Charlie ‘did it,’ all right

My brother-in-law posted this picture from the Texas State Cemetery.

It speaks to the courage of someone I used to know fairly well, but in a mostly professional way. The late Charles Wilson was an East Texas congressman whose district was part of the region our newspaper circulated back in the old days.

He was a tiger, a fierce defender of freedom against tyranny. He had his flaws, such as his partying ways — but he never apologized publicly for the lifestyle he led.

When he wasn’t carousing — which occupied little of his time — he served his Second Congressional District constituents honorably. He also was a friend of the Afghan freedom fighters known back in those days as the mujahedeen. They were the ferocious partisans who fought the Red Army that had invaded Afghanistan in 1979. Charlie saw it as his mission to arm the mujahedeen with modern weapons, Stinger missiles the fighters could use to shoot down Soviet helicopters.

Wilson persuaded his colleagues in the House of Representatives to pony up the money to pay for the weapons.

The weaponry worked. The Soviets were driven out of Afghanistan. Two years after their defeat, the Soviet Union vanished from the face of the planet.

Charlie Wilson was one of those Texas Democrats who managed to work across the aisle with his Republican colleagues. In this polarized era today, it’s not likely Wilson could get nominated by his own party any more than a moderate Republican can get elected from within his or her own party.

But guys like Charlie knew how to legislate. They knew how government worked.

Charlie Wilson died in 2010. The more I see the dysfunction that passes for government today in Washington, the more I miss him.

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