Though I like to believe I think broadly and that I have strived to shed provincialisms, I am a Texan by birth, and I am heart-broken at the beating my home state is taking and has taken since George W. Bush became President under suspect circumstances in 2000.
It is hard for people, perhaps, to understand what Texas means to Texans. But more so than in sheer nativist or parochial loyalty, my sentiment for the state is rooted in the view that it is essential to the future of the country. So my feelings are more than resentments about how the national press is making a joke out of Texas through the lens of the national political stage. If Texas fails as a state – which it might well do if its growing HispanicLatino population does not accelerate its economic and social standing – the country will fail. Think California, which remains on the ropes and whose educational system – meaning its future – has cracked. California schools no longer are the foundation from which the state blasted into the future and took the world – not just the country – with it.
No one wants to talk frankly about how California regains what it has lost. And Texas in its best days has not attained what California achieved before its dangerous decline. Except for what seemed to be a promising moment after the attacks of September 11, 2001, when it seemed that Bush was on the verge of developing into a great leader before he instead sank the country into decades of coming turmoil, ours has been a downhill trajectory. After the corruption of Tom Delay came the embarrassment of Rick Perry and now the buffoonery of Ron Paul – all on the national stage.
Yet what matters is not the chagrin generated by these simpletons. What matters more is that at the most momentous of times, we are leaderless, hemmed in by a lack of understanding that if the great California can stumble, who is exempt? Too many Texans hide behind the automatic and false bravado of being different to hide weaknesses that are only skin-deep. To paraphrase Proverbs, pride goeth before the fall. Universities, schools, hospitals and local governments are paring back unimaginably – laying bare the state’s vulnerabilities.
Overlaying the circumstances of California and Texas is the national moment itself in which all the states find themselves. America has arrived at a point in which its belief in itself has been shaken. Confidence in the federal experiment, too, is under stress. The country and its government were never stronger than the sum of the rest of its parts.
And one vital part stretching between the Red River and the Rio Grande is lesser than it should be today.
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