Friday, January 02, 2009

It Was A Rather Small Affair

This comment is put on the lips of General Santa Ana at the end of the IMAX movie about the Alamo. He has been portrayed as completely without redeeming social value throughout the film, and this is supposed to just cap it, infuriating Texans no end. If anything proves what a dork Santa Ana is, it's this comment.

Except he's right. Texans, especially San Antonians, believe the defending of the Alamo was the key event of American history, and the courage displayed there to be unequalled by the citizens of lesser states.

I am going to annoy Roper at least, and maybe Katie among my usual readers. Ben's girlfriend told me today that she had three years of Texas history and only one year of US history growing up. Texans have a perspective, and believe it is intellectually defensible on the sole basis that other Texans think so to. They have a very nice history, full of courage, interesting stories, contributions to the common weal, and so forth. Just like every other state in the union.

The reasoning is just silly. The Alamo was important because it bought time and provided inspiration for San Jacinto, which was a turning point in ripping Texas away from Mexico (don't get me wrong. Mexico doesn't have a particularly good argument that they should have gotten to keep Texas. They screwed up and were oppressors. There are risks that go with that), which was key in getting Mexico to cede large portions of the Southwest, which helped make America the sea-to-shing-sea place it is today, and so on. Great. Except that by that logic, nearly every event in history can make the same claim. Every state in the union has points in its history that can plausibly be put forward as having saved the republic. If Widow Jones hadn't been hanging up her laundry at that precise moment, she wouldn't have seen the redcoats coming... Gee Willikers, Wally! We might all be speaking Norwegian today if it hadn't been for that.

Cookie cutters in the shape of the Alamo. The tiles in the sidewalk are in the shape of the Alamo. My waffle this morning was in the shape of Texas.

Get a grip, people.


@nooil4pacifists said...

San Jacinto fits perfectly into the American founding myths: a sleeping enemy, blinded by a force attacking from the direction of the setting sun, Americans outnumbered, triumphing in a swamp, capturing the opposing commanding general. I agree that the sacrifice at the Alamo played a far lesser role in the Americanization of Texas, and as a part of our founding myth.

Still, there's something about Texas history that's larger and grander than any state except Virginia and Massachusetts.

Donna B. said...

Where can I get me one of those Texas-shaped waffle makers?

The way Texas entered the union is unique. It's geography and geology are also quite interesting, though I'm probably one of a very few people who enjoy driving through west Texas for the scenery.

You are right that every state has an interesting history. I was born in Colorado and grew up there and in New Mexico, then spent the next 20 years in Texas. My first trip to the east coast was when my daughter was attending W&M.

I have since come to love Virginia and N & S Carolina. Amazing histories there, including the one where King George III pardoned six Regulators, thus sparing the life of one of my ancestors so that I might be here today.

Yeah, some of the Texas "pride" is over the top, but I rather enjoy it.

Anonymous said...

A couple of years back, watching a nature program (or perhaps hunting channel - some would say no diff), I learned that there are more deer in TX than any other state - which surprised me as much as learning that there are more beef cattle in FL than elsewhere. Huge state I guess - and not all desert after all (just as FL must not be all alligator swamps).
Speaking of 'Big' psychology, it's interesting how we allow that an aggressive big-wheel pick-up driver is just acting the way he/she ought to on the road (as in "move outta my way"), but if a little car's driver does the same pushiness we mostly react with "who do you think you are - you pip-squeak" or some such reaction. Imagine a haughty Rhode Islander or Luxembourgian ;-) Do we naturally/socially categorize individuals based on their associations - and do they really make sense? What if the pick-up driver's a midget, and the micro-car's driven by a basketball player?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Donna, the waffle-maker was at a Courtyard by Marriot.

Have I missed something on a W&M connection here? Tracy and I both went there in the 70's. My oldest son looked at it for college, but decided the yuppie flavor was too strong.

bs king said...

Have you seen the "Don't mess with Texas" shower curtains yet? Those are awesome.

Donna B. said...

TomG - Texas deer are small, not quite fitting in with the bigness of the state.

AVI - I started reading your blog because of comments you left elsewhere, so the W&M thing is just coincidence.

Boethius said...


Three years of Texas history. As a teacher in NH, I do not think we could possibly fill a curriculum with three years of NH history, and keep the students interested.

Off topic to Erin, my fellow teacher, did you catch that commnet?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Ben and I discussed this today and agreed that Carl has a point. There is a top-tier of states with interesting history, to which we would add New York and California. Then there is a second tier which includes some other Original Thirteens and maybe, oh, Florida or something. But few states have sustained importance in their historical events, and Texas is indeed one.

Erin said...

I had about 1 year of NH history (between 4th and 9th grade), but I was distraught over the overemphasis of American history in general. Perhaps it was highlighted because I found 20th century wars and history much more intriguing than the American Revolution or Civil War or American government structure, which I studied in 3rd, 4th, 7th, 9th, and 10th grades. 5th and 6th were reserved for NA geography (where Canada & Mexico were afterthoughts). I love America and all, but is 7 years of repetition necessary? My education left me with little to no knowledge of Asian geography beyond what I learned from the news and just a basic understanding of world politics, cultures, and history.

But reading this has made me realize how much we take for granted living in New England. The first 3rd of any given history class focuses in areas we can readily visit and relate to. I'd tend to believe that we're not New Englo-centric, but blessed to live in an area that played such a crucial role in the beginnings of our country. I think everyone finds a unique, somewhat over-the-top pride for the area they call home that is hard for outsiders to understand. I know my Southern relatives think my family is nuts!

Anonymous said...

But reading this has made me realize how much we take for granted living in New England.
Perhaps too much for granted. From my small town NE childhood I knew two families with Revolutionary War heroes in their family tree, one from the next town over where we went to high school. While it was common knowledge, no one of the families ever brought it up. You never got the "I am the great-great-- of @#$%" spiel from them.

When I was in 5th grade my class took a trip to the capitol city. At the State Capitol, the Representative from our town met us, and we got a 15 second "study hard" greetings from the Governor. IMHO, neither our teacher nor our State Representative were aware of the existence of that statue, as I do not remember our attention being directed to that statue. As I was a history buff, I would have remembered that.

I did not find out until years after I left the town that both famous ancestors had statues at the state capitol.

Regarding AVI's reacting to Texan mythology and history,with my life split between NE and Texas, I am not going to get into that argument.