Sunday, June 17, 2012

AS TEXAS GOES by Gail Collins

Gail Collins reads AS TEXAS GOES with a dry sense of humor that matches the text in a tone that avoids the dramatic in favor of a matter-of-fact and broad based read on the state's politics and culture. The subtitle is "How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda." It's a big job, trying to corral the history of a giant chunk of real estate, with its various regions and ethnic diversities, but with innumerable anecdotes and little known Texas stories, she manages to justify the attempt to reveal the Texas philosophy, which on its border signs warns motorists "Don't Mess With Texas." It's all here, too, from Bush to Enron to Halliburton to the Tea Party to Tom Delay to anti-environmental Rick Perry and his bootstraps anti-tax desire for Texas to secede from the Union. (Now he has changed, he says.) Despite that many Texans would like to disavow the premise--that there is an agenda in the big picture--Collins ends up showing that, indeed, there is a tendency for Texans to cling politically to frontier justice. Unfortunately, this is the 21st Century, not the 19th anymore. There are consequences for everyone when you pollute, now, and if you don't pay your taxes someone else has to pick up the tab. Greed is not good, and wholesale deregulation, combined with a state of denial regarding science, won't lead America anywhere good. If you own a car in Texas you can keep a gun in it. Few radar troopers will stop you from speeding, either, as I learned driving across the state recently. At one point a car driving 120 MPH nearly ran into me from the rear outside Dallas, and I wouldn't be writing these words had I not seen him in my rear view mirror and swerved off the road. I dialed 911 and explained, but the operator said, "what would you like me to do?" No crash occurred, ergo no problem. Although further up the highway there was human road kill, and indeed a patrol car, at last...other cars and trucks roaring past at 25 MPH over the speed limit, oblivious, and perhaps disdainful of any notion of such a "regulation."  
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