Lone Star Liberal
2004-10-06 - 9:29 p.m.
I should be reading for my performance studies/rhetoric class right now, but the muse is upon me, and so I find myself crowded into the internet cafe with a white hot chocolate and a coconut cookie hoping to get this out in time to read a few more articles before I pass out. This might necessitate a move to Tuk Tuk Thai at some point.
I needed to write, though, because I got out of a talk given by Molly Ivins less than an hour ago and I needed to do some talking. For the first time since getting to Berkeley, I feel like using the fact that a lot of my new friends read this diary to explain a few things, rather than just worrying about what they're gonna think, because worrying about that isn't a very Texan thing to do.
And I am a Texan. I was born in Austin and raised in San Antonio. When I hit the quarter century mark this coming year, I will have spent more than two thirds of my life in Texas. You have to go as far back as my great grandparents to even begin to find relatives not born in Texas. In fact, you will find that my Texan ancestry predates Texas, Mexico, and even the United States. My father's family goes all the way back to the first Spanish settlers of Texas and the Native Americans that they slept with, consensually or otherwise. I'd be stretching it to say that I'm Texan all the way back to the Neolithic, but I can at least say that my ancestors stopped in for a spell in their attempt to get as far away from the glaciers as possible.
I'm also 1/8 Irish, but then again, isn't everyone?
The problem is that I don't fit the image of the typical Texan, and no one was more aware of that growing up than me. First of all, I was Mexican, and there are plenty of Texans still around who consider that an entirely different animal, meaning every word. Now, recall that not only do Mexicans represent a majority in a number of Texas counties, but Mexico technically owned Texas until a bunch of Southerners decided that what they really needed was to manifest the destiny of slaveholders everywhere and immigrate illegally into Mexican land until there were enough of them there to steal the land away, allowing another slave state to join the union after a brief stint as a republic. So one might understand why my people may have had a chip on our collective shoulders: we can handle being told that we were an inferior race because we know we're not, but we objected to being told that while farming the land that would have been ours except for, essentially, crackers with guns.
Now, if my mother and father had done what so many white people in the state had wanted them to do and just stayed exactly where they were--which would have meant running a much-loved barbecue joint for my father or getting married to a boy looking to inherit my grandfather's butcher shop for my mother--I might have fit the picture more, but these two had the audacity to get educated, spend much of their twenties and thirties fighting desperately to secure a place for Latinos in education, business, and public policy, and, horror of horrors, succeed. Hell, they even managed to earn money doing it. So not only was I Mexican, I was well-off and well-educated, with not one but two parents who would gladly shoot anyone who told me that I wasn't good enough for something because my last name ended in a "Z." Not only that, they were well-connected enough politically to get off for justifiable homicide. If anything, they'd have charges pressed against whatever racist bastard put me down, because any judge in the state would recognize an attempt to belittle The Notorious MOM's boy as irrefutable evidence of suicide, and I'm pretty sure that's a felony.
So my parents big dreams landed me at Saint Mary's Hell, the school where the most privileged Sons and Daughters of the Republic of Texas living in and around the San Antonio area sent their children to get educated. Now, I would like to refute a myth about Texans and say that many of us, including many conservatives, are incredibly well-educated. I went to a great school with great teachers, and it's not their fault that the kids who went to Princeton and Davidson came back to the home state to continue pillaging the poor like their fathers and grandfathers before them (I would also like to note that sexism, at least, is on the decline among that bunch, as many of them are grooming their daughters to be corporate sharks and conservative politicians--baby steps, people, baby steps). In fact, the teachers in my school were my saving grace, because a lot of them helped me understand exactly what I was.
I was that rarest and most wonderful of creatures: a Texas liberal.
Now, a Texas liberal is, first and foremost, delightfully verbal. We are some of the most poetic politicos you will ever set ears on. Any good Texas liberal has a love of metaphor, simile, metonymy, synecdoche, hyperbole, and the most beloved doo-dad in our literary tackle-box, irony. We need all those things in our arsenals for two reasons. First, all Texans love metaphor, simile, metonymy, synecdoche, and hyperbole. Molly Ivins herself said tonight that being a member of the ACLU at a Klan rally--remembering that this is a moment when that most liberal of organizations has to do their duty and campaign for the speaking rights of vitriolic dunderheads--makes you about as popular as a whore applying to the Divinity School at Southern Methodist University. That's something ANY Texan would understand. So, in order to communicate with out fellow Texans, we need to get ourselves into English class and get busy.
Busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest, that's how damn busy.
Second of all, Texan liberals are well-aware that that they are surrounded by the enemy, and that certain chapters of the enemy are, on occassion, capable of dragging a defenseless man behind the back of their truck until he dies just for being the wrong color in the wrong place. This is where the irony comes in. We have been taught by our elders that if you can't say anything nice about anyone, then say something nice in a manner so acid that anyone with half a brain will know exactly what you mean, because odds are good that they won't be able to make the charges against you hold up in court, or that they will not have half a brain themselves.
A number of my teachers were Texan liberals, and they helped teach me how to be tough. They taught me that, when you're surrounded by people who are willing to say, out loud, things like, "I know this is gonna sound bad, but the poor don't really affect us," the best thing to do is shake your head, let out a slow chuckle, and "You know, you're so right. I think you should put that on a T-shirt and head over to the southside, see how ready they are to applaud you. Or better yet, just tell that to your family maid; after your mom's run all over Hell and half of Georgia trying to find clean panties, I'm sure she'll be thrilled to learn of your opinions and their contribution to your happy household."
I wish I'd said this. Actually, I don't, because another girl, who had never uttered a political thing in all the time I knew her, said, "Patrick, that is the stupidest thing I've ever heard!" Texans also enjoy the direct approach.
As if all this weren't enough, I also got dragged out of the closet my senior year courtesy a note passed in class that was not properly thrown away. So, on top of everything else, I slept with the wrong people. Texans are never, ever supposed to be gay, you must understand. It didn't matter that half the lacrosse players were going down on one another in the locker room: that's just team spirit. What mattered was that I had violated an important rule of the Texan upper-middle-class: I was doing it out in the open. Now, the day I was outed, none of my liberal defenses were there for me; I was scared shitless (a bit of classic Texan hyperbole for y'all). It didn't turn out to be so bad, though, largely because the most popular girl in school counted me among her best friends, and she would have exacted a social revenge to make Edith Wharton cringe if anyone had dared say a word to me. But I heard the things whispered behind my back, and I remembered the people who had bragged last year about pointing guns at gay couples they saw walking around downtown. And I looked those motherfuckers in the eye. And smiled. And said, "Methinks the redneck doth protest too much."
I don't say things like that now, of course, because I recognize that redneck is a classist term with a racist history. However, when you're in the moment, and the fucker wears a cowboy hat and speaks in a very affected accent (and it occurs to me that this not only applies to the boy who did indeed point guns at gay people and did indeed turn out to be gay, but to a certain other gun-totin' combat dodgin' mother lovin' God botherin' country fuckin' coke snortin' subliterate silver spooned paramecium I could mention), it's hard to come up with a better term on the spot. That is all, however, in the past. Fortunately, "ass clown" is a term that anybody can get behind.
I remembered all this while watching Molly Ivins tonight. She had lots to say about the quality government of my home state and our country as a whole, about the inspired decision making skills of our president and his administration's unwavering devotion to the working man. She talked about the nobility of the war in Iraq and the importance of sacrificing our personal freedoms in order to ensure our security, and although two sex worker similes in one entry is a bit much even for a shameless slut like myself, I have to say that if she had the ear of the nation, Bush and company would be sweatin' like a whore in church.
We Texans love a good hooker reference, apparently.
Molly Ivins said a lot of great things besides the usual. One thing that should scare most of the readers of this diary is that if Bush is elected, Roe vs. Wade will be overturned. You heard it here first, only not really. Nothing less that a woman's right to choose will be decided by this election, and, as TinaSparkle said during the last election, "Okay, I want to rich, but CLEARLY, I also want to be able to have abortions. Lots of them." Now, if you want Roe vs. Wade overturned, by all means vote for Bush. Just remember that you are now able to vote simply by flushing a piece of paper with the candidate's name on it down the toilet! The wonders of modern technology!
Even more wonderfully, someone asked Molly what she thinks we should do if Bush gets re-elected, which is a probable if terrifying outcome. She told a story about how a friend of hers had a chicken-killin' dog, a dog who would get into the henhouse and eat the chickens. Now, this friend of hers had been told to shoot the dog, but he couldn't bring himself to do it. Instead, he got one of the dead chickens and put it around the neck of the chicken-killin' dog. He left it there and never took it off. It rotted on the dog's neck and smelled so terrible that no one but no one would even apporach that dog, and after the last bits of rotting flesh fell off the dog's neck, it never went near the chickens again.
What we've got right now is something far worse than a chicken-killin' dog, and if we're stuck with him, then we need to make sure he smells what he's doing, and can't get away from that smell. Then maybe he'll have the sense of a dog and stop doing what he's doing.
In the meantime, I pray that Kerry gets elected, even if I can't stand the bastard. I don't usually pray, but this time I do.
I consider prayer something that I'm taking back from Republicans. My Texan identity is another thing I am taking back. Here's the truth: I love football. I don't actively seek it out, but if I am taken to a game I will cheer louder than you. I love barbecue, even if I'll mostly be spreading hickory sauce on tofu from now on (God bless the George Forman grill). I know full well that the stars at night are big and bright, and some of my happiest memories have been of staring up at them with my friends. I was brought up to say "Sir" and "Ma'am," whether a person was shining your shoes or ticketing your car. I have ancestors who called their friends tayshas and ancestors who thought that would make a great name for the territory they just conquered. I have centuries of attitude, but when I go too far, I also have a kick-ass salsa recipe.
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