Texas, We’re Just Not That Into You

What happens when you barely recognize the state you fell in love with?

June 30, 2015

Image: Dan Page

In this month's issue, Houstonia published an opinion piece suggesting that—given our differences—maybe it was time for Houston to break up with its home state. Below, you'll find that piece, but we want to hear from you. Is it time that city and state went their separate ways? Let us know on social media using the hashtag #breakuptx. Do you think breaking up with Texas is crazy talk? Tell us so with the hashtag #staytogethertx. Either way, we want to know where you stand, because one of the things we love most about our hometown is that we're an opinionated people—so let us hear it.

Dear Texas,

Do not imagine that the words you are about to read are in any way easy for us to write. Every city wants to believe that a relationship like this will stand the test of time, and we Houstonians are no different in that regard. There’s nothing easy about walking away from something that you’ve invested 169 years of your life in. But when things aren’t working—indeed, haven’t worked in a very long time—somebody has to admit what we both know is true: it’s time we went our separate ways.  

Did we ever love each other? Of course we did. There was a time when Houston and Texas were a great seamless entity, a sort of Pangaea of Dixie. But that was before your tectonic shifts and the rifts that came with them, rifts so deep they finally split us in two.

We wonder now: were you ever the state we thought you were? The Texas that Houston fell in love with was the Texas of Rauschenberg, the state that birthed artists daring and beautiful. These days they draw Mohammed cartoons. Where once your writers—Katherine Anne Porter, say—penned mash notes to the ethereal, now they rewrite textbooks, claiming Moses was behind the Constitution. What has happened to you? 

No state is perfect, of course—disagreements, hostility, loneliness and isolation are inevitable whenever two great territories come together. But does any city deserve to be treated as we have? To endure the humiliation we have endured? Think of the countless times we’ve stood and defended you, however reluctantly, the times we’ve put up a brave front even as you were mocked and derided by the rest of the country. Look, they laughed, the “boldest and grandest” state in America now lives in paranoid fear of America swallowing it up

Ours was a marriage unmatched, a partnership of pioneers, both of us arrogant and brash...

In the name of loyalty, we stood by silently while the state we’d fallen in love with, the Texas that welcomed thousands of 19th-century Germans seeking haven from religious tyranny, became the perpetrator of that very tyranny. We watched in disbelief as you turned your back on your sons—the architects of the Great Society, with its wars on poverty and disease—and pledged allegiance instead to billionaires who wage war on the poor and defenseless for sport. 

In after years, we will try very hard not to think of the Texas you became but the Texas you once were, the Texas we all were. Remember? Ours was a marriage unmatched, a partnership of pioneers, both of us arrogant and brash, both blessed with that rare combination of dogged ambition and generosity of heart. Between your bounty and our port, your vast natural resources and our human ones, there seemed no limit to what we might achieve. Together, we powered the entire world even as we fed and clothed its children. Together, we singlehandedly ended its disputes, guided its governments, cured its diseases.

It was by championing the individual, ironically, that we were able to do so much for so many. That is still my creed, we can hear you say. Yes, but to what end? Open-carry assault rifles? Indeed, all your great causes are shrunken and partial now, your passions mere shadows of their former selves. How else are we to understand your devotion to the inherent and inalienable rights of fetuses but not to those who produce them? To the pursuit of happiness for only some who marry? Even now, it seems inconceivable that Texas, of all states, would turn its back on that great achievement of our forefathers, the Declaration of Independence. But perhaps you now think Moses was behind that too.

Anyone who reflects on the events of the past few decades will come to the same, inescapable conclusion: it is time we both moved on. Which is not to imply that this is all your fault. After all, when you met us we were little more than a tiny settlement on a fetid swamp. Now we command the attention of the entire world. It remains for psychologists to speculate whether your present reactionary cast of mind is borne of resentment. It doesn’t really matter though. The point is, for whatever reason, each of us has become unrecognizable to the other, estranged if not enemies. All that remains is to formalize the separation we’ve felt in our hearts for some time. 

Yet, parting fills us with sorrow, and not the sweet kind. How can that be, we wonder? Perhaps it is always sad to lose an association one has treasured for the better part of two centuries, especially one with an empire wide, glorious and supremely blest. To be sure, there is no joy in imagining a future in which Texas, our Texas, is ours no longer. And the notion will always haunt us that we might have fixed things if given the chance. But one breath later we realize that the task of fixing things does not any longer fall to us. The time for acquiescence has passed. From this point forward, any reconciliation would depend on your willingness, Texas, to become more like us, which is to say more like the rest of the world. And that, it seems, you are unwilling to do. 

Eternally yours, or almost,


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