I recently did something that I vowed never to do – I went to Texas. My sister-in-law lives in Houston and was getting married, making it a completely unavoidable occurrence. The people were friendly, the barbecue was tasty (although inferior to my native Carolinian barbecue), and it was an all around nice place to be.
The trip alleviated many of the strange fears I have about the former Republic of Texas and its citizens. More importantly, though, it reminded me of a piece I had written about Texas for The Snowflake Effect that didn’t make the final edit. To commemorate the monumental occasion of surviving my first trip to Texas, I decided to dig into my rough drafts and post the piece for your enjoyment.
Here it is. Enjoy it. Or don’t:
Texas – the state special enough that it was once a country. This is a fact that pretty much every citizen of Texas brings up during every conversation they have with a non-Texan. It might actually be the law, I’m not quite sure.
Until recently, I had an irrational and crippling fear of Texas. The majority of this can be attributed to a series of documentaries shown in my undergraduate Forensic Psychology course, all of which seemed to focus on people who had been wrongfully accused of something horrible in Texas and then spent decades in prison. All of these people were not from Texas, which is important because it leads me to believe that if you are a non-Texan, and do anything in Texas, you run the risk of being imprisoned for rape and/or murder. Even worse, once evidence clears you of the crime, Texas may simply ignore it and keep you incarcerated until the federal court system intervenes.
Paranoia aside, Texas is a unique place within the United States in many ways. It has its own culture and norms, and has been impacted by the Self-Esteem Movement in a unique way as well. Instead of the blindingly obvious individual effects that I spend most of my time pointing out, the entire cultural mindset of Texas has been impacted in a more pervasive way.
Texans love to remember that they used to be a country, and many of them love to suggest they give it another shot. They are special because they are Texans, and Texans don’t need the support of the federal government to remain industrialized and self-sustaining. They can become their own country, which makes them special since no other states included this in their constitutions.
Of course, it is important to point out that Texas renounced its right to secession from the union in 1866, which really takes the wind out of their sails. Furthermore, Texans tend to omit the colossal failure and atrocity that was their last attempt at being a country. They will ignore these things and construct a cultural reality that makes them special by regional association.
The citizens of Texas have decided that they are special because Texas considers itself to be an extraordinarily special place. This circular logic does not seem strange to Texans, just as similar logic seems sensible to my Southern brethren.
I have yet to meet a person from Texas (or who has lived there for any extended period of time) that has not tried to convince me (usually at length) that Texas is the best of these United States. These people often appear to be personally upset when I tell them that I have precisely no interest in Texas or living there. I happen to think that my home state of North Carolina is the best place in America, but at least I have the decency to recognize and admit that this is kind of xenophobic, and also entirely untrue for a variety of reasons.
Texas is, and always will be its own animal. Contrary to popular belief, Texas is not a part of the South. Texas is Texas. The citizens of Texas are extremely proud of their heritage. It is very much the same kind of unfounded pride that Southerners tend to have about their own heritage. Where they differ is the bit about humility.
Southern culture has generally encouraged stoic humility and displaying pride through actions and respect. Texas seems to have taken a markedly different approach. Their pride is very outward, aggressive, and verbal. While there may be many cultural similarities between the two regions due to proximity, hardship, or any number of other factors, the values of the South keep us from being proud of our heritage in quite the same outspoken way that Texans can be.
We tend to have a strong sense of community in the South. Texas has that as well, but their value is less about the community itself, and more about their community being better than everywhere else. It doesn’t snow all that often in Texas, but there sure seem to be a lot of snowflakes wandering around the Lone Star State.
If you enjoyed this post, there is a whole chapter about region in The Snowflake Effect. A preemptive word of warning – I spend most of the time talking about how awesome the South is, and I’m not sorry about that at all.