[Ed. note: please welcome Austinite, crafter and design maven Allison to “Ask A Texan.” As a multi-generation Texan, we feel she is more than qualified to answer this question. If you think she got it wrong–or right–let us know in the comments!]
Dear Ask A Texan,
Why do people from Texas seem to really, really, really get off on being from Texas? I get pride in your homeland. And, I also sympathize with the need to maintain a sense of rootedness in the increasingly free-floating postmodern existential vacuum that modern life has become. However, I’ve never seen this intensity of xenophobia/nationalism on the state level. We see it nationally all the time. But Texas is unique in this regard among the 50 states. You rarely see someone, for example, refer to themselves as a “Proud Massachusettan.” Quick story: at a BBQ once, we saw a plaque on the hosts’ living room wall – a wedding gift. It said “True Friends. True Love. True Texans.” WTF? Who does that?
– No, Really, Who Does That?
Dear No, Really, Who Does That?,
Andrea invited me to take a shot at this question — thanks, Andrea! (My qualifications, if you’re curious, are that I am a Texan, a feminist, and a bossypants.)
So why are we so in love with Texas? I freely admit that I take my Texanness seriously: I love it here, love it fiercely. I have a few theories about why we’re like this:
1. We are taught to. Texas is, as far as I know, the only state that devotes two full years of history class to its history. If you are so fortunate as to be educated in the public school system of great state of Texas, you’ll spend all of fourth and seventh grade doing things like putting Santa Ana on trial and writing reports on David Burnet and putting on a reenactment of the battle of the Alamo in which William B. Travis is played by a Little Debbie Brownie from someone’s lunch (true story). Beyond that, it is everywhere. We fly the state flag at every car dealership and gas station and shopping mall in the land. We get all kinds of “Texas editions” of everything from pickup trucks to junior high textbooks. (I had no idea it wasn’t usual until my ex-boyfriend said that when he moved to Texas he could not get over how every single car commercial mentions Texas. I had just assumed all y’all were getting commercials about how you are a great Rhode Islander or whatever, and so you deserve a bigass truck.)
2. Many of us have families who cultivate this love at home too. Some of us, it’s because we’ve been here a long time, and our history and our heritage is tied up in the state (that’s my family). Some of us, it’s because we’re new and we’ve chosen this place and that makes it ours too (the “I wasn’t born in Texas but I got here as fast as I could” bumper sticker crowd). People who move here often do so because they really like Texas, not just because it’s convenient for work or school, so they’re not usually lukewarm about living here.
3. Our mythology appeals to a lot of people. We’re at the intersection of West and South, a balance between wide open spaces and deserts and magnolias and bottomless iced tea. Both of those cultures have a lot of appeal, and no one else blends them quite like we do. And our history is big. It’s really big, and it’s filled with a lot of larger-than-life characters. It’s true that our history is actually pretty crappy when you look at the facts, but why let that bother you? We don’t. (I think, in a lot of ways, we are better at PR than other states: we’re real good at selling the version of ourselves we wish we were.)
4. We are actually awesome. It’s true that our politics suck, but mostly we are great. We are the home of Dr Pepper and chicken fried steak, Bob Wills and Willie Nelson, Schlitterbahn and Big Bend. We have deserts and oceans and everything in between. We make delicious food and good music, and we look really good in cowboy hats.
5. I do think there are a lot of states and cities that draw out a very deep and intense love from their natives: People seem to really like being from New York, or California, or Boston. (I do in fact know someone who is a “Proud Massachusettan,” but maybe they don’t say it often because it’s so damn hard to say.) Midwesterners often really identify as such. Texans are just the only ones who celebrate our homeland by shooting our guns in the air and yelling “Yeehaw!” I have a friend who grew up in Maine, and considers being a Mainer part of her core identity. But, because she is from Maine, she’s very polite about how great Maine is. That’s not really how we Texans roll. I have known people who took great pride in being from California, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Michigan, Colorado, and even, God help them, Oklahoma. But there are a lot of Texans, and a lot of us are excited about it, and we make a lot of noise about it.
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