It has long been my assertion that only an insider can get away with criticizing the flaws, cracks and fissures of their home state. I think that is doubly true about a state like Texas, because we spend an exhaustive amount of energy pushing our mythical image.
So far I have not managed to take on the chore myself, even though I am Texas born and bred; spent my first 40+ years in the state and will spend my final two decades here. I just have not quite reconciled my memories, deep love and attachment to the state and my sharp criticisms of what we have become.
Or maybe we have always been this way – and I just never noticed in my younger days. Despite my adoration, I have serious criticisms of Texas’ rabid conservative politics, fundamentalist religiosity, and gun culture, just to name three issues. I may grumble about these irks to friends but I have not had the guts to make them a national cause célèbre.
Not so, Austin writer Lawrence Wright, who has recently published a journal-type reflection about his adopted state, God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State.
Before you jump to the conclusion this is some upstart Yankee or a yellow press scavenger, he is neither. Wright was born in Oklahoma, spent his teen years in Dallas, and has lived in Austin for many-a-year. He was a staff writer for Texas Monthly, then later The New York Times, and has published several books of note, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11.
Wright cannot be easily dismissed. According to an article in the June issue of Texas Monthly, Wright describes the chasm between what he describes in radio terms as AM Texas (rural areas, Trumpland, paranoia) and FM Texas (progressives, blue, secular and smug).
I have not read the book myself, so I do not know if Wright offers a solution. According to the Texas Monthly article, he has at a minimum sounded the alarm, describing Texas as “a culture that is still raw, not fully formed, standing on the margins but also growing in influence, dangerous and magnificent in its potential.”
— Jonnie Martin