Friday, July 17, 2015

Today, Mimi Gets To The Bottom Of The Jade Helm 15 Panic

Mimi Swartz offers a combo history lesson with a little common sense on the side in finding the meaning behind the brouhaha over the military exercise that began two days ago in Central Texas. The upshot of the nonsense is that Texas Dumbos (and their Teabagger brethren/sisteren) have hit bottom in the mineshaft of stupidity that covers most of the Lone Star State. The new State motto should be "I'm from Texas & I'm Dumb As $shit, But Also Proud Of it." It would seem that a lot of Texans have a stupid gland that no proctological procedure can plumb. If this is a (fair & balanced) Lone Star butt-check, so be it.

[x NY Fishwrap]
Why Texans Fear Invasion
By Mimi Swartz

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A psychiatrist I knew many years ago suggested to me that a person’s irrational behavior in the present was probably not so irrational (to the person) in the past. As time has gone on, this insight has proved pretty useful, helping me develop empathy not just for bad boyfriends and crazy bosses, but for understanding my home state of Texas, which, let’s face it, has been known to excel at throw-up-your-hands behavior.

The recent crisis known as Jade Helm 15 serves as a pretty good example. On the surface, this just looks like another case of a few Texas knuckleheads making the rest of us look bad. To recap: A few months ago, the federal government announced that it would be holding military training exercises in seven states in the Southwest, including Texas. They would, literally, bring in heavy artillery like aircraft — along with Navy SEALs, Army Green Berets and other Special Operations forces.

Maybe the military should have been a little bit more careful with the rollout of the exercise, which began on Wednesday [July 15, 2015]. The plan was to divide the designated lands into primarily “permissive” and “hostile” territories, with Texas falling into the latter category. The operation’s logo — two arrows crossed over a sword, a wooden clog planted bizarrely in the center — looked like something designed for a creepy “Game of Thrones” knockoff in which Amsterdam meets the Apaches.

But to some people around here, the government’s plan to train service members to work in “complex environments” looked like something else: a plot to take over the state. “This is in preparation for the financial collapse and maybe even Obama not leaving office,” the Texas-based conspiracy theorist and radio talk show host Alex Jones declared. That was followed by about one zillion Internet cranks predicting the declaration of martial law — you probably got word about the shuttered Walmarts being converted to makeshift detention centers. Governor Greg Abbott’s attempt to calm the populace by ordering the state guard to keep an eye on the feds came next, an action that did nothing to confirm the pre-election rumor that he was much smarter than his predecessor, Rick Perry.

I don’t disagree with the observers who say that anti-Obama sentiment provided much of the fuel for this fire. But the local (over)reaction also has its roots in Texas’ DNA. Put another way, it wasn’t so nutty to get bent out of shape about a hostile invasion by a supposed tyrannical government around 185 years ago. Consider that much of Texas, then part of Mexico, was settled by prickly Scots-Irish types who’d had their own issues back home. Some of these folks were big movers in the events leading up to the Texas Revolution.

In 1830, for instance, the Mexican government was getting very worried about the creeping Americanization of its Texas lands and the growing number of Anglo-Americans — a.k.a. Texians — who were living there. Tightening control, it began restricting immigration and raising taxes, setting up a customs house on a busy spot on the Trinity River in the soon-to-be town of Anahuac.

The man in charge was a Kentuckian named Juan Davis Bradburn, who for reasons true and imagined became increasingly paranoid that Anglo settlers were going to declare their independence from Mexico. A series of assaults, arguments over slavery (Texians wanted to keep it) and questionable jailings of locals followed, as did an increase in hard feelings between Texas settlers and their Mexican overlords. At one point William Barret Travis (soon to be an Alamo martyr) was tied up and threatened with execution if the rebellious Texians didn’t back off. Eventually, Bradburn was relieved of his command and hid out in corn cribs and creeks, eventually making his way to New Orleans. But Mexico also sent more troops to Texas.

In 1835 complaints about unfair taxation had resumed and Travis — who had shrewdly left town for a bit himself — returned with a 25-man militia and a cannon. He rebuffed some 40 Mexican troops, but the Mexican government issued an order for his arrest. Not surprisingly, this move outraged the Texians even more.

Meanwhile, sensing trouble in other quarters, the Mexican government demanded the return of a cannon it had previously given to the settlers of Gonzales, TX., for protection from the Comanches. The locals there, already plenty mad about the bludgeoning of a Gonzales resident by a Mexican soldier, declined to comply. The Mexicans then sent around 100 soldiers to take back the cannon, and, before they retreated, the two sides exchanged fire. At some point the Texians raised a homemade flag illustrated with the cannon and the phrase “Come and Take It,” a sentiment later used by Texas lovers of recalled Blue Bell Ice Cream.

Every schoolchild in Texas learns what followed: the defeat at the Alamo, the victory at San Jacinto and the establishment of the Republic of Texas until 1845, when we joined the union and subsequently seceded with the rest of the South.

Those in the mental health professions might suggest a pattern here. They would also suggest that, over time, patterns can be broken, so that they don’t lead to destructive events, like the deadly 1993 siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, TX., or just plain silly ones, like believing a military exercise is cover for an invasion.

Many Texans have taken that advice: We’re moving slowly into maturity. But you know, there are always a few who take longer to get there. Ω

[Mimi Swartz is an executive editor at Texas Monthly. Swartz received a BA (English) from Hampshire College. She is the co-author (with Sherron Watkins) of Power Failure, The Inside Story of the Collapse of Enron (2003).]

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