This subject popped up on the radar screen recently, after Keith Olbermann spent one of his Comments talking about a U. T. survey which reveals, among other things, that a lot of Texans firmly grasp all the “intelligent design” evidence that says dinosaurs were the personal pets of Adam and Eve.
What Olbermann has tapped into is nothing short of “Texas Stupid.” It has been part and parcel of Texas culture at least since the time when Texans decided to blow off Old Sam Houston’s advice and to throw in with the Confederacy. And we all remember how well that little adventure went…..
“Texas Stupid” reared up its rather sloped head in the immediate aftermath of the ’08 election, when gun sales in the Lone Star State went through the roof, because folks literally bought into the notion that “Obama’s gonna take your guns.”
1) The massive rush to buy firearms spiked the price of firearms up…again. This means that Bubba, along with a certain Texas-expatriate shootist, will each have more difficulty in buying that coveted Desert Eagle .50 caliber in titanium finish.
2) I’d rather be sent as an evangelist to proselytize the Taliban than be the one who attempts to pry firearms out of the hands of your average Texan.
“Texas Stupid” also covers several statewide organizations and movements such as the KKK, the John Birch Society, and the New Secessionists. I’m tempted to throw the Tea Party folks in there as well, except that I know a few people who would consider themselves tangential teabaggers, and they are anything but “Texas Stupid.” Actor Chuck Norris, however, fills the bill nicely. Gubenatorial candidate Debra Medina is certainly not T.S.; but her notion that you can just wipe out all property taxes and pay for stuff like roads and schools and W.I.C. cards by sales-taxing anything that makes you pull out your wallet, why that puts her in the camp named “Texas Crazy.” And that is exactly why her appeal is growing, even among certain progressive, yellow-dog tumbleweeds. That “We Texans” slogan, combined with the fashionable apparel in her campaign’s virtual gift shop, cannot help but endear Texans of all political stripes to her cause. “Texas Crazy” is at the root of the most delightful aspects of Texas culture. But its shadow side is also at the root of Texas’ darker historical moments. Triumph and tragedy, Lone Star-style, often come from this quirky, sometimes bizarre, and usually amusing condition.
Examples of Texas Crazy run the spectrum between twisted satire and twisted behavior.
Charles Whitman was Texas Crazy. So is Kinky Friedman’s “The Ballad of Charles Whitman,” which is tucked into the Kinkster’s unique remembrance of Charlie’s U.T. sniper spree in 1966:
There is a complex interrelationship and interdependence between these two conditions, T.S. and T.C.
Janis Joplin, a T.C. luminary, fled her hometown of Port Arthur after high school, not so much to get the refinery smell out of her hair, but to get away from her Texas Stupid tormentors, which included this guy. Yet ol’ shell-head went on to become one of the great Texas football coaches in both college and pro arenas. His gig with America’s Team landed him in the Texas Crazy camp, especially the time he called a Dallas radio sports-talk show to rag on the Mighty San Fran 49’ers the week leading up to the NFC championship game. “Jeez, Jimmy, why’d you go rile up Steve Young and that nasty West Coast bunch by saying you’ll whip their butts with no problem? What are you? Crazy!?” Crazy like a fox, since the ‘Boys smoked San Fran and went on to win their second straight Super Bowl. Speaking of San Fran, that’s where Janis went to break through some big barriers in the field of blues rock, making her singular mark as only a T.C. white girl could. Looking back now, one can see how Texas Crazy fueled her ascent, while the shadowy memory of Texas Stupid was always close by, waiting to envelop her.
If there is a Poster Boy for Texas Crazy, it would have to be this guy:
Ross’ theme song in the ’92 presidential election was Patsy Cline’s “Crazy.” And, well, he was. In a good way, mostly. He had quite a few of us stirred up and ready to vote for him until the vice presidential debate came along and revealed that his VP-picking skills left a lot to be desired. Then came the stunning meltdown on 60 Minutes where he began talking spies, threats on his family, a GOP plot to ruin his daughter’s wedding, and after that, well….Hello, President Clinton! Still, Perot leveraged enough of the vote to swing the election for Ol’ Bubba, which is a significant accomplishment, especially for someone so richly imbued with Texas Crazy.
If real, meaningful, socio-political change is ever going to grab hold in the Lone Star State, folks there are going to have to seize on this great historical legacy of Texas Crazy, a force so formidable it could unite otherwise disparate citizenry into a movement strong enough to repel this current rising tsunami of Texas Stupid. The good news is it already seems to be happening, given the (albeit) narrow defeat of Board of Education Chairman Don McElroy, the most recent poster boy for Texas Stupid. We’ve already covered some of his board’s handiwork; now that he’s out, all he can do is look back admiringly on his accomplishments, which mainly come down to having history textbooks add a little spitshine to the thunder mug we all remember as Joe McCarthy.
But it’s going to take more effort, a heckuva lot more effort over the next few years, and probably the next few decades. The T.S. crowd is as entrenched as they’ve ever been, and only a broad-based alliance of committed (or recently committed) Texans can turn the tide. Imagine the Junction Boys working hand in hand with the Texas Tornados. Or Jim Hightower forming an alliance with Debra Medina. I know it’s crazy to imagine such things, but it’s Texas Crazy. And that is what the state needs most at the moment.