If you’ve never traveled around the state of Texas, you won’t really get an accurate picture of this odd land of extremes. The cities, especially Austin and Houston, are islands of relative sanity surrounded by a sea of crazy. All this considered, the unveiling of the Texas GOP’s platform should come as no surprise. They have merely tapped into the paranoid, hyper-nationalist, fascist zeitgeist so prevalent among a large swath of its white, Christian population.
In addition to the over the top, antigay/anti-trans rhetoric, the platform also attacks women’s reproductive rights, unions, climate change initiatives, the poor, the Endangered Species Act, gun control legislation (in a state that just witnessed the slaughter of elementary school children), immigrants and refugees (this is where Haitian refugees were recently whipped by officers on horseback), and public health measures to stem the spread of a pandemic. It also ramps up anti-China sentiments, advocates a withdrawal from the United Nations, and dehumanizes the Palestinians and their struggle for human rights (referring to the Bible as a reference for this discrimination and alignment with an apartheid regime). In addition to all of this, the platform employed QAnon conspiracies in questioning the legitimacy of the presidency of Joe Biden. And it reaffirmed the state’s right of secession from the union.
But one thread ran through everything: Christo-fascism. In fact, a narrow interpretation of the Christian Bible is referred to more than once as a justification for bigotry and discrimination. The pathology of theocratic obsession is embedded within Texas culture. And it is worth mentioning a recent town meeting in Arlington, Texas, where an evangelical Christian pastor took to the floor to call for the execution of gay people as “mandated” by the Holy Scripture. His unhinged lust for blood was echoed by many others there who uttered “amen” after every vile point he made.
I traveled across Texas several times years ago. I witnessed extremes in so many bizarre manifestations. Once, while driving down the interstate, I passed by an exit that had a billboard of a Bible verse with the image of a fetus. Obviously, a pro-life proclamation, one of many across the south. Under it was a sign that pointed across the way to a gun shop that boasted little to no background checks for customers. And next to the gun shop was an adult bookstore. This was Texas in a nutshell. At odds with itself and incapable of grasping the pathological contradictions.
Texas, and much of the south for that matter, has never reconciled with its violent, racist and theocratically authoritarian past. And while the north of the country has a rancid history of racism and other forms of social hatreds, violence and discrimination, it is undeniable that the south is consistently choked by some of the most reactionary and fascist cultural miasma in the Western world. The spirit of supremacist hatred is woven tightly into the very fabric of its present. Texas is a state that may come to resemble Margaret Atwood’s Gilead more than any other state in the US, and be proud in doing so.
Now, this essay might appear harsh to some. And I apologize for offending those Texans, some of whom I love, who continue to live there and love their state. To be sure, there positive aspects to the culture and there are welcome changes that have come. For instance, the state’s demographics have been changing, much to the chagrin of many white, heterosexual, Christian Republicans. But the hold this group has on power in the state cannot be denied. It is an entrenched grip on the very levers of control and it is not going to give any of that up easily. Now that the GOP has openly embraced unhinged conspiracy theories and unbridled social hatred, its trajectory toward a more blatant fascism appears all but guaranteed.
Kenn Orphan, June 2022
Photo: A man wears a face covering that reads “secede” outside the Texas state capitol on January 16, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Sergio Flores/Getty Images). I remember seeing similar protests when I was in Austin several years ago.