Don’t Mess With Texas

When you grow up in Pittsburgh, go to college in Ohio and graduate school in North Carolina, teach for a decade at a prep school in upstate New York, then move to Los Angeles to work in aerospace, then end up in Hollywood – well, you just don’t get Texas. With CSC and Perot Systems there were the occasional trips to Plano – fly into Dallas and drive the rental car up to the motel there, and the next day sit through endless meetings on the ins and outs of the latest software and chat with the mainframe guys. But that wasn’t Texas. Yeah, the Dixie Chicks got their start playing corporate events for Ross Perot, but they were nowhere to be seen, and Ross had long ago turned the corporation over to his son. Now and then you’d see a massive pick-up truck with the high-powered rifles in the back window rack, and men in sleek expensive suits and even more expensive custom cowboy boots and big cream-colored Stetsons, and see stiff women with really big hair – but not that often.

Maybe Texas was a myth, or some sort of ironic in-joke. There was a Starbucks on most corners, and strip malls with the same national chain stores you’d see in Boise or Boston, Ross Dress-for-Less and RadioShack and Kinko’s. America is homogenized now. Homogenization makes milk smooth – nothing settles to the bottom or rises to the top. It works the same for a nation. And of course George Bush bought his famous Crawford ranch just before the first presidential election, and spent eight years there clearing brush and doing that squint-at-the-horizon-and-talk-tough thing, but as soon as his presidency was over he and Laura were out of there – they bought a regular house in an exclusive Dallas suburb and that was that. Strike the Texas set. A recently-built vaguely Tudor suburban mini-mansion, with good central air, in a deep green shady yard – that’s more like it. Perhaps Laura put her foot down and told George it was high time they lived like normal people.

That’s not to say Texans aren’t normal people, even if they do make claims to be extraordinary – big, brash and bold, like their state, where everything is bigger and better than it is anywhere else, or so they say. All you can do is nod politely. Yeah, all Californians are surfers or movie stars, and all Bostonians snooty, and everyone from Brooklyn talks like Al Pacino. Whatever – you expect such things. It’s always more complicated than that. Last summer it was a week in El Paso, and with Juarez right there and giant Fort Bliss in the middle of everything, it was an odd sort of international war zone – drugs wars in a disintegrating nation just across the river to the south, and thousands of guys leaving for our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or returning. John Ford, of the iconic westerns, would have no idea what to make of it. The only cowboy around was the statue of the Buffalo Soldier at the main gate at Bliss.

And now Texas has blogs – and Forrest Wilder who posts at The Texas Observer. There he offers this item – an account, with video and still photographs, of the “We Hate the United States” secessionist rally at the state capital.

Yep, Texans do think of themselves as unique, and, for some, those bumper stickers – Don’t Mess with Texas – refer to more than Longhorns Football. A good number of these folks are only begrudgingly Americans – they’re Texans first. As you recall, the Republic of Texas was a sovereign nation, sitting pretty, between the United States and Mexico from 1836 to 1846 – and on October 13, 1845, voters in the Republic approved an American offer to become a state. But they seem to feel they have reserved the right to change their mind about that at any time. Thus we have the Texas Nationalist Movement. Texans did America a favor by agreeing to be a state – but piss them off and the deal is off.

Wilder notes this rally, while fervent, wasn’t that big a deal – maybe two hundred people. And there was “the absence of any remotely mainstream speakers” – Governor Rick Perry, who has been hinting at succession for months, decided not to show. He must have realized that many had been taking him seriously, taking him literally, and there are legal consequences for advocating such things. He was just expressing frustration, colorfully – and hoping to score political points with his base, for a way cool threat that would really upset the damned liberals. And no one from the office of Brandon Creighton showed up. Creighton had introduced House Concurrent Resolution 50 in the Texas House, asserting Texas’ “sovereignty” from the federal government. No doubt folks were milling about, muttering – all hat, no cattle, all hat, no cattle.

Wilder takes it from there:

Back in April, Perry flirted with the idea of secession when he told reporters after a Tax Day tea party event: “There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve [the Union]. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that.”

Even for a governor who frequently plays to the more extreme elements in the Texas GOP, it was a gobsmackingly “out there” remark. But it certainly did wonders for the secession crowd – long a totally marginal and ridiculed group with about as much chance of capturing the mainstream imagination as the LaRouche cult.

But Perry had helped galvanize and embolden this “hate America” crowd:

After all, the governor of the second most populous state in the nation had suggested that secession was a possible solution to federal over-reach. Republican political leaders have helped bring “death panels” and the Obama birth certificate nonsense into acceptable discourse; Perry’s contribution has been bringing secession into the mix.

And Wilder cites Daniel Miller, the leader of the Texas Nationalist Movement and “the only speaker who had the slightest ability to make secession sound like anything other than just complete lunacy” talking about the April 15 Tea Party Rally in Austin and what it meant to the secessionist movement:

When Perry was giving a speech and the crowd began to shout what? – Secede! Secede! Secede! That’s what they chanted. So they asked him afterward, what do you think? He said, well we reserve that right; if things get so bad we reserve the right to leave. And I gotta tell you it’s the first solid thing he’s done in his administration that I can agree with in many, many years.

And then the guy doesn’t show up. Wilder thinks he should have:

After all, Fox News is paying attention: Miller was a guest on the Glenn Beck Program on June 23, discussing the possibility of Texas seceding.

Now Perry will have to apologize to Glenn Beck and Rupert Murdoch or something. And it was a made-for-Fox-News event:

Though Perry and the “pro-sovereignty” legislators didn’t show for the rally, Miller said, “I want them to hear this loud and clear: It is time for them to take up that banner and it’s time for them to take the lead and if they do not, if they do not pick up that banner and carry it high, then we will.” Upon which Miller dashed out into the crowd, took hold of a “Come and Take It” flag, and continued his exhortations. Along with other speakers, he called for a special session of the Legislature – next week – to take up the sovereignty-or-secession debate in earnest.

The deal is that they want to deliver a petition to Perry demanding that Texas officials either “immediately move for the restoration of the complete and unadulterated Sovereignty of Texas, explicitly adhering to the 10th Amendment wording of the U.S. Constitution” – or “move immediately for complete Secession from the United States of America.”

Okay – bone up on the Tenth Amendment and Nullification and such things here – fascinating stuff. And consider Wilder’s account of this Texas crowd:

Instead of Perry or Creighton, the protesters had Larry Kilgore, a “Christian activist” and candidate for governor who has endorsed executions for homosexuals; Debra Medina, a Ron Paul Republican and a slightly-less long-shot candidate for governor; and Melissa Pehle-Hill, yet another fringe candidate and a member of a self-appointed “citizens grand jury” investigating Barack Hussein Obama, aka Barry Soetoro.

The audience of about 200 people included tattooed bikers wearing Confederate memorabilia, Alex Jones conspiracy theorists carrying those Obama-as-Joker signs, lots of older guys in Texas flag shirts and blue jeans, Ron Paul activists, and others.

Kilgore, dressed in starched blue jeans and a cowboy hat, drew some murmurs of disapproval when he launched into a rant against the U.S.

“I hate that flag up there,” Kilgore said pointing to the American flag flying over the Capitol. “I hate the United States government. … They’re an evil, corrupt government. They need to go. Sovereignty is not good enough. Secession is what we need!”

“We hate the United States!” he said later in the speech. …

Medina chipped in: “We are aware that stepping off into secession may in fact be a bloody war. We are aware that the tree of freedom is occasionally watered with the blood of tyrants and patriots.”

For his part, Kilgore assured the crowd that violence wouldn’t be necessary to secede. Instead, the U.S. would just split up like the USSR did in 1991.

Maybe they could just leave quietly. And that might go smoothly. We want out! Of course you do – don’t blame you – no hard feelings – how can we help? Maybe they could take Oklahoma with them.

But it won’t be that easy. Wilder shows why:

Like any movement, the secessionists have their own reading of history and the law. There was much talk about the true and correct reading of the Constitution, implied powers, Thomas Jefferson’s writings on tyranny and government. One guy even started reading from Black’s Law Dictionary. But the references to the Confederacy were the most telling.

At one point, Miller drew the crowd’s attention to the statue of Lady Liberty on top of the Capitol.

“When they raised her to the top of this Capitol they wanted to face her south so she would forever have her back turned to that nation to the north that knew not liberty,” he told the almost entirely white crowd.

And they wonder why Perry and friends didn’t show up. Even for our governor, these people are toxic.

Maybe so, but it’s not just the Texans.

David Neiwert covers what is soon to have everyone ready for succession or civil war or revolution – or something. You see, it is now Obama’s planned genocide that calls for his overthrow:

So far, we’ve had Birthers, “death panels,” a “death book,” concentration camps for conservatives, and the pervasive “Obama=Hitler” meme. And that’s just been in the first eight months of Barack Obama’s presidency.

But if you thought the wingnuts had already driven over the cliff and into the abyss, just wait. They really have just gotten started on their descent.

In a few weeks, there’s going to be a big gathering of right-wing True Believers in St. Louis, at a convention called “How to Take Back America.” …

Okay, hum a few bars of Meet Me in St Louis, Louis and consider this:

Guest wingnut luminaries speaking at the convention will include Rep. Michelle Bachmann, Rep. Steve King (the guy who claims that gays and lesbians wouldn’t become hate-crime victims if they didn’t flaunt it), Joseph Farah of World Nut Daily, and Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin … plus, of course, such convention organizers as Phyllis Schlafly.

It will be fun for all, considering the workshops – “How to recognize living under Nazis and Communists” and “How to deal with supremacist judges” and “How to defeat UN attacks on sovereignty” and “How to stop socialism in health care” and “How to counter the homosexual movement” and “How to stop the killings: pro-life solutions” and so on.

Neiwert links to the promotional video:

Fundamentalist guru Rick Scarborough – all you need to know about him is that he’s an avid associate of Alan Keyes – is featured in the first segment of the video, bemoaning the “crucifixion” of the 2008 election results. It’s there mostly for the jaw-dropping amusement value.

The second half of the video is just downright weird: radio talk-show host Janet Porter, another of the conference’s organizers, launches into a somewhat confusing array of conspiracy theories involving vaccines. Porter’s theory is that President Obama and other nefarious types are currently trying to drum up hysteria about H1N1 flu so that they can give us a vaccine that will kill large numbers of Americans.

Well, that is her theory. Neiwert notes that she had a woman on her radio program saying things like this:

Specifically, evidence is presented that the defendants, Barack Obama, President of the U.S, David Nabarro, UN System Coordinator for Influenza, Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO, Kathleen Sibelius, Secretary of Department of Health and Human Services, Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Department of Homeland Security, David de Rothschild, banker, David Rockefeller, banker, George Soros, banker, Werner Faymann, Chancellor of Austria, and Alois Stoger, Austrian Health Minister, among others, are part of this international corporate criminal syndicate which has developed, produced, stockpiled and employed biological weapons to eliminate the population of the U.S. and other countries for financial and political gain.

The charges contend that these defendants conspired with each other and others to devise, fund and participate in the final phase of the implementation of a covert international bioweapons program involving the pharmaceutical companies Baxter and Novartis. They did this by bioengineering and then releasing lethal biological agents, specifically the “bird flu” virus and the “swine flu virus” in order to have a pretext to implement a forced mass vaccination program which would be the means of administering a toxic biological agent to cause death and injury to the people of the U.S.

Expect that in St. Louis. Texas has nothing on them. And, as Neiwert notes, you get General Boykin too:

Most folks remember Jerry Boykin as the general who made the war in Iraq out to be a religious crusade by “God’s Army.” But there’s much, much more to Boykin than merely that; he also happens to be one of the chief upper-echelon culprits responsible for the atrocities at Abu Ghraib prison. And before that, he was directly involved in devising the FBI’s disastrous strategy that produced the human disaster at the Branch Davidian Compound in Waco, Texas in 1993.

Who could ask for more?

Well, Steve Benen could, as he’s been thinking about the odd issues around healthcare reform:

To paraphrase Twain, right-wing health care talking points can travel the nation, while the truth is still getting its pants on. If the most frustrating aspect of the policy debate is the willingness of reform opponents to make stuff up, the most dejecting is the willingness of gullible people to believe nonsense.

And believe it they do. Just a couple of weeks ago, an NBC News poll found that most Americans have already come to believe a wide variety of transparently false claims, all of which have been pushed aggressively by the right.

Of particular interest, though, are those who are confronted with reality, but prefer to believe lies anyway. There’s widespread confusion, to be sure, but there’s also a large group who deliberately embrace the lies they’ve been told.

Benen notes that Newsweek’s Sharon Begley wrote this piece – examining all the healthcare reform myths. Nothing was based in fact. But it didn’t matter:

For her trouble, Begley was blasted by conservatives for, ironically enough, having “lost touch with reality.” Some far-right Newsweek readers even wished her dead for daring to write a piece that debunked claims they preferred to believe were true.

And there was the follow-up piece – she talked to sociologist Steven Hoffman about this nuttiness. He said she should have expected it. “Rather than search rationally for information that either confirms or disconfirms a particular belief, people actually seek out information that confirms what they already believe.” They completely ignore contrary information and “develop elaborate rationalizations based on faulty information.” That’s just how it goes.

Benen sees how that works here:

First of all, let’s remember that 59,934,814 voters cast their ballot for John McCain, so we can assume that tens of millions of Americans believe the wrong guy is in the White House. To justify that belief, they need to find evidence that he’s leading the country astray. What better evidence of that than to seize on the misinformation about Obama’s health-care reform ideas and believe that he wants to insure illegal aliens, for example, and give the Feds electronic access to doctors’ bank accounts?

Obama’s opponents also need to find evidence that their reading of him back in November was correct. They therefore seize on “confirmation” that he wants to, for instance, redistribute the wealth, as in his “spread the wealth around” remark to Joe the Plumber – finding such confirmation in the claims that health-care reform will do just that, redistributing health care from those who have it now to the 46 million currently uninsured. Similarly, they seize on anything that confirms the “socialist” label that got pinned on Obama during the campaign, or the pro-abortion label – anything to comfort themselves that they made the right choice last November.

So even if there are “legitimate, fact-based reasons to oppose health-care reform” we won’t get them. He argues that is because of “confirmatory bias, cognitive dissonance, and other examples of mental processes that have gone off the rails.”

Not that it matters much:

Of course, it’s difficult to explain this to the enraged conservatives who are convinced that health care reform would destroy civilization. They like their delusions, thank you very much, and prefer that reality be kept at arm’s length.

And now ignorance “seems to be spreading like a virus, which makes the discourse stupid and constructive debate nearly impossible.”

But that still doesn’t explain the Texans – or those who want to be Texans. Perhaps some just prefer to keep reality at arm’s length. And that would explain chicken-fried steak and a few other things down there. But even George Bush and Rick Perry figured out that the whole concept of Texas might indeed be a kind of ironic in-joke. And that would mean the whole problem actually is an inability to recognize irony.

Of course Americans have always had that problem.

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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