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The Lies of Texas Are Upon You

We tell people not to mess with Texas but that's because we reserve the right to mess it up ourselves, which we are doing quite effectively.
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"Life in Lubbock, Texas, taught me two things: One is that God loves you and you're going to burn in hell. The other is that sex is the most awful, filthy thing on earth and you should save it for someone you love." - Butch Hancock, Musician, the Flatlanders

A friend called to talk about his daughter being caught in the middle of one of the kinds of controversies that only happen in Texas. His daughter's teacher had sent an email that her school was not going to show the president's national address to students in their school. My buddy Marcus is African-American and Native American, holds two degrees, and does not very well countenance stupidity and hypocrisy.

"It's not exactly a political speech," he said. "He's going to tell kids to work hard and stay in school and get a good education, and take personal responsibility for their actions."

"Of course not," I conceded, "But Obama is a democrat and African-American and this is Texas."

"Yeah, well, I'm going to get Mia from class and bring her home to watch the speech and then take her back. This is garbage."

Actually, it is more like intellectual pus, a kind of deadly ooze that keeps infecting our national discourse. We tell people not to mess with Texas but that's because we reserve the right to mess it up ourselves, which we are doing quite effectively. This latest hypocrisy, though, is almost beyond imagining, but is a logical next de-evolutionary step for progressive thinking under the Lone Star.

During the campaigns and administrations of both Presidents Bush and Ronald Reagan, speeches and public appearances were almost mandatory for students and the religion of those leaders was forced on the crowds gathered in the taxpayer built gymnasiums. I cannot count the times that I attended political rallies as a journalist during school hours where students were told to leave class and come provide a crowd for the Republican candidates. Invariably, at many of these, I was standing next to my friend, a Pulitzer-winning journalist who is Jewish, as a Christian prayer was offered and the name of Jesus was invoked. Nobody saw the contradictions and hypocrisies.

In Texas, we see this as a positive attribute, taking kids out of classes for candidate rallies and force feeding them the candidate's religion. Hell, we're doing even better than that in our school system. A number of boards of education have voted to begin teaching the bible in public schools. A statement from a school board in Central Texas indicated that the class will be optional and will teach the bible as "an historical document." Oddly enough, we aren't teaching about the Koran's historical impact and power and that might be a handy piece of knowledge in the future for our children. I think the constitution is as clear on this matter as it is on the right to keep and bear arms. Church and state are to be separated. No damned religion of any kind or any of its texts should be taught in public schools.

But this is Texas and the long, proud march backwards presses on; except we may soon begin dragging the nation with us into the 18th century. Because so many textbooks are published for our vast public school system, the curriculum standards adopted by the Texas State Board of Education have great influence beyond the Red and Sabine Rivers. Annually, while the rest of the world has acknowledged science, our textbook committee has to debate creationism and intelligent design and including religious faith in science books. When science rears its little head we have the bludgeons to whack it back into a hidey-hole, and when politics moves away from progressive, free-thinking, historical analysis, we teach the Rovian Revisionism of great events and personalities.

The newest effort by our school board is designed to make certain our students know that McCarthyism wasn't all that bad and that students need to be able to identify significant conservative organizations and leaders. This is coming out of the textbook committee's latest hearings and, even though board members want Texas children to learn about conservatives, whom they identify in their recommendations, they make no point to mention progressive groups or personalities. According to Talking Points Memo, one of the board members griped about "too much emphasis on multiculturalism" when it was noted that World War II led to greater female and minority employment. Another member, scribbling in the margin of a critique of the textbooks notes that, "...if McCarthyism is noted, then the Venona papers need to be explained that exonerates him." (Fabulous grammar from a Texas public school grad risen to political prominence.) There was also a note suggesting that Charlton Heston's speech on the culture war, which made conservative hearts pound with joy, was a good topic for a textbook's section on "effective leadership." The standards on Richard Nixon say that the text should "describe his role in the normalization of relations with China and the policy of détente." Maybe, just maybe, we can squeeze in a line about Watergate and resignation in disgrace and nearly destroying the constitution with corruption but be certain you cover China and détente.

So this is Texas, folks, created by god 10,000 years ago with all fossils and fossil fuels in place, where black presidents are not allowed to encourage our children, there are two sides to every story, even McCarthyism, Richard Nixon is the man that saved the world, and the bible is a text book, and Fox News is on every TV screen in every airport and public place in the land. I suppose I'm obligated to mention that our governor is aligned with a secessionist group and appears at rallies citing our constitutional right to secede and, oh, I forgot to tell you about how we voted three to one in 2005 to ban gay marriage.

Y'all come on down.

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