Unless you were born and raised in Texas, you have no idea what it means to be a Texan. Some states have some state pride, but Texas has nationalistic pride—it used to be its own sovereign country, you know. Any Texan will eagerly tell you that!
As children, Texans endure—I mean, enjoy three years of Texas history in school: first grade, fourth grade, and seventh grade. It doesn’t really get exciting until seventh grade, as the first two years are only about the indigenous peoples, most of whom were simply hunter-gatherers and nomads. There weren’t a lot of warrior types in Texas.
Then, the third year of Texas history brings us closer to modern times, but focuses primarily on Texas’ war of independence from Mexico (the state to which the Texians (early white settlers) had sworn allegiance), the legend of the Alamo, and the defeat of Santa Ana, Mexico’s general and president. I also remember learning about King Cotton, ranching, cattle drives, and some other stuff. Since I was not only born and raised in Texas, but also birthed and raised my two daughters here, I was privileged to study Texas history until I could stand no more.
Bored or not, I was always super-proud of my Texanhood! On my mother’s side of the family, in East Texas, headstones on my ancestors’ graves date back to pre-revolution times. These headstones prove me to be a seventh-generation Texan. In Texas, we don’t care where your family started, be it Germany (lots of Germans immigrated to Texas), England, France, or Illinois, but we do care how long your family has been in Texas.
When I was in my third year of Texas history, or seventh grade, as some may call it, I became best friends with Cindy Rose. Cindy was born in Texas, but moved away to Michigan at a young age. She had only moved back the year before, and she missed Michigan. Thus, she inadvertently insulted me and the Motherland every time she complained about our little East Texas town—by complaining about the whole state.
“That’s what I hate about Texas,” she whined to me once, “it rains all the time.”
I snapped, “Then go back to your precious Michigan!” (I was feisty, okay? Another time.)
Years later, when my boyfriend, who was from Louisiana, insulted Texas in the same way, e.g. “That’s what I hate about Texas—it’s so windy!”, I had to set him straight, as well. “No, Austin is windy. Not all of Texas. And stop insulting Mother Texas.”
If I remember my Texas history correctly—and God forbid that I don’t—Texas has five regions officially and a vast variety of climate and land all across the state. It’s huge, you know. Almost 900 miles from El Paso to Beaumont. You can experience snow, rain, sunshine, cold, heat, hail, and sleet all in one day, if you’re crossing the state. You’ll also see desert, mountains, hill country, lush green farmland, flat grassy prairies, oil fields, beaches, thick pine forests, hardwoods, flowers, fruits, ranches, farms, big cities, small towns, and everything in between.
But don’t try to drive any farther than across the state in one day. If you’re driving east to west, try stopping in Alpine in West Texas, near the Big Bend, home of Sul Ross University. Friendly people, interesting town. And some of the darkest skies anywhere, if you’re into stargazing.
If you’re headed from El Paso toward, say, Florida, you might want to camp out in Houston, fourth largest city in the country, replete with everything you could want in a city. Except an amusement park. Sadly, my annual childhood playground, AstroWorld, closed several years ago, but in the 1970s, it rivaled DisneyLand for entertainment, rides, and carnival eats. I still miss those tiny loaves of Mrs. Baird’s bread!
Or head a little north of the big city and stay in Brenham or Conroe, charming towns full of charming people. Just don’t say anything too liberal.
Oh, yeah. That’s the thing. Texas is stunningly conservative. Not all the people are. When my mom visits her liberal cousin in Longview, he always says he loves it when she comes to see him, because it doubles the number of liberals in Longview. So there are a few of us.
As an example, in 2005, the people of the Gret Stet of Texas voted to approve an amendment to the state constitution, banning marriage between two people of the same gender. Every county in Texas voted in favor of the hate. I mean, the amendment. The Amendment of Hate. Oh, except Travis County, where Austin is. Austin is the liberal gem drowning in the big Texas sea of conservative and willfully-ignorant politicians and voters.
I can no longer stand by quietly and brag about being a seventh-generation Texan. I don’t know what my ancestors thought about politics. The ones in the 1830s might have only been trying to keep from getting killed by Indians. Oh, wait, the Indians were peaceful. Except out west. Another time. I hope my forebears did not believe in hatred and selfishness, but modern-day Texans seem to.
Today, in addition to officially hating gay people, Texas is officially stingy with its citizens, and the poorer they are, the worse they are treated. Texas is one of the wealthiest states in the country, but it shares nothing with its people. If a corporation wants some tasty tax breaks and almost zero regulation, it comes to Texas. It can employ people for as little as $7.25 an hour (and many do). If the federal government mandated no minimum wage, Texan employers could (and would) pay workers pennies and get away with it in the eyes of the employment law.
Further, if someone requires assistance from the state due to unemployment or other financial straits, he or she will find that very little assistance is available. There are minimum unemployment benefits, as required by the fed. But, in Texas, there is no welfare unless you have underage children living in your home or you are 65+ or disabled. Food stamps, yes, but you must fit into the perfect amount of income. It is very easy to have too much money to qualify for food stamps, but not enough money to afford food. I know this from personal experience.
When the Affordable Care Act went into effect, the state of Texas was one of those that refused the Medicaid expansion offered by the federal government, meaning that many low-income families and individuals fell into a gap where they were unable to get coverage. That was Governor Perry’s personal responsibility. (Of course, many Texans, even those hurt by this choice, hate/d Obama so much, they went along with it!)
Massive portions of the state fall geographically under the Bible Belt, where people love Jesus and hate everyone else. Ever heard of a single mom who has struggled all her life just to feed her kids and still votes Republican? In Texas, yes. (And across the South. Another time.) What have the Republicans done for her? Nothing, I guaran-damn-tee ya.
I’ve always said that my hometown was a “hotbed of homosexuality”, considering how many gay friends I always had. True, I’m a theatre girl, but the percentage of gay people in that little town seemed when I was in high school, and still seems today, to have a high percentage of homosexuals. More than the 10% that is the accepted statistic. But many of the gay people in that town today are strictly conservative! Why? I have no idea. I cannot fathom it.
When the SCOTUS ruled in favor of marriage equality, I, along with some other loving Texans, celebrated heartily. All around us in Texas, though, the shit hit the fan. The State Attorney General issued a statement telling county clerk employees that they did not have to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples if it went against their personal beliefs.
I fell head-over-heels for the County Attorney of Williamson County, when he declared that he would uphold the law, as he swore to God he would do, and that the employees of the county were required to issue marriage licenses to all qualified and interested parties or quit their jobs. He swore an oath to uphold the law—and he is upholding the law! What a concept!
Unfortunately, that is not the norm in Texas, where kickers, as we called them in high school (short for “shit-kickers”, of course), assholes, rednecks, and Baptists refuse to love everyone and instead hate in the name of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I am no longer a practicing Christian—mostly because of the rampant hypocrisy and hate-mongering the deus-ex-machina that calls itself Christianity—but I know my Bible. And I like Jesus’ teachings. But, as my daughters (one Jewish, one Pagan) also say, I’m a better Christian than many of the Christians I know personally, as well as those I see in the news.
And does this explain my defection? You bet. I am embarrassed by the absolutely Neanderthal politics that happen in Texas, the hypocrisy of alleged Christians who discriminate indiscriminately, and the pride these idiots take in their ignorance and hatred. I can’t take it anymore.
I believe the United States (and the world, actually) is coming along. I believe that, as a people, we are becoming more loving, more inclusive, more humanitarian by the day. And that makes me very happy. I also believe, or at least fervently hope, that Texas will eventually come along too. But I can no longer bear to live amongst ignorant, hateful, hypocritical bigots.
I hereby denounce my generations of Texanhood and declare that I am now an American. If asked where I am from, I will answer, “the United States.”
Good-bye, Texas, and good luck. I’ll pray for you.