Sunday, February 13, 2005

Republic of Texas redux, or, why millions of people think Texas is full of nuts

As a former professional journalist, I'm entirely sympathetic when the New York Times or some other national newspaper drops in on the "movement" to restore Texas sovereignty.

Kooky is fun. Kooks are fun to interview. Editors love it. Readers too.

The thinking in newsrooms goes: If those reading these kinds of stories in Europe, the Far East, the East or West Coasts of the USA or anywhere else get the idea that Texas is a land populated by oddballs, well, we can't control that. The story is "fair and balanced," as the Fox News saying goes, because care was taken to interview folks who don't believe what the kooks believe.

Then they run a headline, like the one today in The New York Times, that says, "In Small Town, the Fight Continues for Texas Sovereignty"

Attention Kmart shoppers and NYT readers: there is no fight. These are simply grown men pursuing a hobby. Some guys play golf, some fish, some follow the sporting news. These guys just do something different. Yes, things got pretty weird eight years ago out in the Davis Mountains, that we cannot deny. But everything's OKAY.

Be that as it may, the latest turn in the Republic of Texas soap opera has the secessionists now headquartered in Overton, Texas, a small town in East Texas, where a former hospital has been transformed into the Republic's "capitol."

Daniel Miller, the leader, is wearing cowboy boots, but no coonskin cap.

We are not extremists," said Mr. Miller, 31, dressed in a tailored suit and cowboy boots. "We simply believe we were illegally occupied by the United States in the 1800's."

The townspeople, and the police chief, don't really get it. There have been a few scrapes.
"I normally wouldn't be alarmed by a few boys getting into a fisticuffs thing," Chief Williams said. "But this is a group with a violent past in parts of Texas. However ludicrous their beliefs might sound to you and me, we can't forget that Jim Jones got a bunch of folks to drink Kool-Aid with him down in Guyana. You could shave one side of your head and have a loyal following around here by nightfall."

The Houston branch of the Anti-Defation League is monitoring the group. This is re-assuring for all non-Texans, especially NYT readers in France and Massachusetts, because, after all, the American President is from Texas and, well, you never know what can happen with these Texans.

There is a silver lining -- YEE-HAW! -- and that is education. This is good, that something positive can come out of such kooky Texas goings on. No Texan Left Behind.
The headquarters here, its walls covered with maps of Greater Texas and oil paintings of 19th-century battle scenes, is mostly quiet during the week. On weekends, members from throughout Texas flow into the building for meetings. Nathan Harvey, a caretaker at the headquarters who is not a member, said he remained skeptical about the ideas put forward by group members, but that by meeting them, he had at least gained a better understanding of the Alamo siege of 1836.

"I always thought it was a battle for American independence," Mr. Harvey said. "Now I understand it was a battle for the independence of Texas."

Translation: Texans, basically, are stupid.

Remember The Alamo![NYT]
[Handbook of Texas]

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