Losing My Lege is a weekly column about the goings-on in and around the Austin capitol building during the 84th Texas legislature.
Texans love talking about what “generation Texan” we know ourselves to be. When “native Texan” doesn’t quite communicate just how actually Texan we are, we start talking about how extra actually Texan our very Texan ancestors were.
I believe I’m somewhere in the “fifth generation Texan” range, which is a thing I only bring up because I sat around stone-cold sober earlier this week listening to my fellow eleventy-generation-Texans boast about how their innate Texanness somehow demands that they do no less than vocally support a thing called “Confederate Heroes Day,” a state holiday that occasionally falls, and I am not even kidding you, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The occasion was a hearing of the Texas House Culture, Recreation and Tourism Committee on HB 1242, a bill from Austin Democrat Donna Howard and inspired by a local eighth-grader named Jacob Hale, who felt like renaming “Confederate Heroes Day” to “Civil War Remembrance Day” might be a “more accurate symbol of our state’s diverse history.”
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And so I am compelled to note: I feel like a Southerner and I feel like a Texan and I also feel like that time a great many of my ancestors turned against their own country because they wanted to continue to literally own other human beings is not something I feel particularly proud of or anxious to celebrate. (I know what the Confederate sympathizers would say to this, because they testified to as much during the hearing: I have been brainwashed by a nationwide education system deliberately engineered to favor the Northern Aggressors. To which I respond: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ )
But hey, the great thing about “Civil War Remembrance Day” versus “Confederate Heroes Day” is that the former makes room for brainwashed liberal race traitors like myself and people like the white lady who told the committee members that she actually, truly, honestly, and for real prefers to call it “The War Against Northern Aggression.”
But this “Aggression” cannot stand, apparently. The hearing brought out dozens of Texans who longed for the halcyon days of antebellum Texas, who wound themselves in ahistorical knots in an attempt to valorize America’s era of slavery without just coming out and saying that they really would have preferred to keep things that way.
They decried the Confederacy’s “unfair” affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan—another apparent consequence of the Northern Aggressors’ ongoing campaign of anti-Confederate propaganda—and derided Texans who supported the Union as “traitors,” with some even bizarrely condemning Memorial Day as an overblown holiday meant to celebrate said “traitors,” and why couldn’t they just have this one little bitty thing, when so much has already been taken away from them, to wit: their ancestors’ ability to own slaves?
And on and on they yammered about “political correctness” staining the sacred moral fabric of this America-that-should-never-have-been.
I’m not worried about “political correctness.” I am worried that future generations of Texans, Texans who will pride themselves on tracking those past generations, will be taught, as I was in Texas public schools, that the Civil War merely had mainly to do with “states’ rights,” and a piddly little side-issue called “triangular trade” that inspired a meddling federal government to mess, as it were, with Texas.
But Texan Sam Houston, perhaps you’ve heard of him, was after all a noted Unionist. (And anti-abolitionist.) Just one Union monument stands anywhere on Texas soil—commemorating the Confederate massacre of 37 German Texans who opposed slavery.
“Confederate Heroes Day” only tells one side—to my mind, a largely shameful and hateful side—of a multifaceted story. Texas has a fraught and nuanced history—not just as a Confederate state and as a slave-owning state, but as a state built, as so many others were, on colonialism and oppression and appropriation. To resist a change as benign as “Civil War Remembrance Day” is to cling to, and perpetuate, the worst legacies of this deeply beautiful, and deeply complicated place.
And so this afternoon, I’ll be raising a can of Lone Star—well, perhaps Dr. Pepper—to young Jacob Hale, who at age 13 has the kind of guts and sense a Texan of any age ought to aspire to.