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Saturday, November 13, 2004

Texans defend our state

We're not going to sit back and just get labeled as a sea of rednecks with a few escapees living in Austin anymore! Letters to the editor to Salon from Texans defending our legacy:

And what about the later generations who elected the likes of Henry Gonzalez, Barbara Jordan, Jim Hightower, and even, bless his redistricted heart, Lloyd Doggett to public office? To label them unconcerned with social inequality is a disgrace.

You might argue that their constituents were minorities in the larger state, and that might be fair.

Actually, it wouldn't be that fair. Hightower, at least, won elections that everyone thought he would lose in a landslide. The Democrats should listen to him more--he knows his stuff when talking to everyday farm people. Anyway, to continue sampling this letter.

But what about Lyndon Johnson, who was widely popular in Texas in his time? In your haste to tar him with the same militarist brush as the Bush family, you forget wee details like the Civil Rights Act. Unconcerned with social inequality, my sweet left foot.

Johnson ended up being more a liberal than Kennedy, in my not-humble opinion. Since liberals at the time were invested in kicking Communist ass, there's no reason to think that Kennedy wouldn't have fucked up Vietnam just as much if he had lived. And he was dragging ass on the CRA. Under Kennedy, the CRA as we know it wouldn't have passed, since he didn't have the guts to go threaten and cajole Congress like Johnson did. Johnson, for all his bluster, was a gracious man and never pointed this shit out, either.

More on local hero LBJ and the populism of the Hill Country from this letter-writer:

But he sold the Lone Star State short just a little when he ignored the progressive, populist strain in our politics. Bryce talked a lot about LBJ, but never once mentioned his total support of the New Deal, his genuinely progressive Great Society, and the fact that he did more for black Americans than any white man since Abraham Lincoln. And Johnson was not a fluke -- he came out of a progressive tradition in the Texas Hill Country, one that continues even today in Austin. To me, that tradition contains the true Texas values.

The majority of the Hill Country went for Bush, but not all of it. And that's only because of the Bible-thumping that distracted the genuinely progressive heart of the Hill Country. (That's the countryside surrounding Austin, for those who aren't from Texas.)

This woman claims there are two Texases, and he proceeds to describe the liberal one.

I feel, however, both proud of and representative of another Texas. It is a Texas that is and has been remarkably tolerant of newcomers of any variety. It is a Texas that was far more racially integrated than any place I've lived since (and that includes New York and San Francisco). While I grew up among Republicans, it was a big surprise to me when I went to a private college in the Northeast to find that some people were bothered if you were Jewish or gay: It had simply never occurred to me because no one around me was bothered by such things. My friends from high school never spoke with accents or packed heat. They were, however, daring and principled and inventive -- the other side of the Texas coin.

Yes and no. Just because someone has a thick accent and carries a gun doesn't mean that he/she is racially intolerant or a redneck or whatever. A great deal of populist thought comes from the gun-toting rednecks of the Hill Country, who saw it as a logical extension of Christian teaching, and who stood to benefit from it. The peculiar strand of anti-racist thought that has grown up beside racism in this state is difficult to explain, to say the least, and doesn't exist much at all in highly racist East Texas.

I like her conclusion, though.

There was -- and remains -- a Texas of quirky ingenuity, of tolerance for eccentrics, and of unabashed friendliness. I hope to return to that Texas someday, so let's hope it wins out.

Exactly. That's why we like it here, in a nutshell. Austin isn't an anomaly, but it's trademark weirdness is a particularly Texan trait. There are those of us who think the trademark conformity of the Dallas area has been trucked in from Oklahoma, though we're probably just lying to ourselves.

And now for the biggest bunch of horseshit that people from both sides of the aisle believe:

The Bushes are much less racist than other Texans, but they are unusual conservatives on that score, and you will not see large numbers of minorities being included in the Republican Party in Texas.

Okay the Bushes are old-school West Texas racists from Midland. West Texas racism is a different flavor than East Texas racism of the KKK sort, but that doesn't mean the Bushes get a pass. Most racism in West Texas is they pitying kind, like "poor things, not their fault they ain't white", which is particularly difficult to root out. The Bush family has been extremely good about getting this sort of racism to dominate the party instead of the older, more aggressive kind. And that means the Republican party will be better, not worse, at pushing a racist agenda in the future, because people like this letter writer won't perceive the racism.

4 Comments:

Blogger amblongus said...

Don't know if you're read Michael Lind's Made In Texas: George W. Bush and the Southern Takeover of American Politics but his take on the persistence of populism, anti-racism and a certain weirdness in parts of the Hill Country is appealing -- he attributes it partly to the influx of idealistic German settlers after the failed revolution of 1846. Parts of the Hill Country (especially Comfort, where a momunent to the anti-confederacy dead can still be found) fought on the side of the north during the civil war. And even some of the Republicans in the Hill Country are weird in a good way -- like the late Hondo Crouch, major of Luckenbach (pop 3).

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