OPINION: Dear America, We Need to Talk About Texas -- It's Urgent
Have you heard? A radical, superstition-fueled insurgency has taken root in America. No, I'm not talking about ISIS or “creeping sharia.” I'm talking about Texas — a state which seems to pride itself on the amount of extremist policies its government can pass in the shortest amount of time.
Texas has a long history of being late to the progressive party (and sometimes, never arriving at all). However, it’s worse now than it has been in a while. In just the past year, Texas has made even stronger efforts than usual to restrict the rights of minorities and marginalized groups.
From the way it “teaches” history and demarcates its bathrooms to its institutionalized contempt for women, just about everything about politics and policy in Texas is screaming for someone to take a second look at it. Here’s why it may be time for an intervention.
Achieving equality for the non-heteronormative has been like playing whack-a-mole. Just when you thought gay marriage was settled law, all those opposed will now throw this equally questionable “controversy” at our feet.
It’s true — Texas has been quick to jump on the “Bathroom Bill” craze that’s sweeping America. Their version would require people in Texas to use the bathroom which corresponds to the sexual identity on a piece of paper, rather than the one in their innermost heart.
The phrase “textbook industry” should send a shudder down your spine under any circumstances, but in Texas, publishers have actively undermined historical truth as we know it. To add fuel to this flame, for years, most textbooks came straight out of the Lone Star State.
The most recent controversy — and there have been many — concerned one book’s use of the word “workers” to describe slaves brought to the U.S. from Africa. It might sound like a semantic distraction to you, but it’s in step with Texas’ long tradition of removing nuance and context from how we discuss the slavery-riddled chapters of America’s past.
Textbooks in Texas regularly downplay both the role slavery played in the actions of the Confederacy and the gritty, day-to-day horrors of slavery itself by using manipulative or downright inaccurate language.
It’s 2017. We can’t heal these old wounds until we’re honest with ourselves about how they happened. Unfortunately, Texas is actively working to hold this wound open.
Throwing Women Under the Bus
Sorry to be so direct about it, but if you’re a (1) woman, or (2) a woman who is pregnant, or (3) a woman who might want to be pregnant some day, or (4) a woman who doesn’t want to be pregnant any longer, do yourself a favor and steer clear of Texas.
According to folks who keep track of this sort of thing, Minnesota is the best American state for women in terms of employment and earnings potential, access to health infrastructure, reproductive rights, and family-friendly laws and workplace policies.
Guess which state took last place? That’s right — Texas. To be fair, half a dozen states tied for worst, including Texas.
Need an example? Lawmakers in Texas think it’s a good idea to empower OBs to lie to their patients about the state of their pregnancy. It’s true — pregnant women could be kept in the dark about serious threats to their baby’s health, all because the Texas government is worried about abortions.
It continues. Some women in Texas need to travel 300 miles or more to access basic health care services. We’re not even talking about abortion — we’re talking about disease screenings, contraceptives, family planning, counseling services, and mammograms.
It’s another farce under the “sanctity of life” banner. The people pushing these law reforms want you to believe they’re “pro-life,” but most of their dogma is demonstrably hostile to life. The truth is, they’re merely pro-birth. After you’re born, it’s all, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”
Ignoring Public Sentiment When It Doesn’t Suit Them
While Texas lawmakers are clearly eager to get some pretty extreme legislation moving along, they appear to be dragging their feet when it comes to issues that may greatly help the general public, but don’t suit their own agenda. Medical cannabis has been a hot topic in Texas recently, primarily because people are wondering: what’s the hold-up?
Before fully legalizing medical marijuana, many states have put their own versions of Compassionate Medical Cannabis acts or Compassionate Use acts in place. Normally, these involve legislation allowing for the use of low-THC, non-smokable medical cannabis. Many states start with these acts in place and end up fully legalizing medical cannabis sometime thereafter.
Two years ago, Texas lawmakers approved their own Compassionate Use Act, which legalized cannabidiol for medical purposes. However, the law has yet to have an impact — the first Texas CBD dispensaries haven’t even been fully licensed yet.
As frustrated Texas patients intensify their push for some kind of movement since the passing of the Compassionate Use Act two whole years ago, lawmakers appear to have their ears muffled. It seems that Texas lawmakers only move quickly when it fits their personal preferences best.
Texas should terrify you.
Why? There’s a very simple reason — and it’s all about States’ Rights.
Up until Rand Paul disappeared from the 2016 Presidential race, States’ Rights was nearly a political issue unto itself. It concerns the right of each United State — 50 tiny countries, if you prefer to think of it that way — to come up with their own laws, provided Federal law doesn’t already cover the issue.
States like Texas cite States’ Rights when it suits their arguments. However, when other American States begin legalizing marijuana, implementing universal health care, creating safe havens for political refugees, drawing up sane gun control laws, and following through on a litany of other policies that are anathema to Texas lawmakers’ agendas, they fight hard against States’ Rights to put a stop to it.
Texas has clearly chosen to race to the bottom on domestic, social, and educational issues. But you know who else is blazing their own trail, but for completely different reasons? California. And Trump isn’t happy about it.
President Trump has all but declared war on “out of control” California, which has long been a shining beacon for progressives. Trump isn’t a real Republican, but is he feckless enough to give extremists — and just about anyone in the political establishment — anything they’ve ever wanted as long as he can make a buck in the process?
Only time will tell. For now, it’s true what they say: American States are the laboratories of democracy. Whether we even have a Federal government eight years from now is anybody’s guess, but for the time being, we turn to Texas and California for a look at two very different but very possible futures for the rest of America.