A True Story

Nearly 30 years ago I went to a gun show at Dallas Market Hall. It was around Thanksgiving and I bought a very clean Weatherby 12 gauge pump shotgun for myself as an early Christmas present. I paid around $180 for it, and I still have it. In the front corner of the hall, where individuals rented tables to sell their personal collections, was a small table covered with pamphlets. It was staffed by a passionate, middle-aged man wearing a white dress shirt, a bolo tie, and two pieces, the vest and slacks, of his Sunday church suit. He wore a pocket watch with a chain which was tucked into the vest pocket and from the chain dangled a prominent enameled Texas flag. There must have been a dozen different pamphlets with titles like 'Federal Overreach and You!' and 'Missing the Mark: The Founding Father's Vision' and 'Who Really Owns Your Home: Property Taxes & Eminent Domain Explained.' He was soliciting signatures for a petition. I didn't read it or sign it but I knew it was about secession, specifically about making Texas an independent nation again. That was the first time I remember hearing about Texas independence. I immediately labeled it crazy-talk.

It's not sounding quite so crazy these days.

My change in attitude is not the result of some specific event that crossed some line and flipped my
switch, though there have been many such things over these past 30 years. To take one example, I remove my shoes at the airport like everyone else. Some see this requirement for what it is, a violation of the 4th Amendment, an erosion of liberty, and trading rights for the appearance of security. Those who don't see it that way can only argue that it is a trivial, inconsequential thing, a standard refrain when rights are trimmed away, but that does not refute the argument. Our liberties have been eroded over decades; it is a sneaky process. It is so subtle it is hard to see when the line has been crossed because the line, you see, keeps being moved. There was not some epiphanic event that sent me to shouting "SECESSION!" As frustrating as the news is each and every day, my attitude change on Texas independence was not based solely on emotion, though it does play a part.

The engineer in me would love to be able to explain the details of how Texas Independence might work, providing specific examples in areas like trade and tax and transportation. I'd like to say "See! This is better!" But I know that plans and people are not perfect; there are no guarantees. We can attempt to tune the economic and social dials, to synchronize the inputs and moderate the outputs, but some things, especially the large important things, are beyond our abilities of macro-control and require the fine adjustments of millions of fathers and mothers and teachers and owners to move the compass to an appropriate direction. Those who argue for smaller government and local control have one powerful argument, that smaller is easier to manage, but our lives, both our social and our private lives, are not intended to be managed, monitored and measured. They are intended to be lived. We fool ourselves into thinking that if only we had a more controllable system, something smaller, something restricted, something manageable, that it would be "better." Texas Independence may be a logical solution, but logic and efficiency and practicality by themselves are not sufficient to let me endorse such a drastic change. In less than 200 years a perfectly rational system of government, designed to thwart tyranny, has itself become tyrannical, though we hesitate to name it that. The next thing we try must be more than logical.

It would be impossible, in the course of these few paragraphs, to assemble the evidence and lay out my case for how Texas Independence is not crazy-talk. It is not an open and shut case. The evidence for and against is compelling, and it shifts based on prejudice and perspective. Some might say the winning argument is obvious based on logic and emotion, but the other side is making the exact same case. This is how trials work. Both sides present their case, the judge defines the legal boundaries for the jury, and a jury decides guilt on the preponderance of evidence. In this case, there are no legal boundaries, or if there are they are without question set up in favor of the present legal authorities. When you challenge the legal authorities your case needs to be made in an extra-legal manner, appealing to higher, incorruptible judgment. There is no legal case to be made. The case for Texas Independence should be about truth, not the definitions and nuances of truth that are distilled and framed and simplified for a jury.

And so, what are we left with to make the case, win the argument and convince people that Texas Independence is not just crazy-talk?  We have all of the above, emotion and reason and evidence, and we have the story.

The power of the story can be illustrated by the popular TV show 'American Pickers.' In it two guys, Mike and Frank, with an antique store in Iowa, drive around the country and attempt to buy interesting items, antiques, and collectibles from other collectors and hoarders and junk dealers. Sometimes Mike and Frank find an item and have an emotional connection to it. Maybe it's unique and they haven't seen one before, or maybe they connect personally, or maybe it simply has some quality that draws them to it. They become emotionally invested in it and do their best to acquire it. Other times, they find an item that fits a need, or will be perfect for an existing client, or will complete some project. Acquiring these kind of items is a practicality, a logical necessity. Sometimes neither emotion or logic are involved. Sometimes it is simply business and they have to weigh the pros and cons of acquiring the item. They consider all of the evidence ... the price, the potential selling price, what their customers like, how it can best be presented ... and then they must decide to buy or pass.

If we put ourselves in Mike and Frank's place, would we pay the price for Texas Independence? Most Texans are emotionally connected to being Texan, to living here, to the swagger and the independence and even the landscape, the wide open spaces. We can also understand the logical arguments, the value of local control and the relief from federal interference in our lives. We would struggle with legal arguments, with evaluating all the evidence and reconciling our obligation to current legal authorities. Texas Independence would impact many aspects of our lives and there would be good arguments, indeed there would be too many arguments, on both sides, for people to make a fully informed decision. Though emotion and logic can be powerful arguments, the real strength in the idea of Texas Independence is in the story that supports it, and what the story says about us, about Texans.

Mike and Frank, regardless of their feelings or thinking, always buy the item with a good story. Who owned it? How did they use it? Where did it come from? What significance did it have in the owners life or in the community or in the historical context? The story sells it, not only to Mike and Frank, but from Mike and Frank to their customers. The caveat, however, is that the story must be true. If it is not, all the value disappears and there is no reason for further consideration. No one wants to pay the price for an original and end up with a reproduction.

Texas Independence may be emotionally appealing to some and be logical to others. Those in favor or against should be able to make a strong case for their position based strictly on evidence and legal definitions, but their argument must be true to win the case. The phrase "beyond a shadow of a doubt" is often used to describe the conviction that a jury member should have before voting "guilty." It is an unrealistic standard that can never be truly met. We all doubt. The intent of the phrase is to show that "guilty" is a vote for truth. Facts are impartial. Evidence is not. Evidence is presented and speculated on and seeded with doubt from one side or the other. It is the jury's job to decide which story regarding the evidence is true.

This writing began as an exercise in trying to understand and explain to myself, and others, why I
have come to the conclusion that Texas Independence is a viable, non-crazy solution to the crazy, and dangerous, political climate in today's United States. The emotional argument, rooted in simply paying attention to the daily news, is not sufficient by itself. Having Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as our presidential nominees certainly makes me angry and sad, but using that argument alone makes shouting "SECESSION!" seem like the predictable "I'm moving to Canada!" threats seen during every presidential election. The logical argument, trading the unsustainable federal spending and debt for a solvent Texas and any other number of similar situations, though reasonable, doesn't work for many people because they want to believe the spending can be curtailed and the debt can be retired. They believe that the current situation can be fixed, either by electing the right people or promoting an appropriate hashtag. The legal approach of presenting evidence and allowing the public, as jury, to decide is not reliable. The current system is obviously biased against getting rid of itself, and it would be difficult to trust the evidence as presented by either the media or current political leaders, both of which are notoriously dishonest. And so we are left to decide where the truth resides without any available trustworthy thing.

Should we stay, or should we go?

When a jury is charged with identifying the truth of one side or the other they have much to consider. First they have to determine which version of the evidence presented is most reasonable. Then they have to try to discern from the testimony of others, and by observing the defendant and witnesses, which statements are true or false. Finally, they must understand the legal parameters and what they are allowed to consider. No matter how the case evolves there is one thing that will definitively shift their vote and that is truth or, importantly, the absence of truth. My contention, and the reason I think that Texas Independence is no longer just crazy-talk, is that we now know the American story, the United States story, is no longer true and the falsification of that means the other story, Texas Independence, is more true until proven otherwise. If one story is provably false, the other should win.

I believe the American story, at one time, was true. Drastic measures, like a Convention of States, might help reclaim some of that truth, but we are currently not living in the environment envisioned by our founders and by the Constitution which theoretically binds us. We are now Americans in name only and our options, at this point, are to reclaim the truth of the American vision through an Article V convention, or strike out on our own and establish a new true story for Texas. I side with striking out on our own, if only because the current system is corrupt and untrustworthy. I support both an Article V Convention of States, in an attempt to preserve the great American experiment, and Texas Independence, in an attempt to reclaim lost liberty, re-establish the idea of God-given rights and to be a part of a true story, or at least the attempt to create one.

1 comment:

  1. Great post and agree that we are collectively Americans in name only. I think that it should be noted that the current fight for Texas Independence is focused on giving Texans a chance to vote on it and it should be clear to all that the right of the people to decide on their own course is an inalienable one. Texans deserve the chance to determine their own destiny.