You may or may not have noticed, but I occasionally write critically of Texas government, politics and what sometimes appears to be its average IQ. Today I would like to talk about something which can be equally disturbing, yet simultaneously amusing. I call this thing Texas-shaped Patriotism.
I was born and raised in Texas, and I have lived in nearly every corner of it at one time or another. I have visited many other parts of Texas as well. One thing that is utterly striking about Texans is their unique form of patriotism. It can be expressed in ways that other people might think are jokes, but that Texans seem to take quite seriously. For example, I’ve often heard Texans say things like, “There are two kinds of people – those who are born in Texas and those who get here as fast as they can.”
Or,“Never ask a man if he’s from Texas. If he is, he’ll tell you on his own. If he ain’t, no need to embarrass him.”
More often than not, these things are said with a completely earnest expression, accompanied by an understanding nod from any other Texans who might be listening on.
Non-native Texans who have contracted this particular strain of patriotism have their own version of this expression which goes something like this: “I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could.”
This is most often said with head held high, wide eyes and a huge, toothy grin. These people are obviously very proud of their new citizenship and seem equally as grateful to be accepted by native Texans. I can’t help feeling a little sorry for them, though – little do they know, the natives will never fully accept them, and they are often the butt of many jokes among Real Texans.
There are many other ways that Texans express their patriotism, but I don’t want to talk about rodeos, guns, and the Lone Star flag. Everyone knows that the majority of Texans love all those things, so I won’t waste time going there. Another way that Texans express their patriotism, though, is to pretend, or perhaps even convince themselves, that there is no other place on earth. Come to think of it, that’s probably why we have our very own Paris and London.
This patriotism via oblivion is often expressed by Texans who work in jobs which require them to check people’s ID’s for one reason or another. When my husband came to Texas for the first time, we were doing a bit of shopping at a Kroger grocery store. When Mike attempted to pay with a travelers cheque, the clerk asked to see his ID. When he presented his British passport, the young man became utterly confused. He looked back and forth between Mike and his passport several times before asking if he had a Texas driver’s license. Mike sort of laughed and explained that he wasn’t from Texas and had never driven a car.
The clerk then paged his supervisor who came sporting Texas flags from both shoulders of her uniform shirt. She also had miniature flags glued to toothpicks stuck in her beehive hairdo. I’m not exaggerating in the slightest. To this day, Mike and I call her Flag Woman.
Anyway, Flag Woman performed the same ritual of appearing confused and looking back and forth between Mike and his passport, while the clerk told her that Mike had said he didn’t have a Texas driver’s license. Then, with flags waving and a completely baffled expression, she cocked her head and asked, “Do ya’ have a Texas driver’s license and just ain’t got it with ya?”
I shit you not!
Here is a man speaking in a distinctly foreign accent, presenting a foreign passport and carrying travelers cheques, and these Kroger Texans think that asking if he has a Texas driver’s license is a legitimate question. Not only that, but they became totally unable to function upon finally realizing that he did not have one, and could not likely obtain one before the people behind us in the queue started to become restless.
To their credit, though, they did offer a logical explanation for insisting on a Texas driver’s license: according to Flag Woman, their registers would only accept Texas driver’s license or Texas state ID numbers. Their computers would reject anything else as invalid. Never mind the fact that they accept travelers cheques.
In case you’re wondering, we paid cash in the end.
In a similar vein, Texans don’t like U.S. passports much either. I actually had a Texas driver’s license, but when it expired I didn’t renew it because I don’t own a car anyway. I have a passport which is valid for five more years, so I thought that would be a fine form of identification. I forgot where I was when I decided on that. Any time I go to cash a check or do anything else that requires ID, I present my passport. Inevitably I am faced with the following question: “You don’t have your ID with you?”
Yes, I have my ID! You’re holding it in your hand, dumbass!
You see, Texans think that ID is synonymous with Texas driver’s license (maybe they think it stands for I Drive). Not only that, as illustrated by the story featuring Flag Woman, a Texas driver’s license is the only valid form of ID in the entire world.
Upon being hired by my current employer, I went through the usual routine of filling in the required forms and presenting my ID. When I presented my passport, I thought the Office Administrator would have a meltdown. Although employers have to accept U.S. passports even if they’re expired, the Office Administrator insisted that I also present my expired Texas driver’s license and my social security card, which is not required at all for employees with U.S. passports!
So, U.S. passports, although issued by the federal government and recognized everywhere in the world that we are allowed to travel, are not only invalid in Texas, but the mere sight of them causes Texans to go into crisis mode.
Texas-shaped Patriotism at its finest.
I’ll discuss one more way that I’ve noticed Texans expressing their patriotism, then I’ll let you get back to your Dallas re-runs.
People with Texas-shaped Patriotism become extremely defensive when other people speak critically of anything Texan. This is especially true when the person doing the criticizing is also a native Texan. It’s to be expect from outsiders; they’re all jealous, after all, and understandably bitter. But a native Texan criticizing Texas should be brought up on charges of treason, I tell you whut! Failing that, it is absolutely necessary to establish, in no uncertain terms, that the turncoat does not represent the majority of Texans. As if that’s not evident by the mere fact that the traitor dared to criticize something Texas-shaped.
The most peculiar thing about this particular expression of Texas-shaped Patriotism is when Texans use it incongruously (this almost exclusively happens on the internet). For example, if I write about something that a Texan finds offensive for any reason at all, the response is often something like, “I notice you call yourself a Texan. Well, I hope you know that you do not represent the majority of Texans.”
The fact that I never claimed to represent the majority of Texans, or that my being Texan is irrelevant to the discussion is out the window. Because when one Texan does or says something that another Texan finds offensive (like putting ketchup on a hamburger or marrying a foreigner or something) the former is not a True Texan, and this must be declared at once. This might even be required under Texas law.
It’s particularly odd when this happens on this blog, for example, or elsewhere but in response to something I’ve written here (even if it’s just about pancake syrup or my favorite brand of toilet tissue). Right… because someone else needs to clarify that Lottie Rambleson does not represent the majority of Texans. I’m here to tell you, in words that even these people can understand:
How much head scratchin’ ya reckon went into figgerin’ that out?
Anyone with minimal comprehension abilities would realize how completely unnecessary this “clarification” is. Not only did I never claim to represent the majority, I believe I have been quite clear about the fact that I do not:
I am an atheist living in the Bible Belt, and my political views are so far left that I am often called a socialist – and they say it like it’s a bad thing!
And don’t forget this:
There are two kinds of Texans: those who are born here and stay, and those who are born here and get the hell out as fast as they can. Count me in with the latter.
That said, and for future reference, I do not represent any majority and do not want to. I do not follow crowds or fads, and I could not care less what everyone is wearing this year, even if it is chaps and a ten-gallon hat. Hell, I carry a passport and don’t even drive a pick-up truck.
I am my own person; a non-conformist. I am not spoon-fed by the media, politicians or clergymen, and certainly not by cowboys or rodeo clowns. I think for myself and my ideas are my own.
I am not patriotic, Texas-shaped or otherwise, and if you want to insult me, it’s going to require quite a bit more than stating the obvious in an attempt to strip me of some perceived sense of Texan pride that I never had to begin with. Which, by the way, kind of gives the impression that if brains were leather, you wouldn’t be able to saddle a flea.
But hey… what better way to represent the Texas Majority and express your Texas-shaped Patriotism at the same cotton pickin’ time, ain’t that right!
Now get on back to Dallas. Or was it Hee Haw on DVD?
In closing, always remember and don’t ever forget: you don’t have to hang from a tree to be a nut.
Y’all come back now, ya hear?