OBSERVATIONS Austin The editor recently wrote about the symposium at the Johnson Library in Austin on Texas in transition, and the New Yorker, in its `!Talk of the Town” tion to my remarks from the floor during that event. Perhaps the text of what I said, which was written, may be of interest to our readers. AS A TEXAN I relish our retention of our pride, our history, and our specialness as a state and a place, and I believe in the work of addressing and trying to reduce our social and political difficulties. The most significant effect of present events upon us, however, is the disappearance of our separateness, the end of our insularity. When our political forebears took Texas away from the Mexicans, there were no telephones or cars. When Lyndon Johnson brought electricity to the hill country, there were no televisions or atomic bombs. When we started the Texas Observer, there was no integration, no civil rights movement, no real environmental movement, no real feminist movement, no real peace movement. And now we are all vulnerable to instant death, delivered through our spreading Texas sky by our fellow human beings in the oceans and in the Soviet Union, as the Soviets are vulnerable to instant death we might launch from our ocean-ranging submarines or our missile silos deep in the American earth. There is much that is serious, valuable, and worthwhile, but there can also be something almost quaint, our talking about “Texas in transition,” when the overriding question for any of us, Texans or Polynesians, is whether there will be anything to transition to. If we could simply choose what transition to be in, I would choose that \(while preserving and celebrating our uniqueness as a state and working together on our present chances and ourselves as if our Texas borders in any way protect us from television, refugees, hungry and unemployed Mexican workers, revolutions, tourists, terrorists, domestic monopolies, the international oil cartel, wars in Lebanon or Angola or Nicaragua, or missiles in Russia. Texans, we are Americans. Americans, we are human beings. That is the real transition that is happening, and should be. But this is hard for us to accept, and even more difficult for us to enjoy, because the essence of our idea of ourself of Texas as a culture is independence; but the meaning of interdependence for this key self-idea of ours is penetration, or, to be exact, our being penetrated. Penetrated by national commerce, penetrated by news we don’t want to be, much less to know about, penetrated by foreign people’s prob How could we expect our politics to be separate any more, when every day of our Texas lives is blown apart by the wild winds of the world? lems, penetrated by fear of enemy missiles that can dig deep into us and explode us. I would say that the overarching challenge to us, in this transition, is to try to bring into being among each other a new kind of independence, not the independence of the truculent macho provincial that most of our leading politicians exploit, but the independence of the modern realist, an independence that extends to both genders, that is human and in the whole world, never nostalgicly jingoistic. Among the virtues of the first order, in this new kind of independence, should be humility. Certainly humility is the virtue most required if we undertake to foresee, or try to foresee, for example, the future shape of Texas politics. Who could foresee in 1977 that the next year Bill Clements would take the statehouse away from the Democrats, who had owned it since Reconstruction? Who could foresee in 1981 that, the next year, the state would nevertheless elect to statewide office three Democrats of varying hues of liberalism and one populist Democrat who is fully worthy of progressive populism’s origins a century earlier in the Texas hill country? Who in 1979 could foresee that the ensuing year Ronald Reagan would sweep the state with 65 percent and carry many other Republicans into office? Who could foresee last year that the multipurposed breakdown of the international oil cartel would devastate our regional economy and carelessly and indifferently jeopardize the Democratic governor’s re-election? Yet there are among us today a small clan of swamis who tell us Texas is basically conservative, and thus in effect permanently Republican, as if the members of this clan had the crystal ball monopoly. The future shape of Texas politics depends on the world. It depends on what happens to George Bush, or Jack Kemp, or Bob Dole, or Mario Cuomo, or Lee Iacocca, or who else, in the 1988 presidential election, which in turn may well depend on whether the American people awaken to the fact that President Reagan is deliberately sabotaging and torpedoing this generation’s best chance for a halt to the suicidal nuclear arms race. Or it may depend on whether the national economy is up or down. Or it may depend, as the 1980 election did, on what some tyrant like Khaddafi or Khomeini or Hassad is doing to kidnapped Americans. Or it may depend_ on Reagan’s war, by then, in Nicaragua, and the second American civil convulsion in two decades. It is much less likely to depend on whether we get the Alamo flag back from Mexico, than on whether the Sandinista government turns out to be Leninist, or not. How could we expect our politics to be separate anymore, when every day of our Texas lives is blown apart by the wild winds of the world? A couple of the panelists today seem to me to have been soliciting obeisance to the Texas, and the Western, myths. One of these, and the central one, after all, is what Diana Hobby called “the masculine myth of heroic violence.” Historians of Texas who celebrate that very myth, like T.H. Fehrenbach, must answer for the effects of celebration in the future, as we must, also, if we do not challenge it when we meet together. But, then, another of the virtues of the first order, in this new kind of Texas consciousness, this Texas-in-the-world The End of Insularity By Ronnie Dugger THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5
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