Rugged Individualism Meets God’s Wrath & Loses
In a 9/15/05 column in this space titled “The Big Desperate: New Orleans Drowns It’s Poor and Huddled Masses”, I opined on the concept of self-preservation after one of the most devastating hurricanes to hit the continental U.S. in decades. My general rambling point was that too many politicians and officials, and quite frankly residents, ignored major issues with the woefully insufficient levies, despite decades of warnings and previous damaging floods. Then Hurricane Katrina came along, and we all know how that worked out. I didn’t necessary “defend” the Bush administration’s dormant response to it – which was so bad we still refer to a president’s fuck up in a crisis now as “His Katrina Moment” – but I did mention that ignoring probable dangers in lieu of profits, getting elected, or finding affordable housing in a flood zone, will most likely lead to homelessness and drowning. And expecting those same systemic abnormalities to come to the rescue when the poop hits the proverbial fan seems kind of naive. This is what’s currently going on in Texas, where, ironically, the very same George W. Bush had been governor for four years.
Texas is run more than any state as a separate entity to the rest of the country. It’s been their “thing” since they stole the land from Spain, who stole it from Mexico. Even their bullshit “Remember the Alamo” story is another in a long line of American revisions: Illegal land barons trapped by angered landowners refusing to vacate the filched property they had zero rights to and are summarily slaughtered, ostensibly committing suicide, suddenly become heroically martyred symbols of frontier spirit. We’re good at nonsense history like this; changing the villain/hero dynamic to fit our national conscience. Our history books are jammed with this crap. Our children are still taught it. It is an abomination. Leads to voting for game show hosts and believing elections are stolen.
But I digress.
The Texas mantra has been to run things in the Lone Star State tradition of self-reliant, rugged individualism. This is being sorely tested by a once in a generation winter storm that has eviscerated a singular grid system running ninety percent (90%!!!!!) of the state. And, to make matters worse, the company running the system has zero standby plans for emergencies, causing electricity prices to skyrocket during the crisis.
The perfectly named Electric Reliability Council of Texas, (ERCOT) collapsed this week because it was not remotely designed or equipped to deal with this shit. The extreme freezing temperatures and unusual snow falls are not as re-occurrent as floods in New Orleans, but the ERCOT monopoly is complete, and it is currently fucking thousands of Texas residents, many of whom were and still without power since this happened some days ago; burst pipes, no water or food, Texans living in their cars and freezing or burning furniture to survive. It is a post-apocalyptic nightmare down there. And it was their choice; or at least the choice of the politicians and the system they created on a myth.
This “choice” (and I assume not everyone’s opinion was considered in this perpetual cowboy fantasy) to live in a singular grid free of federal oversight and regulation was met with (shockingly) a tone-deaf response from Republican Governor Greg Abbott. Instead of shouldering the blame, as he should in his position, Abbott took to the conservative airwaves to warn us all about a Green New Deal and somehow blaming the ten percent of the rest of the state’s energy concerns on solar wind turbines or Karl Marx and Hollywood.
Whatever spurious excuses and political falderal the faltering Abbott offered appeared less about reviewing the systemic mistakes made over decades of ignoring the facts, and more about Texas’s liberal sacred cows like Beto O’Rourke cravenly taking the crisis opportunity to attach this to climate change and the refusal of former Governor Rick Perry (another idiot) to expand Medicaid, leaving about five million residents without health insurance, including an estimated 625,000 children.
But none of this is the actual issue here. Texas has a plan: Do Not Have Anything To Do With Anything Beyond Out Borders. And that plan works for them, until it doesn’t, and now it isn’t. Over twenty souls (so far) have gone to meet their maker as a result. This is a surprise, how? What happened to “Every man for himself means every man for himself – in good times and bad?” This is how it goes. You make your choice, and you live with it. Shit, take Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who shuffled off to sunny Cancun with his family this week while people froze to death in his district. This is a man who fully understands the Texas Edict. “There’s really nothing I could do, anyway,” he said, before he made up some stories about his kids and then rushed back amid a belligerent outcry against his doing “The Texas Thing”. Cruz is not the problem; it is the system that created him and the constituents who make him a senator against their best interests.
To wit: Have you seen the Texas/Arkansas border photo yet? It shows what is literally called Stateline Boulevard, a border road that divides Texas and Arkansas, and the Arkansas side is cleared and plowed and the Texas side is buried in snow.
That is the Texas Plan. Good for them. Now what? Let’s see if they have what it takes to get out from under it.
What I ask is; what happens in its wake? It is very interesting politically. Texas has been trending blue for three election cycles now. There is a groundswell of new residents and larger cities with bigger international interests that think “Go It Alone” is not good for business. And business greases the wheels of America and thus, American politics. Texas and its snowy crisis have become both the symbol and the epicenter of political haranguing.
The very future of The Lone Star ideology, and more importantly for the rest of us, American politics for generations will emerge from it.