Secession: More Than a Texas Tall Tale

texas

Unlike the jokes that claim Texas is populated solely by oil millionaires and lone tumbleweeds, the Texas independence movement is no tall tale. Supporters of secession are real and their numbers are growing.

That Texans exaggerate things, and that the rest of the world stretches the truth about Texas itself, is undeniable: as the stereotype would have it, everyone in Texas is an oil millionaire or a cattleman (or both), rattlesnakes and cactus are ubiquitous, and the weather is universally hot, dry, and dusty, with a sprinkling of tumbleweeds.

Texas’ nearly thirty million inhabitants can quickly confirm, of course, that oil tycoons are rare, that the weather is a great deal more than its reputation permits, and that, thankfully, tumbleweeds refuse to grow most places south of Abilene. Yet this amusing but inaccurate stereotype remains, as if it were a statewide inside joke or a reference to a Hollywood comedy that refuses to die.

However, there is one aspect of the Texas reputation that is verifiably true: Texas pride and Texas’ very real, very active independence movement.

The Texas Nationalist Movement has over 200,000 supporters, with approximately 20,000 joining those ranks since June 1, 2015.

For those who have not thoroughly examined the facts and explored their implications, Texas standing as its own nation does indeed seem like farcical folklore, originating in the joking pride and boundless imagination of a self-obsessed culture.

Although many are tempted to downplay the existence of a serious independence movement and dismiss it as another Texas joke, its ideology, its “boots on the ground,” its logic, and the hope it offers Texans cannot be ignored—just as the glaring problems with the current federal system cannot be imagined out of existence.

Supporters of Texas independence are real, they are multiplying, and they are no local legend or stereotype. Furthermore, they have a good chance of succeeding in their mission, a chance that gets even better if you help them.

Look to the future.

The United States’ past, although riddled with bullet holes and strewn with unfulfilled promises, is often shown through an idyllic lens: memories of mom and pop stores, fond recollections of prosperous times and simple pleasures, stories of America’s greatest individuals and their victories for freedom and justice. But this is a one-sided view to take, one that not only neglects to show the tragedies and pitfalls of past eras but also covers up the inconvenient reality that America is not what it once was.

For the past 150 years, and the past 60 years in particular, government intrusion and spending have risen exponentially. States rights have all but vanished, destroying the Founders’ vision of a federation of independent nations; government debt has risen to wholly unsustainable levels; federal intervention in energy, healthcare, and transportation industries has resulted in an unstable system that constantly requires “reform,” stifles progress, is unable to meet demand, and consumes a massive—and unprecedented—percentage of the United States’ GDP. The United States has become an economic, political, and social quagmire that threatens to destroy Texas entirely.

Nostalgic memories of the past are usually inaccurate, but they are also not repeatable: they cannot be relived, and they especially cannot be relived in Washington’s shadow. Clinging to a perishing system, waving an American flag on a sinking ship, is no longer the answer.

The only chance for a bright future comes in creating it, and right now Texans have the opportunity to choose independence.

Originally published here. 

The Logically Deficient Basis of Pure Conservatism

This Tory poster, made for the 1951 general election, called for change and the end of "war socialism." But Tories (British conservatives) would change themselves entirely over the next sixty years.

This Tory poster, made for the 1951 general election, called for change and the end of “war socialism.” But Tories (British conservatives) would themselves change entirely over the next sixty years.

There was once a time when I was an unyielding, self-proclaimed conservative.

Conservatism—by the dictionary—means “belief in the value of established and traditional practices in politics and society,” or “dislike of change or new ideas in a particular area.”

After three years of reflection, I reached the conclusion that neither of these two pillars of conservatism is invariably desirable—and that this vague ideological construct that millions of Americans cling to is one of the most meaningless political philosophies of the 20th and 21st centuries. 

Pure Conservatism

While the specific policies and proposals of conservatives in a given society should be evaluated on their own merits, the logical basis for many of these stances often amounts to little less than the masked fallacy that “it worked before, so it ought to work now.” Strict preservation of the existing system is the only apparent rationale for pure conservatism—in fact, it is conservatism. Perpetuating what came before, untouched and with no questions asked, is rarely what people think of when they hear the word conservatism, however. The term is frequently associated with far-right political movements or policy positions. While modern conservatives may seem “far-right” compared to more modern ideologies, this is not what conservatism means. Far from it.

In the United States, most conservatives oppose gun control; in Britain, most conservatives support gun control. Neither form of conservatism is internally inconsistent, because both are in favor of preserving the status quo, the governmental inheritance their flawed forefathers left behind. Both are forms of pure conservatism in this regard.

At one point, part of American conservatism was “conserving” prohibition; most modern conservatives, a few generations separated, have flipped this policy on its head and now wish to loosen regulations on alcohol production and lower taxes on alcohol’s sale.

From its founding until the Civil War, the United States was construed to be a confederation of independent nation-states, not unlike the modern European Union. Conservatives immediately after the Civil War wanted to return to said system; after a generation, conservatism had changed—just as the Union had changed.

The face of conservatism changes as often as the status quo changes; there is but a brief generational delay. Neither static nor coherent, conservatism changes with the traditions it attempts in vain to preserve, rendering it incapable of functioning as a standalone philosophy of government.

What’s Worth Conserving?

Conservatism is merely concerned with maintaining a tradition; the moral or practical quality of that tradition is an altogether extraneous question. In the United States today, conservatism exists as a force that supports a “safety net” of welfare agencies, favors the continued ban on recreational drugs, and proposes a closed border policy—whether or not these policies are worth keeping and whether or not they are traditionally “American” are two different questions.

Trade protectionism, frequent military interventions in foreign affairs, the death penalty, the government’s protected monopoly on letter delivery, public education, the bureaucratic phenomenon known as the FDA, and government construction and maintenance of roads are only a few things that conservatives take for granted that conflict with their bitter opposition to new incarnations of similar policies.

Public education and federally constructed curriculum are acceptable; Common Core is not. Background checks on gun purchasers are sensible, but licensing gun owners or restricting ammunition sales is “nonsense.” Jailing nonviolent drug users or traders is the only right answer to an uncomfortable 21st century issue; but alcohol consumption is somehow a different matter altogether.

Just how far a conservative is willing to go is decided not by logic, nor by pragmatism, nor even by morals: it is decided by tradition. Slavery was once an American “tradition.” Not very long ago, women were denied voting rights—this was also a “tradition.” In the near future, abortion will also be a “tradition” that conservatives will fight to preserve.

As it is now, the United States government and its many faulty traditions are not worth conserving; they required changes twenty years ago, and fifty years ago, and a hundred years ago. Conserving a governmental system haunted by inefficiencies, problems, and injustices that continue to compound yearly is hardly the answer to the threatening circumstances—foreign and domestic—that have the potential to rip apart this nation at the seams.

Not All Traditions Are Bad

Like all ideas and practices, traditions should be morally and logically evaluated. Compared to most other countries’ records in human rights and economic freedom, the United States’ history is relatively clean; but that does not change that some of its still-practiced “traditions,” including government monopolies in mail delivery and education, are not acceptable.

Nevertheless, the United States has plenty of ideological traditions to be proud of—due process, free speech, and limited government, to name only an important few. Americans should seek to protect and advance these traditions, rather than the norm in government, which frequently infringe upon the handful of worthwhile “established and traditional practices in politics and society.”

Not all traditions are bad; not all traditions are good. Traditions change. Traditions are unstable. And traditions vary drastically depending on the region, culture, and nation that formed them. Ideological progress, and mankind’s progress as a whole, depends not on “conserving” lock, stock, and barrel what came before, but rather on culling the bad and adopting the good. Conservatism means nothing beneficial if the system it seeks to conserve is a tyrannical one—as is increasingly the case.

Despite sharing a number of political leanings with the modern American conservatives, I no longer label myself as one of them, and the conclusions I share with them I have reached for wholly different reasons than they have: they wish but to preserve a tradition, rather than promoting what is best for mankind, what is best in God’s eyes, and what functions best in this very real world in which we live.

True, pure conservatism—the sort that follows tradition only for tradition’s sake—ignores that established practices can be crimes against humanity, and new ideas can serve as an infusion of life to a nation. Given uninhibited liberty and a minimalist government constrained by the rule of law, humankind can make the greatest advances and pave the way to the brightest future. It is time to create national “traditions” that acknowledge this.

Happy Dog Reprise

Hey, this is Felix, fourth columnist down from the exalted Clara. As the alpha dog in the house, I felt that it was my job to keep you updated with the pet population around here. It’s been hard to write anything for some time now because Fluffy went into hiding. He has reluctantly emerged from his hiding, and is now writing for us. Isn’t that nice? I’m following the pawprints of my dog predecessors and resuming the post of dogmaster general.

The first thing I should tell you about is my history. I’m Jack’s older brother by two months. I am turning one year old in three weeks. Jack has left the yard because he killed some turkeys and was put on chain lockup. I haven’t seen him in a few months, and that’s ok. I got a new sidekick now.

My new puppy is Misty. She’s got a gray set of fur and she’s about as round as a puppy should be. She has cute little stick-up ears and a stripey gray tail that sticks up in the air. She also has whiskers. Don’t ask me where those came from. I didn’t give them to her! My little puppy is adorable, and I’ve raised her as my own. Jack and I found her near the bonfire in the burn pile. The family sent her to the shed for a month, but when she emerged, she was all puppy! We loved to wrestle and play-fight. We shared food. All is well.

As far as a puppy goes, she’s a bit strange. She likes to climb trees and posts. She also prefers to scratch rather than biting. She makes this weird vibrating sound when she’s happy. And sometimes she climbs on top of the roof. But I love her anyway. I share scraps with her and we chase each other around the yard. It’s a good life.

Did you know that puppies are really fun to chew on? Did you know that you can carry them around in your mouth? Did you know that they’re really not fun to be scratched by? I didn’t. How funny! I like my little puppy. She makes me laugh.

All of the other creatures around here are cats and chickens. The chickens peck and kick. I don’t like them. The cats scratch and hiss. I don’t like them either. But the people keep getting more and more of them! I don’t know what the attraction is. The newest kitten is Socks. Strangely enough, she’s about the same size and shape as my puppy, and she likes to scratch and bite too. It’s funny.

You know, our chickens are odd. They live in a little fort that is painted with sunflowers. It’s got a big yard and a house raised from the ground. They stink. But sometimes they get out and run around. They are fun to chase, but some of them have strange names. Avoid “Eowyn”! She’s got a sword. And avoid “Radagast” too. She’s…actually, I have no idea what she is. All I know is that my puppy does strange things after “Radagast” waves her little twig. Why did they give her a name like “Radagast”?

The people just got more chicks. I haven’t seen them yet, but Misty says they’re small and crunchy. I don’t know what that means, but it sounds delicious. Misty would know. She’s already killed four mice and a snake. She’s an efficient dog, that’s for sure. She also likes to climb up into the tree and chase squirrels. Ah, squirrels. If only I could catch them! They’re so…so….small and crunchy! One day I’ll actually get to chase one.

Anyway, the chicks are here. I don’t have much information right now, but I think someone said that one of them is called “Batman”.

Oh dear.

You know, chickens aren’t that great. They stink and bite and kick. They aren’t regular in laying eggs. They peck your feet and are very ungrateful. It’s better not to bother with them. But if you think you must have chickens, and you bring them into your home, don’t give them names like “Batman”. How about “Stinky”, or “Chewy”, or “Crunchy”? Those are appropriate names. Not “Batman”.

My Puppy and I might need to intervene here. Be warned, chickens. The Happy Dog will rise again!

Gotta be Wise

I’ve been watching too much kids TV. No excuses—this is not good! But somehow I feel so excited when a hero triumphs. I love the feeling I get when a bad guy is finally defeated, and when the world is once again safe. Since most superhero shows are weird and have questionable things, I have to be very careful what I look at. PBS is pretty good about keeping it clean, at least right now. I tend to go after PBS’ “Word Girl” episodes, because I like superheroes. Granted, even though the hero in question, Word Girl, is a little annoying, she is a likeable hero.

But it seems that the Villains in the cartoon series have more to say than the heroine. (Quite a feat, especially when the hero has word powers) Sure, the villains are exaggerated and ridiculous, not to mention lawbreakers, but they are also extremely insightful. Not only are they cool enough for my brother, who really loves to talk about “bad guys”, but they each have something to say. One teaches about synonyms, and another antonyms. One in particular always speaks passively, for with PBS shows, even superheroes must teach something. But one villain, Miss Power, teaches about bullying.

This might be rather strange for a show based on explaining proper grammar, if it wasn’t for the public campaign against bullying that is being led by celebrities and the media. I watched the four-episode series, and well…I came out almost frozen. Here’s what happened.Miss Power

Imagine that we have a superhero who spends all her time fighting crime, yet never gets the appreciation or respect she wants. She flies around saving people, often giving up precious family time to do so, and the villains always get out of jail after about a week. She’s exhausted! Now imagine that someone shows up claiming to have the answer to her problem, and that that someone proceeds to follow through with her promises. Her tactics are intimidation: if the villain is too scared to leave the jail, the hero won’t have to fight him as much.

It soon gets out of hand. We now have a power-crazy, sarcastically cruel “hero” running around, with the hero of the show following her every suggestion! But eventually Word Girl’s conscience gets the best of her, and she refuses to go along with Miss Power’s sadistic “crime-fighting”. Angry at being crossed, Miss Power reveals her true nature, and Word Girl has to try and fight something that is more wicked than she ever could have dreamed. Humiliated, Word Girl flees the battle, and Miss Power begins her rule of the city.

In many ways, Miss Power represents a modern celebrity. She looked amazing and had the force to back up her looks. She was popular and helpful, and a good role-model. She was a hero. But underneath her fair features, Miss Power was hiding a disgusting, wicked heart. She wasn’t a good person at all, and definitely not a good leader! Instead of helping people, she started locking them in jail simply for disagreeing with her rule of terror.

It turned out that Miss Power’s beauty was only skin-deep. She wanted to be in complete control of everything, and she would stop at nothing to accomplish that goal. All it took was a little persuasion, and she easily ditched her disguise for her true, violent identity. Her “power” came from having “power” over the other characters. If they were not afraid of her, she would lose her strength. So to keep that from happening, she became crueler and crueler, hoping to keep her advantage.

But even though it’s only a silly show, this story has an interesting twist. Miss Power is really evil, so wicked that I regretted watching it at night. Her cold cruelty—though granted, she never did anything harmful to her enemies, but instead relied on her tongue and her strength—her cruelty sobered me. This is the natural result of the hunger for power. Miss Power could be me. It could be any of us. It could be any hero that we look up to. How fitting it is that one of our sayings is “Power Corrupts”! How sad that we often forget why the phrase was coined.

Strangely enough, this little cartoon taught me a lesson almost more than it taught my siblings. Miss Power used intimidation and power to subdue people to her will. If she couldn’t break her adversaries with her bullying, she would imprison them. This is how most dictators work. And strangely enough, they also seem good in the beginning, and only reveal their true colors after they have gained control.

I never thought of someone who was “bad” would look so….well, good. I wasn’t sure how to process that. If someone can trick people in tv shows, surely I would would be just as vulnerable. Worse still, if even the “best” people fall when given too much power, what about me? Would I pass the test, if I was ever given it? There didn’t seem to be anything I could do.

Or was there?

There are many things I have that the cartoon people don’t. I might not be extremely wise, or even close. But I do have some things that I can do to guard myself from being tricked, especially when it comes to teachings.

First, I can compare what someone says to the Scriptures. If I heard someone saying something that sounded wonderful, but then thought it through and wasn’t sure if I agreed with it, I could always go back to the truth and contrast it with what the person said. If the two don’t line up, I have decide who to trust: God’s perfect word, or Man’s interpretation. I don’t mean to be snobbish, but I think I will stick to God’s word. It has never yet been proven wrong, but those who contradict it are proven wrong again and again. The odds are good that God will stay being God, and therefore I will stick to his side whenever I can.

Another thing I can do is analyze a person’s actions. Does someone seem a little too attached to the limelight? Does she climb

Another look-good celebrity who turned out to be a dictator

Another look-good celebrity who turned out to be a dictator

ladders and take shortcuts to try and get a higher place? Does she go out of her way to get people to notice her? Watch out! People who live off of others’ opinions of them are usually bad candidates. At the very least, they can be easily swayed, and will not be firm in their convictions. At the worst, they can be serpents in disguise. I have seen far too many “heroes” crash and burn. No one is perfect, and anyone who tries to be is setting himself up for failure.

A last thing I can do is pray. It isn’t easy to process why power-hungry people seem to fly to the top of the government. It isn’t easy to fight them. But we are not alone in our struggles. When we pray to our father, we are no longer isolated. When we pray together, as a church family, we are united in Christ! We are an army, and though we don’t use our weapons to attack people, we do use our numbers and our voice to make a difference. We have that freedom now, and we need to be careful to not give it away.

In the show, thingsbooks were looking blue. Word Girl was too weak to fight Miss Power, so she wisely decided to bow out and do some studying on how to defeat her. (What’s this? Studying her orders? What about us? Maybe little superheroes have something to tell us after all.) While she was doing that, all of her “enemies” were imprisoned, and wondering what had gone wrong. They were encouraged to team up and work together with their former foe, to put aside their differences and stop a common enemy. Using their various strengths and weaknesses, the ‘villains’ broke out of the prison (freeing quite a few civilians as well) and went off to do war with Miss Power. Encouraged by their collective abilities, the villains (even the kids) decided not to be afraid of this space invader, and instead helped Word Girl defeat her.

Now, granted, we can’t be teaming up with thieves, disgruntled employees, vandal-robot-wielding-boy-geniuses, mad scientists, and greedy little girls that tend to turn into monsters when refused. That’s just crazy. And no, we don’t usually celebrate our victories with pizza and sandwiches, some spare salami, and quite a bit of cheese. That’s just part of the cartoon. But what we can do is work together with some of the people that WE think are villains, namely, people who believe slightly different things than we do. It isn’t easy to put aside our differences. It never has been. But we’re at a time of crisis. It’s time to do something different.

While we aren’t superheroes, we are charged with the keeping of our world. We have enemies that we must fight. Sometimes, we must tackle things that are hard for us, and face our fears. Sometimes we will be tricked and will fall. But a true hero will push past the difficulties and do what’s right. Thankfully, we don’t have to be alone. We have the greatest ally in the world on our side, and he’s not sitting around on the sidelines. We serve a God of action, so we need to act!

Maybe this silly cartoon, meant to teach the dangers of bullying, can reach further than the writers intended. Maybe I can remember the dangers of “Miss Power” and become wise. Or maybe, if I happen to be a history lover, I might go back and survey the many dictators who came into power, crushed their opponents, and eventually fell to the ground. Maybe I can ditch the imaginary world and cling to the real one.

Real world Truth resides even in the goofiest cartoons. Listen and be Wise! Test teachings against the scriptures. Be sure of what you believe. Determine your friends from your enemies. Don’t be deceived by beautiful wolves in sheep’s clothing. Oh, and be careful what you watch, especially at night.

Ugh. Perhaps the wicked eyes of Miss Power will keep me from falling for other good-looking celebrities. With prayer, and a good amount of God’s grace, I hope to be wise from this point on.

Grasping at memories

I remember Oregon. It’s only a few scattered memories, lost in my mind like wind-blown leaves. I wish I could remember more. As it is I can only see a few broken scenes. A white pony, bought for me by Grandma. A vivid nightmare, and the only time I ever screamed in my sleep. A carousel. A princess dress, and older cousins that babied me. People talking in a room. A man’s laugh, was it my Grandfather’s? That rough feeling that comes from older furniture. A certain smell.

My second trip to Oregon happened when I was eight, but it’s still muddled. I remember my Aunt and Uncle’s house best. I remember that it was on a hill, and that it was large and very pretty, but still with that strange, otherworldly feel. I remember going down the stairs to the basement, and how cold it was. I felt like I was going down to the center of the earth! That was pretty close to the truth, I found, because the house was built into the hill, and the basement was dug out of it. I had never been in a dug-out basement before. That isn’t done in Texas, and I had only been in a few North Carolina houses that had them.

Uncle Al and Aunt Diane were so nice to me. I remembered that they had a pair of canaries, and that one of the birds had laid an egg! I was so excited. Perhaps it would hatch! But it did not. I remember two three-year-old cousins who played so nicely with me. Now they are almost grown up, and I’m half afraid of them! How the time flies! I remember when they wanted to have a sleepover. They both decided to turn over in the bed, and I was pushed out in the middle of the night. Not the best experience to have in a strange house.

These memories are fading. So are some of the others. Like what was my cousin Zach like before I grew up and “knew” more? I wish I could remember some things that are simply impressions now. I feel like my history is disappearing with each member of my family who has passed on. I feel like I’m losing my grounding.

North Carolina is so much clearer. I feel it whenever I feel the wind blow through the trees. Can you hear the windchimes? Can you breathe the cool air? Can you see the azalea bushes, and the old gazebo whose swing never quite seemed to swing enough? Looking up, you can see gourds that Papa put up for Martins. There is the playhouse, there the pond! There are the horses! Behind you is the porch, up the stairs and through the gate, and look! There is the kitchen, and that’s where you’ll find Granny more likely than not. Or at least that’s how it used to be.

But now even the familiar has become strange. My missionary Uncle and Aunt have retired, and now they are both facing serious health problems. Grandma has died of cancer. Papa is gone. And I feel like I have lost a huge opportunity. With my grandparents went my history, and now I am simply clinging to the present, hoping that I won’t lose anything else.

I can’t afford the loss.

I feel like an investor. I go through old things of my Grandma’s, hoping to find a bit of her writing. Can I see that old, loopy cursive? Yes! And my Grandpa….he died before I could remember him. Can I keep his memory alive? Perhaps. Perhaps if I go back and try to imagine, using my Uncle as my guide…perhaps I can hear his voice. But I’m afraid I’ll never find it. Papa is alive in the songs he once sung, in the stories he told, in that gentle way he would make us laugh. I miss him. I hold birthday cards as precious, because they have his handwriting on them. I’m afraid that if I go any longer, I will forget.

Every memory is precious now, even the painful ones. I went through my Grandmother’s files by accident, trying to access my stories, and accidentally found a love letter. I felt so ashamed. It was as if I had intruded in on an ancient tragedy, one that I hadn’t even known existed. A Love Letter I found from my mother to my father was much less painful. I wonder if I’ll ever feel that way. It’s too strange and wonderful for me right now, like these memories, except new and exciting. I don’t know how to process some of the things that have happened. They’re just blissful mysteries, and I hope they’ll stay that way.

I cling to old stories now, while still trying to be me. It’s a rough task. But I can still walk through my Grandmother’s house, placing everything where it once was. The house is gone now, but I can still recreate it…

the memories are beginning to fade.

We are spinning our own tales now. Our legacy is still being laid. An observer of the past, I am also an active player in the present. God have mercy on me! I pray that I can play my part well, and be a blessing rather than a curse.

One day I will be a memory. I hope I will be one that lingers long, and for good reason.

I wish to give people hope.