JoT re
Cris re "Texas"

I completely support your defense of your home state against a perceived attack. You took my conceit more seriously than it was meant, but that's understandable. As you've got some facts rather wrong, however, I'll be setting things straight for the benefit of those following along at home.

Let me also make it clear that I'm not saying that Texas is the worst state in the union, only that it's most like the US (powerful and conservative). I don't have anything against Texas. I wish that our textbooks didn't have to be Texas-approved, but that's America for you. On the other hand, if you're going to say that Texas isn't conservative, I'm going to say it is.

Hmmm... where should we start? As you can see, I am from Texas, so let us start from there. I find your article upon my state deeply offensive, and am most grieved that someone like you had a hand in the rewriting of a game that I have cherished for years. However the thing that I find most irritating is your lack of knowledge about the area that you slander (how liberal of you, and pardon the pun should you comprehend it).

Great. I love to learn things, and one way I do that is by making public mistakes and getting corrected. It sure beats harboring secret errors indefinitely.

First off let's talk religion. We have many different faiths here, not just your bible pounding "Religious Right", but Muslims, Catholics, Lutherans, Hindis, Wiccans, Methodists, oh and Episcopalians(thank you), not to mention myriads of others.

Agreed, but since I never said otherwise, I'm not sure why you imagine this to be a rebuttal.

Evolution: I learned evolution in schools, and down here it is kind of an oddity to find a person who does not accept the idea of it. Or at least as much of an oddity as it would be in most other "developed" portions of the world.

Almost half of the people in the US believe that humans were created in their present form within the last 10,000 years, making us in the States quite a bit different from our less anti-intellectual cousins in the rest of the developed world. If you have evidence that Texas is less prone to creationist thought than the rest of the country, I'd love to see it.

Here are some links to web pages about anti-evolutionary actions on the part of Texas's school board.

1999: "In Texas conservative members of the state school board pushed through a biology textbook with few references to evolution." Link

1999: "In Texas, the state school board cut references to evolution from a standard biology textbook." Link

1997: " [T]he Texas Board of Education proposed replacing all biology books in the state with new ones that did not mention evolution." Link

To be fair, here's a page that puts Texas in the middle in terms of how it teaches evolution. (Even so, more states are ranked above Texas than below it.) Link

You can also download a copy of the Texas GOP's platform, which opposes evolution in public schools. It's also an hilarious or terrifying read, depending on one's distance from it.

Click here to read about how influential Texas is in determining what goes into textbooks that schoolkids in other states read.

Influence: Well you did have something right after all in your Texas-bashing. We are big, wealthy, and politically powerful. Should you go back to Europe, you shall see that telling people that you are from Texas receives a far more positive reaction than telling the average person that you are from the States. And speaking of influence, there was one little teensy tiny thing that you did forget to mention is the fact that we have an excellent electronics industry as well, surpassed only by California (and that may not be the case anymore).

If my object had been to bash Texas, your excellent electronics industry would be a counterpoint. Since that wasn't the point of my rant, it's not really on topic.

Environment: Policy tends to be quote unquote lax in Texas, primarily because we are only recently having to deal with large numbers of people in this state. The East coast had to have several rivers catch on fire (Mill Creek and the Potomac to name a couple), before they started considering environmental policy, we happen to be well ahead of schedule when it comes to cleaning up.

Here's another way that Texas compares the to the US as the US compares to the rest of the developed world. The US is sparsely populated and only recently settled in large numbers. Strictly speaking, it's more like "Texas:Northeast::Northeast:Europe," but you have to exaggerate to make a conceit work.

Racism: Personally I have never witnessed a lynching, never seen a KKK costume, and quite frankly I do not believe that I ever will. Again racism tends to be as prevalent here (which is to say rarely) as it is throughout the United States, its just a little more "glamorous" for the national news to capture it in the South.

If you're saying that a couple of Minnesotans could have dragged James Byrd Jr to pieces behind their pickup and the media wouldn't have played it up, the burden of proof is yours.

And don't tell me for a second that Norway hasn't had its share of racism, your past with the Russians speaks volumes.

The point about racism isn't that whites in the US are (or have been) more racist than whites in Europe (or than anyone else). It's rather that the divide between white and black is more definitive of the US experience than of the European experience, and more formative of the slave state experience than of the free state experience.

For example, England was a much more terrible offender in the slave industry than were the North American colonies or the US. English companies bought scads of slaves, all male, to work on their sugar plantations in the Caribbean. These companies fed the slaves starvation diets, and the slaves lived about 7 years after starting work. Someone had calculated that it was cheaper to buy replacement slaves than to feed slaves enough to live longer than that. Huge numbers of Africans were worked and starved to death by the English, many more than came to the States. But the issue of race is more central to US culture and identity than it is to English culture and identity. Not because folks in the States were any more racist or because our brand of slavery was any more terrible, but because we didn't work our slaves to death far from our own shores.

Remember that I said, "Racism is a defining feature of the US heritage," not that folks in the US are any more racist than anyone else.

Still, the racism issue is a bit of stretch, which is why that section of the rant is so weak. When trying to make a conceit work, you take some liberties.

Hmmm... I think that this is the end to my little spiel just final comments and a little suggestion. Why don't you actually come to Texas, see the place first-hand, and stop spouting off what everyone wants you to say and think.

I might do that. I have friends and colleagues in Texas, and I understand that Austin in particular is a cool place.

November 2002