Saturday, February 26, 2011

175 Years of Misapplied Texan Pride

This week, Texas celebrates its 175 anniversary declaring Independence from Mexico. 175 is a totally lame number, history wise. No offense, "Terquasquicentennial."

The Texas Declaration of Independence, modeled after the American Declaration of Independence, was handwritten 175 years ago this week and freed the state from "oppressive Mexican rule." No other U.S. state has such a distinction. But does it somehow credit Texas of being different-better somehow?

I can agree Texas has some interesting history, but declarations and battles seem pretty par for the course, particularly to this country. Key facts in Texas' origins stories are shared with other states. Other states were originally Mexico (New Mexico, Arizona, California, Colorado, Utah, even parts of Wyoming). Some states were even independent prior to becoming part of the United States (the Vermont Republic [1791], the Republic of Texas [1845], and the California Republic [1846]). And Hawaii shares in the distinction of having formal diplomatic recognition internationally for a short time in history. So why do Texans always pride themselves on having such a unique, distinctive history compared to other states?

"The independent spirit that reigned on the Texas frontier during the era of the Texas Revolution can still be seen today throughout the state," said Light Cummins, an Austin College history professor and the Texas state historian. "Texans today pride themselves on being independent, hard-working, innovative and no-nonsense people, all of which is reflected in our view of those who participated in the Texas Revolution. Perhaps for that reason, many Texans believe that this state is different from any other in the nation in terms of its history and its heritage."

The more I try to understand the nature of the depth of the pride of Texans for the state, the more I can't understand why anyone is so loyal to any place they are from, rich history or not. I'm not trying to rain on Texans' right to celebrate its history and culture, I'm just curious as to the ferocity in which the state is defended based on its past. Texas is a great state, but not because of anything it did 175 years ago. Almost two centuries later, we cannot seriously continue to assert merit based on historical events. Shouldn't we all be wondering what great steps Texas will be taking to make us proud to live here now? What about those Texan values worth standing for, hard-won and deep-rooted?

Such values as being famously anti-government. Why the recent curtailing of civil liberties (mandatory sonograms-for-abortions bill, frivolous anti-drug laws, the banning of same-sex marriage)? Texas has a unique and bountiful environment that prospers from tourism and agriculture. Why not move to protect the coast, gulf, and land from oil-drilling abuse, the rich pine forests from the logging industry, the small, independently-owned farms from mass agriculture takeovers? The booming economy is second in the nation. Why not take steps to stimulate the economy and raise the standards of living by providing, rather than cutting, funding to schools and social services? Texans, please help me understand. What are you so proud of that Texas has done for you in the last 10 years? Is it just the barbecue?

Leave it in the comments.

Related: Celebration for 175 Years of Texas Independence

Earlier: The Texas Experiment: Awful, Artful Texan Pride
The Texas Experiment: Apply To Be Texan

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