Sep
11

I Am A Proud Texan

By David

When I was about ten years old, I was having a conversation with my grandfather about all the wondrous places I would visit when I grew up. I talked, in particular, about Australia and told him that I might even move there. Other than kangaroos and koalas, I’m sure I knew nothing about Australia. But, I was gonna live there.

Texas-flagHe thought about this for a moment, as he sucked on his pipe. We sat in a wooden park bench type swing that hung by two chains from the ceiling of his front porch. This is where he came every afternoon to smoke his pipe and to heckle passersby on the sidewalk. Finally, after he’d analyzed my announcement over a few draws on the pipe, he said, “Mike,” (back then I was still called Mike) “you’re a Texan.”

“I know.” I said, wondering what this had to do with our discussion. “Well,” he continued, “you’re a Texan and there’s not a goddamn thing you can do about it.” He puffed on the pipe a little more. “Now, you can go to Australia if you want to. And you can even stay there. Live there for the rest of your life. But if you do, and even if you live to be a hundred, when somebody asks you where home is, you’ll still say Texas.” He could see that I didn’t really understand. “Now, I can’t tell you why that’s true,” he said, “only that it is.”

Well, Bampa was right. At first glance, it doesn’t make much sense that he was right. Thirty-four of my sixty years have been spent in California. My personal history has been written mostly outside of Texas. But my tribal history, my ancestral history, going all the way back to 1836, is in Texas. Almost all of the places in this world that I revere are in Texas. When I meet another Texan, in any part of the world, we are instantly kindred. And when asked where I’m from, I still say “Texas.” And so, in that light, my grandfather wasn’t really the whacked-out old coot that I thought he was on that day, fifty years ago.

Texans, in exile or not, take Texas personally. We indulge in unearned glory when a fellow Texan accomplishes something good, or when some great event takes place in Texas. More so, I think, than citizens of other states, and I’m no exception. When we’re dismissed by the uninformed as crackers and rednecks, I hasten to point out that Texas has produced Nobel laureates, presidents, astronauts, renowned writers and thinkers, musicians and composers, scientists and statesmen. And, of course, the multiple Super Bowl winning Dallas Cowboys. I name names. I cite dates. And I point out these things as if they are somehow proof that I’m not a redneck. Insecurity anyone?

Conversely, when some uncommonly abhorrent thing happens in Texas, or is committed by a Texan, we all feel the weight of it. In 1963, when Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy, there was outrage and despair throughout the country and the world. But nowhere was the pain more sharply felt than in Texas. It is a stain on our legacy that will live as long as the heroics at the Alamo.

In 1998, when James Byrd, Jr. was dragged to his death by chains behind a pickup truck in Jasper, Texas, we again found ourselves in the same ugly spotlight. That this could happen at the dawn of the twenty-first century was a shock. That it happened in the United States was a national humiliation. That it had taken place in Texas made my heart ache.

Now, there are a handful of preachers, none from Texas as far as I know, praying for the death of Barack Obama. These are men of God, ordained ministers in the Southern Baptist Convention praying for, and urging their congregations to pray for, The President of the United States to “get brain cancer and die, and go to hell.” These loathsome appeals are being echoed from pockets of the lunatic fringe everywhere, some even from Texas.

I confess that I am not a “person of faith” and I’m certainly no biblical scholar. But I’ve still got a few snippets of vacation bible school floating around on some small island of my brain, and I’m pretty sure this is not the kind of divine intervention Jesus would have led his congregation to pray for. And I have to ask, how is this different from any fatwa, issued by any ayatollah, that calls for a death as retribution for sins against Islam? Why is radical Christianity less scary to us than radical Islam?

Meanwhile, on the steps of the capitol in Austin, several hundred people gathered to assail the president as a socialist, a communist, a nazi and worse, and to demand that Texas secede from the United States. As their justification, they perverted the U.S. Constitution and the Holy Bible into a twisted and unintelligible rationalization that should make Texans and Christians everywhere cringe. While I know it appears that I’m conflating these two issues, I realize they are separate. It does seem, however, that they encompass many, though not all, of the same people.

I guess my question about all of this is; where is the outrage? Why aren’t we disgusted, or at least angry. Remember 2003, when Natalie Maines told a concert audience that she was “embarrassed” by George W. Bush? We were shocked, revolted, and appalled. This was the President of the United States she was talking about, and you just don’t do that! Never mind that an entire cottage industry had sprung up, during the previous presidency, dedicated solely to the hourly bashing of the democratically elected president.

We held rallies. We burned tapes and CDs. We flooded radio stations with phone calls and threatened boycotts. We bombarded the Dixie Chicks with hate mail and death threats. We unleashed the demagogues of right wing talk radio to smite them down, and we would be satisfied with nothing less than the de facto end of their careers. We hadn’t seen so much shit hit the fan since John Lennon compared the Beatles to Christ! And we would not rest easy until we had taken their livelihood away from them. Then, we heaved a collective sigh of relief, and basked in the glow of a job well done. The irony here, of course, is it only took another year or two before most of us were embarrassed by George W. Bush.

So, now that we have members of a mainstream Christian religion praying for the death of the president, and angry mobs threatening violence, if necessary, to gain independence for Texas as a sovereign republic, where is our outrage? The strongest response I’ve seen from the Southern Baptist Convention only says that this kind of thinking is outside the mainstream of their beliefs. That’s really good to know, but it’s hardly a condemnation, and the governor of Texas has embraced the right wing secessionist loons for fear of losing their votes. Where is our anger, or at the very least, our embarrassment?

If you’re a Baptist, you should be embarrassed by these people. If you’re a Christian, you should be embarrassed by these people. If you are a person of any faith, you should be embarrassed by these people. If you’re a person of conscience, if you’re a proud citizen of Texas, or of this country, or the world, you should be embarrassed by these people!

So, yes, Bampa turned out to be right. I’m a Texan, and there’s not a goddamn thing I can do about it.
But I have to tell you, as a Texan, I’m embarrassed.

David Perkins

Comments

  1. Nick Calvert says:

    Where do you get this information? I live in Hurst, Texas, watch as much news as the next guy, but I have never heard of people getting together to pray for the death of our President. If this is happening and I heard it I would be outraged.

    I have always thought that the President of the United States should be respected. I was upset when hateful people said cruel untruthful things about President George W. Bush. This was done by democrats in congress, commentators for CNN and MSNBC, and other well known liberals. I am against some of President Obama’s policy, not the man.

    Let’s stick to the facts and present intelligent arguments, instead of lies and hateful name calling.

    I’m proud to be an American, privileged to be a Texan and lucky to have graduated from Azle High School.

  2. David says:

    I’m sorry you were offended, Nick. That wasn’t my intention. I wasn’t calling anyone hateful names, unless you count “secessionist loons,” which I consider an accurate portrayal, and nothing in my post was a lie. I was just asking if calling the president a Nazi, or a communist, didn’t deserve as much outrage as calling him an “embarrassment?” Apparently it doesn’t.

    I also pointed out that the prominent preachers praying for his death were not from Texas. Reverend Steven Anderson is in Phoenix, Reverend Wiley Drake is in Buena Park, California, and was Alan Keyes’ vice-presidential running mate in 2008. Peter Peters ministers to the La Porte, Colorado Church of Christ. They have implored people of faith, from their pulpits, to pray for the death of Barack Obama. And, yes, they have been in the news. In my opinion this should be, at least, embarrassing to people of faith.

    And finally, if you explore the news a little beyond the local tv broadcasts and cable news outlets, you’ll find that there are a lot of people out there who agree with these three pastors. Some of them, but not all (as I said in my post) are also avid secessionists.

    These people all have the right to say what they are saying. You have the right not to be offended by it, as you have the right to be offended by my pointing it out. I was only saying that I, as an American and a Texan, am embarrassed.

  3. Nick Calvert says:

    David, I was not offended at all. That wasn’t my point at all. It’s just that the office of the President should be respected not matter who was elected. The people you noted are not people I will ever admire or follow. I think you are a fairly level headed guy with a different slant on things. Your rants are ones I can accept. Let’s just not have different rules for the political parties.

    I mean it was okay for Pres. Clinton to have sex in the White House with young girl, but it’s not okay for Pres. Bush to have drank too much 25 years ago. I like you, David, I think you are witty and I have enjoyed our being reunited on facebook. (that’s not gay is it?) (not that being gay is bad) (I mean I like gay people) (like I have friends who are gay)

  4. David says:

    :-)
    Thank you, Nick. I think. And hardly anyone thinks you’re gay.

    If my comments sound partisan, they were not intended as such, and you make one of the same points I did; if a Democrat does it, and it’s worthy of outrage, then it has to be worthy of outrage when a Republican does it. I would be just as upset by a call to pray for George Bush’s death, or if he were branded a nazi. I didn’t vote for him, and I disagreed with him politically, but I did not wish him ill, and I did not pray for his death, and I did not advocate my state leaving the United States to remedy his handling of the federal government.

    I waited until the next election, and I did what I could to see that his successor would not keep us going in the same direction. That’s the way this system is supposed to work. It’s the way it’s worked for over two hundred years. We have to find a way to remove hate from our public policy discussion. We can’t survive this forever.

  5. Candy says:

    David,
    You are a brilliant writer…and yes, I really said that!!

  6. Jackie Messick Grayson says:

    David,

    You are a wonderful writer and I enjoy reading your opinions. HOWEVER, there were a few people (from your state of California) when President George Bush was re-elected who said if he were elected they would move out of this country. As far as I know they are still here and never left. I did not vote for this President, but say a prayer every night that God will give him strength and honor and insight for every decision he makes. He is our Commander in Chief right now, and although I do not agree with all he does, he is in charge and I will respect his office.

    No person who is a true Christian would pray for anyone to die. We should pray for God’s will to be done. Since today is 9-11 I suggest, before we talk too much trash about George W, that we remember back 8 years ago when a fairly newly elected President pulled this Country together in a very trying time. He did not always do what everyone wanted, but he did his best, as I am sure President Obama will do his best (althought some will not agree).

    Let’s face it, YOU CAN’T PLEASE ALL THE PEOPLE ALL THE TIME. Still true today. Thanks for all your wonderful writing. I will look forward to more, and I am still proud that you are a TEXAN along with your Bampa!!!

    Sincerely,
    Jackie

  7. David says:

    Thanks, Jackie, for your comments. If you read anything in my post that was “trash” about George Bush, then I’m not nearly as good a writer as you suggest. I wasn’t trying to criticize George Bush.

    I was decrying the response to Natalie Maines’ comment in comparison to the current response to the death prayers and the nazi label. I was criticizing US, the American people, for not having the same sense of outrage this time around. If someone said they were embarrassed by Barack Obama, you wouldn’t hear a peep from me. It’s your right to be embarrassed by him. It’s your right to vehemently disagree with him. It’s your right to dislike him.

    And while some people on the left suggested they would leave this country if Bush was elected to a second term, none that I heard suggested they would take up arms against the federal government to take our state and move out. If individuals, Democrat or Republican, choose to leave this country because of its leadership, rather than staying and trying to change what they don’t like by contributing from within the system, that’s fine. We don’t need them. But raising the threat of armed rebellion and secession is not okay, and the people who do it are an embarrassment to the rest of us, as is the pandering governor who won’t tell them they have crossed the line.

    It is everyone’s right to disagree with any elected official. It’s what makes this system function. A system without disagreement and debate is a dangerous system indeed. It’s the hatred, and the specter of violence, that need to be removed, not the dissent.

  8. Kevin C says:

    David – you’re an excellent writer (I wasn’t sure if I had to start my post by saying that, but I included it just in case).

    Historically, my greatest complaint about the Democratic Party as a whole is their complete inability to get collectively angry about anything.

    Imagine if you will the following scenario: George W. Bush goes before a joint session of Congress to discuss Weapons of Mass Destruction that the CIA have linked to Iraq. As he mentions the phrase “yellow cake uranium”, John Kerry points his finger at the dais and screams “You liar!”. Now imagine the next 24 hours.

    The Republican Party would have mobilized swiftly and decisively. Everything on the Congressional docket would have been instantly swept aside to make room for censure hearings. Pulpits, bully and otherwise, would have called for Kerry’s removal from office, or worse. The entire business of running this country would have taken a backseat to moral outrage, which would only have subsided with Kerry’s resignation, or the outcome of the next general election.

    The Republican Party knows their opponent so well that they know that they have carte blanche to say what they want, do what they want, with full knowledge that there will be absolutely no repercussions from their actions. They can talk about blue dresses and swift boats and birth certificates and death panels from here to forever, and the one great constant through it all is the sound of crickets coming from the other side of the aisle.

    The other thing that the Republicans know well is the collective ADD of the American people. Nobody in Congress cared about Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky (Newt Gingrich was having an affair with his secretary while he conducted impeachment hearings), but they all knew that they could keep the American people distracted by something exciting like a sex scandal long enough to derail any meaningful legislation that the White House was proposing (like, say, health care reform). Ever since Lee Atwater, Republicans win elections, not by going negative, but by going into left field. They find a piece of information, or misinformation, grab hold of it like a rabid pit bull, and won’t let go until the election is over. And why? Because they know they’ll never hear one peep of moral outrage from anyone.

    That’s where death panels came from. Nobody with a brain thinks that any health care reform package will include a provision for telling you to go die in an elephant graveyard when the actuarial table says it’s time for you to go. But what they all know is that those two simple words managed to take what should have been an incredibly short discussion on a fairly straightforward proposal and single-handedly turn it into months and months of pointless town hall meetings and meaningless speeches (and occasional finger biting). Not because they’re worried about their grandmothers, but because Prudential and Aetna and Blue Cross and HealthNet contribute billions to political coffers, and they’re the only ones on the planet who actually like the status quo.

    And they all knew that the President in his long-winded but heartfelt address would never look at the camera and say, “Just so you know, when people talk to you about death panels, they don’t want you to know the facts. They just want you to be really scared. They’re using a tactic we call LYING TO YOU.”

    Instead, he stood calmly and let a Republican yell at him and steal the spotlight.

  9. David says:

    Yo, Dude. You’re harshin’ my mellow again. :-)

  10. Kent Perkins says:

    David, as always I enjoy reading your written words. You have a lot of talent for that. I actually think you may have missed a calling in that area.

    I take exception with your viewpoint on this, however. Texas is a big place. For every right wing nut wishing death on Obama there is an opposing force wishing death to Bush.

    Lenny Bruce said one time, “Show me a guy who grabs an 8 year old girl, rapes her, and kills her, and I’ll show you a guy with a wonderful Christian upbringing.” That may be a little harsh, but I understand his, and your, disgust with so-called Christians. I’ve always thought most organized religion was really about the money, and from what I see on TV, it’s even more so now than it was when that opinion was formed in the 60s.

    Another great American, Ross Perot said, “When a man walks in my office and starts talking religion, I put my hand on my wallet and keep it there ’till he’s gone.” Another great quote, and I agree.

    I wasn’t embarrassed to be a Texan in 1963 when an idiot with a gun in a book warehouse killed America’s innocence. I wasn’t embarrassed to be a Texan when a guy named Whitman with a lot of merit badges and good grades climbed a tower at the University of Texas and killed 28 people in cold blood. I wasn’t embarrassed to be a Texan when the Beef Council sued Oprah Winfrey for disparaging hamburger meat, or when Anne Richards referred to our President in sarcastic tones as “Poor George…he cain’t hep it…he was born with’a silver foot’n he’s mouth!”

    I was only embarrassed to be a Texan when Tony Romo blew that overtime last year.

    Love and hugs from a real big fan, David…

  11. Tere says:

    I’m not a Texan, but I live here and some of the people I love best live here too (or are from here). I am a Christian. I do believe the President should be respected because he is President no matter his party affiliation. If anyone doesn’t like whose in the office, then wait 4 years and do your part to change it…and I intend to do exactly that. In the meantime…

    I agree with some of what you have written, but probably not for the same reasons. I’m disappointed and discouraged when Christians get caught up in their free will and forget what the bible says…We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. It doesn’t say that some may have sinned less or not as grievously, it says “all have sinned…”(Romans 3:23) No one sin is worse than another. We all have potential to live God-honoring lives, but our humanity gets in the way…a lot. That’s really the reason that Jesus came in the first place.

    I don’t know that I’m outraged by people praying for someone (anyone) to die and go to hell. It’s disturbing and morbid. It’s disgraceful. It’s 180 degrees from the whole bible. God’s desire is to have each and every human being (past, present and future) with Him in heaven. Hell wasn’t created for humans, unfortunately some of us will end up there despite His best efforts. We were born broken and bent toward sin, so is it a surprise when people do outrageous things in the name of God, Allah, Shiva, Jehovah, Mother Nature or (insert deity here)? I would say that my spirit is pained by Christians who have run a muck in their free will, because it isn’t God-honoring or loving. It also seems that all Christians are then defined by those few “loons”. I am not embarrassed by them if you mean I should feel shame for their actions. That is their sin issue that they will stand before God with…I have plenty of my own. I believe God will discipline them (and me) appropriately in His own time and how He chooses, like every good parent disciplines the child they love. I am embarrassed because things like this take the focus away from Jesus. This just gives Satan a foothold in so many people’s hearts keeping them in bondage to a lie.

    Maybe those pastors and “secessionist loons” are angry and frustrated about how far so many are from God, and in their imperfect conditions they choose highly inappropriate and extreme ways to express that frustration. I can understand their frustration, but (like you said) violence and hatred are never the answer. I believe the answer is God, and specifically Jesus, because He is Love.

    We are fortunate to live in this country where we can have this debate in a public forum. You don’t have to agree with me and I don’t have to agree with you. We do have to listen and not condemn beliefs not shared. I will continue to pray for you to become a “person of faith”, because that’s what you were created to be…you can believe that or not. And you can continue to think I’m…well, whatever it is you think I am. :) Thanks for challenging me to know what I believe and not to be ashamed of who I am in Christ!

  12. David says:

    Thank you, Tere. I’m sure I can use all the help I can get. But I think I’ll continue to be outraged by some behavior. It’s who I am.

  13. David says:

    Once again, Kent, you’ve managed to plow through my long tome only to miss every point I was trying to make. So, maybe my writing is not really all that good. But thanks for reading it anyway.

  14. Kent Perkins says:

    David, I didn’t miss your point at all.

    I just chose to ignore it.

    Don’t be upset if I take a diverse route, segue or not, to whatever is on my mind… I have a bad case of A.D.D. and claim immunity under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

  15. David says:

    I do not harbor disgust for Christians. Some of my best friends are Christians. I do, however, have great disgust for those who would wrap themselves in the flag, raise the Bible as a scepter, and then lead others to very unpatriotic and unchristian acts. Men who claim to follow Jesus, and have been entrusted to lead others on the path to Jesus’ teachings, abuse that trust when they call their followers to pray for the death, rather than the redemption, of anyone. President or not.

    If you’re never embarrassed by the acts of others, I envy you. I think. But, since you’re so fond of little homespun analogies, let me pose one for you.

    Let’s suppose that you and your entire family are invited to meet someone that all of you truly respect and admire. We can even go back in time, and say that you’ve all been invited to a reception at the White House to personally meet Ronald Reagan. You get all dressed up in your best western suit, you get some new boots, and you head to the executive mansion for your audience with the great communicator.

    Everything’s going just great. You’re enjoying your schmooze with the president, and he likes you and you like him, but suddenly your brother walks over to the buffet and takes a leak in the punch bowl. To your disbelief, he’s peeing in the presidential punch right in full view of everyone, even the gipper. Now, if you’re not embarrassed by the actions of your brother, you have an astounding ability to detach yourself from your surroundings, and I don’t know if that’s admirable, or sad. But one thing it is for sure, is unusual.

    My point is this; those yahoos on the capitol steps in Austin are pissing in the punch bowl, and they should embarrass any Texan who finds that kind of behavior reprehensible.

  16. Kent Perkins says:

    David, I think if anyone’s entitled to be called the Great Communicator, it might just be David Perkins. You make very good points. But it’s not an apples to apples comparison; the punchbowl issue would reflect directly upon my immediate family. If a Texan did it, other than my brother (you have a hyperbolic reflex tendency when making points!), I would be outraged and offended by the behavior but not embarrassed to be a Texan. That’s my point.

    Don’t tread on me.

    Let’s be friends and talk about something about which we both soundly agree!

    How bout them Cowboys?

  17. David says:

    See. I’m actually not a very good communicator. You shouldn’t be embarrassed about who you are. You should be embarrassed that your brother is someone who would foul the punch bowl.

    I’ve never said that I was, or thought you should be, embarrassed to be a Texan. I’m embarrassed that they are Texans.

    And, by the way, I’m taking Nexium. So my hyperbolic reflex is well under control.

  18. Kent Perkins says:

    After re-reading the article, it was more of a slam against the religious right and not at all a statement of embarrassment about being a Texan. I get half my exercise jumping to conclusions.

    I do agree with Nick Calvert that I’d never heard of any prayer groups in America praying for the President to die. That’s disgusting.

    However, it’s hyperbolic to compare them, apples to apples, with Muslim radical ministers calling for a death fatwa against Americans. It’s not the same, at all. As bad as it is to pray for someone to die, it’s something else to order that death to be carried out by a loyal church member as an act of Godliness, as the Muslim radicals do. I saw a video of a fine young American yelling and gurgling on his own blood as a religious Muslim radical slit his throat and then proceeded to cut his head completely off in the name of Allah. Don’t tell me that’s no worse than some yo-yo radical rogue Baptist praying for the President to get cancer. There is a difference. Both are bad, but for Christ’s sake, there’s no comparison, David.

    That’s like Nancy Pelosi saying she’s going to drain the swamp and get rid of the culture of corruption in Washington, and then having her Head of the House Ways and Means Committee committing multiple tax fraud, failing to report more than half his income for a number of years, and her refusal to even mention it.

    There are right wing hypocrites and left wing hypocrites, but you guys are doing your fair share in that department.

    As for the ministers praying for Obama to die… I hope they get their ignorant asses run over my a stray bookmobile. And you can quote me on that.

  19. David says:

    Kent, it wasn’t even a slam against the religious right. There are good, sane Christians in the religious right. The people I was talking about have hijacked Christianity in the same way muslim terrorists have hijacked Islam, and the fact that you’ve never heard of them doesn’t make them any less dangerous. Try Google.

    Reverend Wiley Drake, in Buena Park, California, also openly prayed for the death of Dr. George Tiller, and implored his congregation to do the same. When one of his whacked-out followers finally took the hint and shot Dr. Tiller dead, while he was praying in his church, Reverend Drake hailed it as God’s answer to his prayers. Murder in the name of God is religious terrorism, no matter who your god is. When someone finally takes a shot at President Obama, Reverend Drake will get to publicly rejoice but, legally, his hands will be clean. I fail to see any difference between Reverend Drake and the Ayatollah Khomeini, except their god.

    A person of faith who is willing to bomb a women’s clinic in the name of his god is no less a terrorist than the men who flew airplanes into the World Trade Center. It’s only a matter of scale and technology. They all believe they are right, and that their god will reward them for what they have done.

    If you, again, somehow manage to interpret this as a slam against Christians, then I am a poor communicator indeed. Or you are a poor listener.

  20. Kent says:

    This is a watershed moment: We agree that the right wing nut who kills an abortionist is just as bad as a Muslim radical killing an American.

    ******

    We probably don’t agree that the late-term abortionist is just as bad as the 2 people in the previous sentence. Not that he needs killing… but then again, neither do viable fetuses that have to be poked in the head with a pair of scissors to make sure they’re successfully prevented from taking that first breath. But that’s another topic.

    I’ve never understood why those pro-abortion are almost always against the death penalty for adults who commit mass murder. I don’t see how they square those two things.

    But back to your prior paragraph… I’m glad we finally agree, totally, on that.

    At least we agree on something. There’s hope!

    And, importantly, I’m still a huge David Perkins fan.

  21. Jerry Owens says:

    David, I can’t believe I just read a reply to you from Jackie Messick…. :)

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