Deep In The Heart of Texas

America’s Future is Texas, by Lawrence Wright, The New Yorker, July 10 &17, 2017:

“Texas is as politically divided as the rest of the U.S., but a recurrent crop of crackpots and ideologues has fed its reputation for proud know-nothingism and retrograde thinking”.
This is a cracker. And a must-read for political junkies and all who are fascinated and frightened by the absurdities of recent US politics”.

This is a cracker. And a must-read for political junkies and all who are fascinated and frightened by the absurdities of recent US politics.

I haven’t enjoyed a lengthy American “fly on the wall” opinion piece since Variety despatched a writer to spend time with Lyndsay Lohan on the set of the The Canyons, her doomed porno-thriller (in case you are tempted, and it is indeed a hoot, there’s a link to it below).

Lawrence Wright’s piece reads like a tragicomical dystopian thriller, and indeed, Thomas Pynchon and Michael Chabon would find some great storylines here. His tale becomes increasingly surreal as the author charts the passions, policies and personalities that collude and collide in this chronicle of the recent legislative session of Texas’ State House.

It is full of stories short and tall, quips and quotes, and daring and dastardly deeds that would be hilarious and worthy of the best political satires if only they were not actually true! An Austin newspaper columnist recounts the story of an absconding representative: the police “tracked him to earth at his momma’s house, where he was found hiding in the stereo cabinet.” She added, “He always did want to be the Speaker.” A wannabe Republican candidate for the State Board of Education posts on Facebook that Barack Obama had worked as a male prostitute in his twenties: “That is how he paid for his drugs,” she reasons, (and) went on to assert that climate change is a “ridiculous hoax,” and that dinosaurs are extinct because the ones on Noah’s Ark were too young to reproduce”. Another representative tweets: “Top priority for Travis GOP: beautiful Big Titty women!!” A former governor once said of then presidential nominee, George H. W. Bush. “He can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.” She wore designer suits but picked her teeth, and she cleaned her fingernails with a Swiss Army knife. Successively opposing the placing of a Christmas manger scene in the state capitol, she said ““I’m afraid so…and it’s a shame, because it’s about the only time we ever had three wise men in the capitol.”

These are a selection of the more anodyne tales. Many others are downright scary, and one shakes one head in disbelief at what legislators and elected officials think and do. To bowdlerize the Bard, “what brave, bad world that has such people in it”.

“Texans…are hardly monolithic. The state is as politically divided as the rest of the nation. One can drive across it and be in two different states at the same time: FM Texas and AM Texas. FM Texas is the silky voice of city dwellers, the kingdom of NPR. It is progressive, blue, reasonable, secular, and smug—almost like California. AM Texas speaks to the suburbs and the rural areas: Trumpland. It’s endless bluster and endless ads. Paranoia and piety are the main items on the menu”.

Accordingly, Wright presses all the red (and blue) buttons that inspire, ignite and implode, delight, dismay and divide US politics and society, including in no particular order:

Abortion, gender and toilets. Obamacare, health insurance, and death panels (rememeber those?). Public schools, vouchers, and toilets. Gerrymandering, voter registration and electoral fraud. Lobbyists, political donations, and corruption. Immigration, Muslims, latinos, and sanctuary cities. Guns of all calibers, mass-shootings and pig hunting. Budgets, appropriations, and toilets. Donald Trump, the religious right, and the liberal menace – and, yes, toilets. You have to read the article if you want to understand how things always seem to come back to the rest room.

Maternal mortality rates (up), foster-care and child protection (down). The Poo Poo Choo Choo (really!), texting whilst driving, the right to say Happy Christmas instead of Happy Holiday, and a proposed law to fine masturbation outside of a woman’s parts or of a medical faculty – “an act against an unborn child, and failing to preserve the sanctity of life”. There’s the heroes : William Travis, Sam Houston, Davy Crockett, and, naturally, the Alamo (see below). Famous Texans Willie Nelson, Marty Robbins, and Kinky Friedman (and his band, the Texas Jewboys) get cameos, and Bruce Springsteen, a passing reference. But no Jimmy Webb or Galveston (Wichita is in Kansas in case you ask, and Phoenix is in Arizona), whilst Oklahoma is a refuge for dissenting Democrat legislators. And, whatever “they” do, “don’t California Texas!”

You will be amazed and horrified in equal measure as Lawrence Wright connects these dizzying dots. I never thought that politics could be so exciting. It makes the schoolyard bluster and the minor party shenanigans of our Australian Parliament seem like Children’s Play Time.

As we often say DownUnder: “Only in America Texas!”

And for some light relief (no pun intended) here’s Lindsay Lohan’s adventures in PornoLand.

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