July 25, 2007
It hit me a couple of weeks ago that, within another month or two, I will no longer be carrying a Texas driver’s license, for the first time since I became a legal driver.
This is not all that surprising, so I was a little surprised myself that the thought not only occurred to me, but that it continued to reoccur to me. I lived in Massachusetts for the better part of four years, but that was as a college student, so my residency and my driver’s license remained firmly anchored in the Lone Star State. I thought of myself as an ex-patriot of sorts during those years. How Texan is that?! Travel to another state in the union and considering yourself to be living outside of your native country!
The fact that I’m going to miss being a Texas resident surprises me. Maybe it shouldn’t. There’s no doubt that I love Tex-Mex food. And, even though my musical tastes have evolved over the years, they’ve always stayed anchored to country/honky-tonk roots. I’ve always been more comfortable out in the woods or the desert than I have been in a dense, urban setting. I grew up camping, canoeing, bicycling, hiking, and playing in the flat, humid, mosquito-infested piney woods and rice fields of southeast Texas. I often tell people that was the perfect place to grow up, because if you learn to love the outdoors there, you’ll be truly in awe of any other natural setting in the country!
On the flip side, Texas has a reputation — based in countless examples — of being narrow-minded and bigoted. Racism is still much more alive and well in many parts of Texas (and the South in general) than is excusable or even explainable. Athletics regularly and dramatically trumps academics when it comes to the focus of parents and administrators in our public schools. Conservatives rule, while conservationists are ridiculed. While there are certainly many, many Texans who are, first and foremost, citizens of Planet Earth, and who feel a responsibility to conduct themselves as such…they’re a distinct minority.
To sum it up, Garrison Keillor did a Prairie Home Companion episode in Austin a number of years ago. As he warmed up the crowd before the show, he said something along the lines of, “The ACLU sends the Texas legislature a nice Christmas card every year. They do that because they know, every other year when the Texas legislature is in session, they’ll pass some wacky law that will make national news, and it will be so offensive to card-carrying liberals the world over that the ACLU will see a big influx in donations a week or two later.” This got a big laugh from the Austin crowd.
I know that, as odd as it seems, and despite the sterotypes that will be applied, I’ll never be an Ohioan, no matter how long we’re there. If we’re still there forty years from now, I suspect, if asked, I’ll automatically label myself “a Texan living in Ohio.”