Archive for June 18th, 2018

Dear Texas

amywink June 18th, 2018

Dear Texas,

I hope this letter finds you because I have been looking for you. I would write to my elected representatives, except they do not want to hear from me because they do not want to think of me as Texas and so my deep roots– my 6 generations of heritage in this state and my ancestry that goes back to before the Texas Revolution ( I can claim membership in the Daughters of the Republic of Texas and the Daughters of the American Revolution too)– are being ignored because others want to claim ‘Texas’ for their political gain. But I assure you, I am also Texas and I know a few things about Texas that don’t get a lot of press.

Right now, our larger US culture thinks of Texas in terrible ways. I don’t think I need to tell you what they are. Just look around at what people say about Texas these days. The word has become synonymous with crazy and I suspect there is some truth in that statement. This has made us somewhat defensive. But what worries me most is that Texas has become a word that also implies “mean” and “small.”

How did this happen? How did our state, with a personality so large and welcoming, become so mean and small-minded? Is it really that way, or is that just what we are being asked to believe? Last week, I sat with someone who ranted about Texas after a terrible experience with an individual in Health and Human Services. He kept saying “well, that’s Texas. ” I kept saying “But I’m Texas and I find that horrible and wrong.” And it is horrible and wrong.

I grant you that we have our problematic history–what mature state does not?– and we have participated in some pretty ghastly events that we are only beginning to accept. But like all people who have lived a long time in a changing culture (or all people in one big crazy family), we can all look at our past and find horrible things to point out, things we need to look into deeply, things we might regret or be ashamed of, things that make us really uncomfortable about who we are and who we have been. I do not mean to make a list of these things in this letter even though we really need to talk about that some time.

My purpose in this letter, Texas, is to find the other part of our shared history, to look for the better angels of our nature, which have spoken to us in difficult moments and made us stand up and say “Wait, that’s not right. That’s not what we do.” Even if this contradicts some historical fact, it doesn’t mean we can’t say it and mean it at this moment in time.

I am talking to you, Texas, because I know you can lead. I have seen it. It is the thing that gives me hope because I know that those of us with deep roots here know that it is still up to us to lead. Perhaps we can think of ourselves as approaching a kind of identity crisis, perhaps akin to a mid-life change, in which we look around at the life we are leading and think, this is not what we want. This is now how we want to be known. Where do we draw our line in the sand–and those of you who were required to take 2 years of Texas history know where that comes from, right? I know lines in the sand can be dangerous things. But I think they can also be valuable things that make us stand up on the right side but we have to ask the right question.

Is the question before us about standing our ground and ripping children from the arms of parents who have arrived asking for help?

Is that even the side of the line we would want to be on?

What did Jesus say when he drew something in the sand between a woman and her accusers?

For a state that was once described as “crawling with ants and Methodists,” I hope we understand what is being asked now.

We have in our state a longstanding rivalry between the University of Texas and Texas A&M. It is often the subject of good-natured ribbing between the “liberal arts” University in Austin (the blue dot in the red state) and College Station, where God and Country reign. We do have mixed marriages in our state and I myself earned both my graduate degrees at A&M after growing up in Austin. My brother went to the University of Texas. While the students I had at A&M were challenging–often prepared to be insulted by their professors, determined not to learn new things while at college– what I also found there was a kind of generous spirit to do what was right, as long as right was clear, Aggies always did the right thing. Not everyone I know saw this and it wasn’t always there all the time because of course, human beings are a complicated bunch but I saw it and I have seen it emerge in public life. It is something I think of as Texas character and something I hope to see rise again at this moment.

In 1999, when the Aggie Bonfire collapsed and students were killed, University of Texas students did not celebrate. They stopped and helped. We all grieved and mourned. People died and were seriously injured. We listened to the better angels of our nature. We helped.

In 2005, when Katrina hit and devastated Louisiana and Houston took in took in thousands of refugees (that’s people seeking refuge), some argued we should take in those from Louisiana because they didn’t belong in our state (yeah, that’s racism if you didn’t notice); One of my own students said in class “don’t you think they should stay where they belong?” and I replied “There is no them, there is only us.”

And I watched Rick Perry, of all people, stand up and say we would take people in because that was the right thing to do. And New Orleans came to Texas and Texas let them in.

Last year, when Harvey devastated the coast and Houston, everyone who could help came to help. And Louisiana came to Texas. Some people tried to divide us by saying “Liberals hated” those who came to help. What a bunch of nonsense. This Texan cannot think any such thing about one person getting a bass boat out and helping someone out of rising water.

And this year, when Austin was being bombed, our Governor, who so often castigates Austin, managed to find the better angel in his nature and work with our Mayor, Steve Adler, and all the police and law enforcement officials managed to set aside their pettiness and work together, as Texans.

And yet, there was the suggestion, as if from a serpent’s lips: Do not help each other. Do not accept help from each other. Say the other deserved it. Hate each other. Despise each other.

Except, we have eaten from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and now we know evil when we see it and when we are watching children stolen from their parents and warehoused alone, with rules that outlaw human contact, we are looking right into evil and it is being conducted in our name. We may very well have chosen poorly in earlier times, but we do not have to choose poorly now. So I am calling on you, Texas, to rise and lead like Texas.

I’m sorry to have gone on so long, Texas. I just wanted you to know I was looking for you and believe that you are out there somewhere. I hope this reaches you and finds you standing up on the right side of this line, defending what is right against what is evil.

Always,

Your Daughter.