Deep in the Heart of Texas, Trouble is Brewing

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Texas has once again shown itself to be in a great big state of crazy. However, recent developments have shown that perhaps there is hope that things can turn around.

As a psychologist, people’s motivations and behavior are supposed to be my area of expertise. Usually I can formulate hypotheses as to why people do what they do, but I have to tell you, the people who are in charge of the great state of Texas have me stumped. I have absolutely no clue as to why they’re doing the things they are, and it kind of makes me crazy. I wish that I could stop writing about Texas (see “Texas Forever or Texas Whatever?”) but until this state regains its sanity, I’m afraid I can’t.

First up is the special session of the legislature called by Governor Rick “When will he ever go away?” Perry. These sessions are intended to be for the purpose of completing unfinished tasks, but in Texas it’s mainly been about passing legislation that the party in charge believes is important. You know, things like redistricting (otherwise known as gerrymandering) and curtailing women’s reproductive freedom.

The redistricting legislation passed, but it’s the abortion bill that caused the greatest uproar. If passed, this bill will be one of the most restrictive in the country. Over the objections of both the American Medical Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (you know, the physicians who are the professional experts in this area), it will interfere with medical decision making, close most of the abortion clinics in the state, and make getting an abortion all but impossible for poor women.

Upon hearing about this vote, I immediately emailed Scott Sanford, my state representative, telling him that politics has no place in women’s reproductive decisions and that if he truly wanted to help children, he could start by restoring funding to many of the social services that have been cut in recent years. Mr Sanford replied, “Whenever sensitive votes like these come to the House Chamber, I always look to God’s Word to give me wisdom.” He went on to list the two Bible verses “that I will be looking toward for guidance during this vote.” Upon reading his email reply, my jaw literally dropped. Silly me. I thought that our elected representatives were supposed to be faithful to the Constitution which, if I remember correctly, said something about the separation of church and state.

Next up was the carefully considered decision by Governor Perry to eliminate funding to the only office in the state that investigates and prosecutes political corruption cases. He decided to do this because the person in charge of the unit refused to resign after getting arrested for a DUI. She is a duly elected representative, so it is the people’s decision, not Rick Perry’s, as to whether she keeps her job. However, he threatened to eliminate funding if she did not voluntarily leave, and when she didn’t, Perry retaliated the only way he knew how. I’m sure his strong-arm tactics had nothing to do with the fact that she’s a Democrat, or because of any dislike he may have toward the halting of corruption.

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The third item in line for the “What the…???!!!” award was the less than two hours it took for Texas to move forward in implementing a controversial law requiring voters to present photo identification before casting a ballot, after the Supreme Court struck down an important section of the Voting Rights Act. The fact that Texas is moving forward to try and disenfranchise people of color and poor voters is not the surprise; the shocker was the speed with which it occurred following the federal decision. It was almost as if they could not wait to start showing the rest of the country how we deal with prejudice and discrimination down here. Which, of course, is also related to the final contender in the most recent “What’s the matter with Texas?” contest: capital punishment.

This week, the great state of Texas is poised to execute its 500th prisoner. What a great milestone! Texans have every right to be proud of our status as the state with the largest number of kills. The state with the next highest number of executions — Virginia — does not even come close to matching us. Suckers! Clearly they don’t know the extraordinary benefits of vengeance, fiscal responsibility, fairness, and crime reduction that such a high number of executions brings! I mean, after all, there was a reason why Thelma and Louise chose to avoid Texas in their run for the border.

Clearly, I am being sarcastic, because none of the so-called benefits of capital punishment are true. There are minimal (if any) positive outcomes to vengeance; killing prisoners is much more expensive than life in prison; people of color and the poor are killed at much higher rates (so it is unfair); and capital punishment does not deter crime. If you add to all this the fact that other first-world countries view us as barbaric and that many judges have ruled capital punishment to be cruel and unusual, you have to wonder why we continue to use it. If anything, our high execution rate makes us look more bloodthirsty than just.

So, what’s the matter with Texas? Yes, Texans have been their own brand of crazy since the state began (after all, what school children hear most about the state’s history is the Alamo — a disastrous land grab from Mexico that ended in slaughter), but over the last 15 years, the level of crazy has reached new highs. It seems like we’re almost gunning (heh) to be the state with the worst environment record, the least amount of social services, the highest rate of locking up and killing its citizens, and the state with some of the lowest scores for education, healthcare and general well-being. Surely that’s not what the majority of Texans want, yet that is what the people in control of Texas’ fate keep doing.

For far too long, many of my fellow Texans have been drinking the Kool-Aid and voting mindlessly along party lines, versus truly thinking about what it is they cherish and in what kind of world they want to live. For far too long, many Texas voters have believed that values meant compassion and that religion in politics actually meant something good (the way it’s supposed to be), versus being a cover for fuzzy thinking and bad behavior. For far too long, numerous Texans have been hoodwinked into believing that short-term thinking works, greed is good, and that social welfare is unnecessary. It is time for all of that to change.

And there is, at last, hope that it will. Wendy Davis, a wonderful and brave senator from Ft Worth, filibustered the abortion bill for close to 11 hours in an effort to keep it from passing. When she was stopped due to some shady rulings (was this really a surprise?), the spectators in the gallery — a mere fraction of the thousands who gathered in and outside the Capitol building — started chanting and making enough noise that the Senate could not do its business, and the deadline passed. Senator Davis’ political star may be on the rise and, at least for that night, the people’s voice made a difference. Rick Perry made sure to call another special session, but the will of the people will not be ignored for long. Groups like Progress Texas, the Burnt Orange Report, Battleground Texas, and Equality Texas are making inroads into the state.

Despite its recent difficulties, Texas has a long history of being the land of independent, big-hearted and generous people. We do everything big here, so it makes sense that the challenges we’ve created have been on the large size. But maybe, just maybe, all this may be turning around. Deep in the heart of Texas, people truly do care about one another and they will not stand by for long and let the state slide into ruin. Trouble is brewing and I, for one, cannot wait.

All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by on and was last reviewed or updated by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .

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