It is not a secret to everybody that I live in Texas–or, indeed, that I grew up in the midst of the Lone Star State. I’ve made much in my online life of being Texan, even if I wasn’t born in the state, and so it should come as no surprise that I mark Texas Independence Day–today, in the event, y’all.
The thing is, growing up in Texas, living in Texas, and being the person I am, my feelings on the matter are…complicated. Having attended school in the Hill Country in the 1980s and 1990s, and not in one of the major cities it claims–Austin and San Antonio, even if neither one of them is all the way in the area–I was steeped in the “traditional” lore of the Republic of Texas, that it broke away from Mexico in response to the tyrannies of Antonio López de Santa Anna, working to ensure the freedom of the brave settlers who had come into the region to make their fortunes through the sweat of their brows and the work of their hands, and that it later joined the Union as a peer out of recognition that the promise it shared with the United States was best served by confraternity between it and the several states.
(No, the rhetoric isn’t an exaggeration. Nor is the usage; Texan English admits of such terms as “confraternity” and “tump” in equal succession and measure, the juxtaposition being one of the typifying features of the dialect / accent.)
As I got older and had occasion to learn more, to speak with more people, to read more deeply and thoroughly–and not seldom in the hands of those who were writing then or in the pages that were printed then–I became aware of the amply-attested problems of the revolutionary impetus (the freedom was for white colonizers, rather than indigenous peoples already suffering or African-American populations yet enslaved because of ongoing evil), as well as the faltering socioeconomics of the nascent republic. And, of course, living in other parts of the United States as I have, and interacting online with a great many people whom I respect and admire, I have been exposed more directly to the disregard in which many hold the Lone Star State.
Certainly, there are problems–a lot of them, and large ones, several of which are in Austin and in Washington, DC (if they’re not heading to Cancun when Uri visits or encouraging book-burnings in rural communities)–in the state and with the state. There’s a lot of bass-ackward thinking here, and a lot of it’s belligerent in several senses of the term. It exerts an outsized influence on the rest of the United States, rather than being willing to leave well enough alone; Texas’s purchases do a lot to determine what textbooks are available, after all, and bills its legislature passes get used as models for other places, usually for ill.
There is good here, though. The Lone Star State makes a lot of good, influential art and culture–and no, not only in Austin, although I (begrudgingly) concede that a lot does come from there. And even the stereotypes of the state–into which many, many people lean, and lean hard–are often durned good things. A willingness to work hard and hazard the self, an insistence on honesty in word and deed, a sense that you oughta be polite all the time and friendly as much of the time as you can, an appreciation for the beauty of the natural world and for the arts, the underlying belief that we are something and that we can do it–they’re part and parcel of it, and they’re of value.
Or maybe that’s just me.