Wednesday, February 20, 2008

When It Comes Down To Texas, That's Scary

By Manifesto Joe

Texas still suffers from longstanding stereotypes, and perhaps our state deserves it. We're a lot more complex than the national media depict; but I would admit that we haven't generally done a lot to disprove the images that a person in, say, Vermont, would tend to have of us. Now it looks like we, of all states, may be the one that determines the next Democratic nominee, and the next president.

I don't know how Vermont residents feel, but that thought frightens me enough that I'm still undecided.

Texas? Well, it's a place that used to be the world's official capital of chauvinism, and that remains an influence that's still covertly in control. Don't delude yourself into thinking the reason you almost have to speak Spanish to order in a restaurant here now, even a Wendy's, was a result of social tolerance. Boys and girls, can you spell cheap-ass labor?

There are reasons why there are jokes like this: What does a young woman in Texas say while she's losing her virginity? Answer: "Git off, Daddy. Yore crushin' my cigarettes."

OK, so we aren't the most advanced sub-society in America. The odds of someone, picked off the streets of Houston, having read any Bertrand Russell, ever, are infinitesimal. We're very underrepresented among the states in top universities and liberal arts colleges, and that's no accident. Even our rich people, often the progeny of semiliterate wildcatters, are pseudo-cultured poseurs who put on too much bad cologne before attending a Van Cliburn performance.

But our state was quite an outpost of human individuality and toughness before the discovery of oil spoiled so many people. And recently, we've become much more complex than many of our American brethren realize.

I have the distinction of counting myself as an old-school Texan, having had three of four grandparents born here, and all of their parents as well (with a little Cherokee Indian mixed in). We're those South Plains types who, linguists say, contributed to the American language in some elaborate and creative ways, with words like "discombobulated."

And then, there's the melding of English and Spanish that was inevitable in a place like this. "Vamoose," from the old Westerns, was simply hillbilly butchery of vamos (let's go)

I think the melding of the food styles turned out much better on the whole.

But, on to the main point: The modern, urbanized Texas has potential that is often unrealized:

-- Travis County, where our capital of Austin is, went for John Kerry in 2004.

-- Dallas County split pretty closely in Bush vs. Kerry. And, the Dallas County district attorney, Craig Watkins, is a Democrat and an African-American. And he's doing a job that is making a lot of people downright proud.

-- We have somehow produced a number of the U.S. progressive movement's finest, among them the late great Molly Ivins, our former Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower, and others.

We have emerged as arguably the biggest American melting pot, and perhaps it is appropriate that we should be the deciding state to determine the Democratic nominee.

I'll be watching what happens in the Austin debate on Thursday night, because I'm genuinely undecided. I have likes and dislikes regarding both Clinton and Obama. But I'm a Democrat -- Ronald Reagan stirred me there, and George W. Bush cemented me -- so I'm for whichever one of the Democrats wins.

I hope my fellow Texans choose wisely. Yee-haa; y vamos, muchachos y muchachas. A todos mis amigos: Vote Democratic.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

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