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Marty Schrock of Amarillo, Texas, raises a Texas state flag over a pier.
Mike Heffner/Getty Images
The first time I visited Texas, I expected tumbleweeds and cowboys; it's that kind of state. The rest of the world sees it through the lens of Willie Nelson and George Strait, or through the prism of President Bush: cowboy boots and clearing brush in the arid flatlands of Crawford. And many Americans equate the Lone Star State with the far right wing of American politics.
It gets a bum rap, and though I'm just a South Floridian married to a girl who says her "heart is in the shape of Texas," I think it's all based on misconceptions.
I just read David Faris' satirical piece, Don't Mess With Texas ... Get Rid Of It, extolling the virtues of kicking the state out of the union, and then read the 300-plus comments below it. Some say Texas has only one saving grace: Austin. Texas breeds out-of-whack politicians. Texas doesn't like the French or the literate or, as Faris puts it "the gays."
I lived in Houston for a little over four years, so I shared the Faris piece with a few of my Texan friends. The e-mail chain quickly got out of control:
Faris should note that the majority of major cities in Texas went blue in the last election, said one. Houston, the biggest city in Texas, she added, ranks second in headquarters for Fortune 500 companies, second only to New York City.
On the green front, Texas leads the country in wind power capacity. On the cultural front, there are too many contributions to the musical, literary and culinary canon to mention.
Most importantly, my wife pointed out, George W. Bush was born in New Haven, Conn.
Their sheer tenacity — the idea that people would so vehemently defend their Texas — got me thinking. The first things I noticed when I got to Texas were the single stars slapped on every highway and being surprised at how more than once I saw Texas flags flying solo, or in the rare symbolic case, towering over the Stars and Stripes.
I'll admit there is something humorous about Texas chutzpah. I remember chuckling at my wife declaring in the middle of a party in Jacksonville, Fla., that her heart was forever in Texas. I laughed when Rick Perry insinuated secession. And any time Kinky Friedman made a public appearance during his gubernatorial run, I thought to myself, "Texas is in a world of its own."
But there's the rub: Sure it's easy to say that if Texas wants to be its own country, let's kick it out of the union. But at the same time, isn't that zealous independence, that crazy states-versus-union conflict the thing that makes us uniquely American?
Eyder Peralta is a producer for NPR.org. He is also Texan by marriage.