Wednesday, August 31, 2011

This Man Is Not the Texas That I Know

I have posted several times now about Rick Perry, and I feel that I need to try to explain in more why I find his candidacy for the presidency particularly disturbing and threatening to the values and principles that I and many others hold as important.

I grew up in Texas, specifically in Lubbock, a medium-sized city surrounded by seemingly endless miles of cotton fields, out on the high plains of the northwest part of the state, approximately at the base of the Texas panhandle. I lived in Lubbock from the age of eight until I started college in San Antonio, and after that off-and-on until I finally moved for good to Charlotte, North Carolina at age 33, in 1997.

As I was growing up in the 1970s, I was very much aware that I lived in a conservative area, where Protestant Christianity was the dominant faith and "old-fashioned family values" ruled... probably all the more acutely aware being raised with my sister by a single mother who is an atheist and a liberal democrat. While there were certainly times, particularly in elementary school, when I felt somewhat out of place and self-conscious, I can honesty say that rarely if ever was I genuinely threatened or excluded because of my family's structure, attitudes, or beliefs. Looking back, I have to say that with few exceptions, the prevailing philosophy that I recall in Lubbock was one of political conservatism with regard to fiscal or economic issues, and a general "mind your own business" attitude toward most social issues. The social climate was certainly not one of genuine openness or tolerance, but on the other hand I recall few instances of true hatred, intolerance or bigotry. It's possible I could be wrong about this--time and distance can affect our memories and perceptions--but this is how I remember it.

I know that the description I've given must sound like damningly faint praise, and there are certainly reasons why I am glad I'm not living out the rest of my life in West Texas. But the point is that the toxic aura of radical intolerance and bigotry that I see surrounding Governor Perry is something truly ominous, much different from the more dignified conservatism that I remember from my time in Texas. When I see a man with Perry's popularity, who promotes policies and attitudes that directly exclude and demean anybody who does not share the governor's religious beliefs; who deliberately denigrates science and knowledge when it conflicts with his narrow interpretation of Biblical "truth" and suggests that the children of his state be indoctrinated with his beliefs; who pursues policies that are actively hostile and destructive to the health and well being of the people of his state and beyond... I find it abhorrent that this man might have the chance to do to the United States and the world, what he has already done to his, and my, home state.

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