Texas Tango

I have two general travel rules. Rule one never plan a vacation in Detroit (Sorry but you guys are slowly becoming the parody of Detroit portrayed in RoboCop) and the second is never drive cross country in the south (after seeing Easy Rider I decided to keep on the grid as much as possible in the south). These aren’t hard fast rules, they are vast generalizations. Obviously I’m aware there are good people and communities in Detroit and south of Mason/Dixon. That being said, I was happy to go to Texas recently. Partially because it got me out of the office, partially to see what it was really like in Fox country.
One thing is certain; I have no idea how to pack. I’m not used to traveling nor am I used to leaving things behind. I can plan for a day or two, but for some reason I cannot perceive what I will do with myself in what I suspect will be a lot of down time, if I am gone for a week or more. My trip wasn’t that exciting we spent most of the time in the factory waiting for the tests we were there for to be ready. At the end of the days though we were able to do some driving around to see what the gulf coast had to offer.
The first feeling that crept over me was the change in space. Like I said I don’t do much traveling but I’ve been to Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, D.C., and San Francisco as an adult, and grasped their denseness. Even when I’ve been in upstate New York and random parts of Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, and California I always felt as if I was amongst… well an abundance of life. Down in Texas I had a vast feeling of being on my own, or rather that if I were to fall it was a much steeper drop. I know it seems a little ridiculous to say this, but the landscape is so vastly different. When you get out of the urban areas, you’re not hit with forest-y landscapes and the rolling mountains of the coasts and northeast corridor. Instead you’re confronted with the plains; large, flat, sparsely treed plains. In this terrain the sky is massive to the point deserving the words heavenly. At the same time, life exists here. Life has been carved out here; Life exists not because of the environment but in spite of it.
It’s this idea, this feeling that seems to permeate the people and communities I saw. It would go a long way to explain the cowboy mentality. The sense that it takes true grit to make it in this world, and the difference between living dying could come down to your bootstraps. On top of all of this in Texas in particular I felt far away from D.C, which just adds to the notion of solitude. It’s like an old Bill Hicks joke, where he talks about how there is nothing but war, famine and disease on the news, but when he looks out his window nothing is happening—just a lone bird chirping.
I really think the solitude argument explains a lot of conservative politics. Follow me on this most of the deep red states are sparsely populated. In general even in red states when you get into the denser urban areas the politics tend the swing more liberal. Talking with a friend he explained it by saying urban areas use more governmental resources than rural ones. I’m not sure if this is true because the numbers just don’t add up. While Texas is pretty self reliant seeing as it only receives $.94 for every dollar it sends to the federal government, the rest of the south is the opposite. Of the states that receive more money from the federal government then the send in tax dollars ten out of ten are deep red states. The primary difference is the perception of government spending. What is traditionally viewed as “welfare” programs or “entitlement” money is viewed as money sponged by lazy minorities. While farm subsidies, rural utility spending, military bases, are seen as earned by hard working individuals. Never mind that the lion share of entitlements still goes to non-minorities we’re dealing with perception.
Being down in Texas also gave me an idea of how the boarder states see the immigration issue. I live in New York, and it is obvious that we have a lot of immigrants. It is also apparent that a lot of them are not here totally legally. The difference between here and Texas though is the type of jobs illegal immigrants take. From what I could tell a good percentage of the jobs down there were physical. Jobs that required skills, but many of those skills could be acquired on the job. Immigrants can easily compete with the local community and displace jobs. This isn’t a knock on Texas, it’s just the nature of the world. Very few ad agencies, or magazines, are going to be based in the middle of Texas. There are a few big businesses out there but they offer a lot more factory work then office work. Up here, there are a fare number of physical jobs but many jobs require credentials illegal immigrants couldn’t hope to document. I’m sure many New Yorkers would feel a whole lot differently if illegal immigrants were taking all the jobs at the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.
In addition chances are the jobs that can be found are from small businesses. The person in charge of hiring and firing people is the actual owner of the company. This makes business a much more personal affair. Business owners aren’t millionaires, they’re working 7 days a week to make $300,000 a year, a substantial sum but considering the effort and tenacity it took to make it, a well earned amount. In that context it can be easy to consider any tax increase as a punishment for hard work. In this context a new regulation that cost the owner money could easily lead to someone losing their job. In this environment a lot of the times when the government comes into your life directly it does seem to be taking things away.
One of the things I’m trying to do here is make sense of the world around me. I think my perspective is the right way to view the world, but I can’t trust that. The name of this blog is Disengage Autopilot because I believe it is important to be active in the formulation of your opinion. I was watching a talk at Cornell University with Keith Olbermann. Now I like Keith, I think a lot of the times he says things in a way that carries the influence needed to create change. Unfortunately I don’t think he is particularly good at addressing critics. He is often dismissive because he believes the evidence proving his point is out there and if you haven’t found it yet you’re either too dumb to find it, to dumb to understand it, or malicious in denying it. Frankly it comes off rude, and shuts down discussions. I don’t think that is the best way to engage someone. The truth is we can’t know everything, nor can we be right all the time. Speaking with confidence is important but failing to listen is arrogant. Much worse it is dangerous. Failing to listen to your critics leaves you vulnerable to believing your own press. It also allows your critics to be quickly dismissive of you. I will continue to write about how this world of ours looks to me. My goal is to convince people that the change we all know this world needs is the change I believe in. But in order for me to do that it will always be important to get out there and listen to people, try to understand how they’ve come to the opinion they have, be willing to be convinced they’re right, but also strive to convince them of my view.

Leave a Reply