When I started writing this blog for my own entertainment and as a way to continue to exercise my right to free expression (and because I really wanted to continue exploring a voice for my writing), I very purposefully used "flyover" in the title. For me, it's partially descriptive of where I live. For my liberal friends in New York, California and Illinois, it's a pejorative, descriptive of rednecks and people with confederate stickers on their pickup truck windows.
Texas is my home and I have lived here as long as I've lived anywhere. My four boys were born here and they proudly consider themselves "natives" which is an interesting concept I haven't observed anywhere besides Alaska. In Alaska, you're either from there or the "lower 48". Here, many people, though intensely patriotic, consider themselves Texans first and Americans second. It's funny - we Jews often have our patriotism called into question for similar reasons. I live in Austin, which is fundamentally as liberal as any place I've ever lived: Lloyd Doggett, who exemplifies the need for term limits, represents most of the area with a voting record dispossessed of any independent streak. If Pelosi told him we needed to remove the body of Chris Kyle from the Texas State Cemetary because it offended the families killed by his sniping accuracy, he would hold a press conference tomorrow lamenting the colonial oppression Chris Kyle brought to bear on the citizens of Fallujah who suffered from insufficient employment options.
But unlike any other state in the Union (oh, boy - can I say Union?), the flag of Texas flies on many flagpoles without the Stars and Stripes in evidence. Even in Austin. It's a symbol of our singular status. It's a constant reminder that things are just a little bit different here. In many ways, particularly sociologically, we're basically saying that we don't really give a crap about dealing with challenging issues in some diluted way that suits a national consensus, we'll figure out what works for the majority of Texans, and the country be damned. I understand why that would offend a lot of people, especially those in Marin or Fairfield Counties. But we believe that people in Marin and Fairfield are convinced that they know much better than we what's best for us, and we know with equal conviction that people in those counties are elitist snobs who would be terrified to find themselves in Gun Barrel City because the nearest Four Seasons is all the way in Houston.
Ok, we did just pass open carry legislation. You are going to be able to walk down Congress Avenue in Austin with a pistol on full display. I'm willing to concede that part of that was intended to show the Marin and Fairfield people that the can stick their restrictive gun control where the sun don't shine (cause it obviously doesn't reduce violent crime perpetrated with firearms), but it was also intended to scare them and keep them the hell away from us.
This place is the friendliest, most pleasant place imaginable where most people (except those with California or Connecticut tags) will yield to you in traffic, where people make eye contact and say hello, where "please" and "thank you" are still commonly employed, where people hold doors open for one another, and when people ask you about your kids they really want to know how your kids are.
Oh, Jesus, my Marin and Fairfield friends will say; there you go again rhapsodizing about an America that "was". That was lilly white, that had no black president, that loved fossil fuels, that didn't provide universal health care, that had different bathrooms for men and women, yadda, yadda yadda. That America is dead and gone. Hallelujah!
I can't speak for the vast territory incorporated into the flyover, but in Texas, there are lively vestiges of that "was" America still thriving and cultivating a culture that embraces individuality, that still tells kids it's okay to play outside until the sun starts to go down and where driving on the shoulder isn't done because driving on the shoulder isn't done. You can still eat an occasional french fry here, a 64 ounce Big Gulp is not recommended, but isn't illegal, and we love a nasty US - Mexico soccer game
because it's big brother vs little brother (you can determine which is which).
Do we want more border security? Does a chupacabra shit in the desert? We must have more border security. But despite the prejudicial generalizations made about us, we have a provincial melting pot that pervades all society here. We all argue - Anglo, Latino, whatever - about where to find the best ethnic foods, regardless of derivation. We all love - and are willing to sample - the rich availability of music here. The Texas I love treasures its traditions and embraces its cultural heritage. It's not the America that "was"; it's really the America that will be if the politicians don't fuck it up. Lower taxes, smaller government, reasonable business regulation, cultural diversity. Arguably, the most successful and attractive state in the Union.
Happy 4th, people! Back to argumentative, divisive politics tomorrow!