappointed as we are that the dominant tenor of their party has become downright fascist.
And I got caught in its grip. One time at a dinner-speaker event, I made the mistake of asking an elderly red-head across our table if I had met her at a Lake Travis Democrats meeting, where I had attended a candidates' forum that featured ALL candidates from both parties. She glared disparagingly, stopped speaking to me, and, years later, when it was her turn to host a book club where I was to speak about my novel To Leave a Memory, she refused to host the meeting.
Although I ran into her frequently at the local Gossip Club—my pet name for the area women's club—this same redhead NEVER again spoke or even nodded in my direction. All I had done was ask her if I'd met her at a Democrats forum. Oh, shame on me.
Things really went downhill after the Gossip Clubbers discovered Bill and I were not in the Trump camp. The week after Trump was elected in 2016, the group hosted a speaker who raved about the return to style of Donald and Melania, then denigrated the Obamas and vocally trashed the costumes that millions of women around the world had worn when marching for women’s rights.
When I spoke up afterward to the VP of speakers, as well as on my Facebook author page, that a non-partisan women's club should not host blatantly political speakers, all hell broke loose. How dare I say such things, publicly?
At this time, I was in line to become one of the club's VPs. Uh-oh. I was taken out to dinner by several powers that be and essentially told to shut up. One past president said in a very threatening voice, "You don't know the social culture."
And Then the Lies . . .
Being that Lakeway is run by gossip, hundreds of mean-spirited emails and phone calls started flying around to denounce me. One now former friend told me, “You said you want want to burn the White House down with Madonna,” which was ridiculous because I don't even like Madonna. Another member lied and said I had caused a disturbance at a luncheon event I chaired, which was silly. This woman was deaf and had misread my lips, however, the Gossip Clubbers feast on lies.
Several of the old-guard grand dammes frequently email hundreds of their minions, telling them what they see as fit or unfit and how to vote on certain issues.
Soon after these attacks, the incoming Gossip Club president and the VP convinced one of their Republican pals to run against me, although that insipid woman was a member of the nominating committee, a rules-testing situation that smelled like the garbage it was. Guess who the hand-picked, very Republican nominating committee chose?
Angry at the unfairness, Bill and I refused to associate with any so-called friends who had stabbed me in the back after gleefully attending our parties for years. I did tell a few of them what I thought of their duplicitous behavior, especially those who pretended they had done nothing wrong. The incoming president even called to ask me to serve as the club webmaster, so I told her my views in no uncertain terms. "I do not associate with people like you."
Perhaps not my best side, so as a result, my husband was taken aside by one of his buddy golfers and told that we would not be invited to one of Bill's pal's weddings because "they" were afraid I might ruin the event. Hello? I had no idea I had such power, not that I would have attended the wedding in the first place. The very Right-Wing bride had made herself clear at a board meeting that if I were not pro-Trump, I was persona non grata. Bill and I were not about to expose ourselves to this sort of fascism again.
What Can a Person Do?
The first thing we did was put our home on the market. Because our home was large and in an older neighborhood, it took us three long years, but we finally sold at a good price. Wanting to downsize, we chose a garden home in Steiner Ranch's UT Golf Club area, still near Lake Travis. We had no clue of the political tenor, so I invited neighbors on surrounding streets to drop by to say hello. We had two of these drop-by events, and I'm telling you, our new neighbors were far more friendly and open minded than many of the arrogant people we met in Lakeway. In fact, Bill and I used to laugh about the night and day difference between our friendly new neighbors and the sour old guard in Lakeway.
This Is Not Only Our Story
Because of the way liberals are treated in Lakeway, I know six couples who've left for the same reasons. And I'm sure there are many more. Months ago, the Austin American-Statesman wrote an article about the political tenor of Lakeway, but that article gilded the lily. This recent article in the Statesman does not.
In case you cannot view it, it’s about a Lakeway Swap page on Facebook that rejects anyone who supports Democrats, Black Lives Matter, or Antifa. In the article, Lakeway Swap co-administrator Marty Hale, who runs the page, actually said this in earnest: "This isn't a political thing for us . . . This is a safety thing for us. The site has rules. It has no hate crime. It has no bullying. And that's what they were organizing. We have every right to protect the members of that site from bullies and organizations that do it."
In an even more recent article, past mayors of Lakeway have formed a political action committee to encourage voters to vote NO to recent charter changes passed by the newly elected city council that just happens to now contain more liberal members.
This kind of illogical thinking must stop. Democrats are not Antifa. Black Lives Matter supporters are not saying that white lives don't matter. America is a democracy. There are laws against prejudicial treatment. There are laws against violence and crime. Lies are wrong, especially when the president and elected officials perpetrate them. The truth matters, now more than ever. Kellyanne Conway's ‘alternative facts’ are lies too. And it's NOT okay to harass or ostracize your neighbors, especially when they exercise their rights to vote or speak freely.
Bill and I remarked to each other that we had lost more friends than we made in Lakeway, simply by letting others know we were not pro-Trump.
Let’s return to the America we were, when we each respected our political differences and came together to make our nation strong, welcoming, and just.