Photo by Norm Halm
Today we started the drive to our new home in Minneapolis-Saint Paul Minnesota with Texas gleefully in the rear view mirror. THANK YOU for a solid three years, Dallas-Forth Worth. The lives we carved out for ourselves in the DFW metroplex was a safe haven to weather the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Hindsight is 20/20 though; we couldn't have known this when we moved to North Texas the year before but we knew we had to move away from Las Vegas preemptively before any kind of economic downturn. We chose to come to Tejas, hopeful with open hearts and minds for positive change on the horizon for us and for Texas.
Alas, the political climate deteriorated instead and so our time in Texas has run its course. We never would have moved to TX in the first place without certain protections provided by the federal umbrella, via judicial rulings and precedents, which this year have reached a fever pitch of attack by the state's rabid conservative majority legislative and executive branches. Just yesterday, Texas' trigger ban on abortion in reaction to SCOTUS' Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision went into effect, outlawing bodily autonomy outright for pregnant people, from the moment of conception, with no exceptions for rape or incest, and threatening the lives of women experiencing dangerous complications with their wanted pregnancies. This isn't a pro-life measure, it is religiofascism-- FULL STOP-- religiofascism. This is why some dissenters refer to the governor, attorney general, lieutenant governor and so many of the state legislators as "The Texas Taliban"; the state is rife with relgiofascism. Some lawmakers are even moving to introduce bills prohibiting pregnant women from traveling outside the state in case they are seeking abortion care: RELIGIOFASCISM.
Even if SCOTUS hadn't signaled that marriage equality and other federally guaranteed rites could also be on the chopping block, attacks on the LGBT+ community from rabid conservative lawmakers have been ramping up in Texas and I don't want to live in any state that outlaws abortion anyway. So we're taking our talent and passion, our labor and dedication, our taxes and disposable income to a state that has already voluntarily enshrined, through the legislative process, these basic rights to privacy, into state law; we're moving to a state that isn't controlled by garbage people.
Aside from sabotaging the people of Texas by weaponizing religion and waging culture wars, helping no one, the mismanagement of the power grid alone would have been reason enough to leave for our safety. We nearly froze in our own home during the freeze of 2021. We were stuck, surrounded by impassable roads, so I boiled bricks found in the alley, wrapped them in towels and put them under our blankets to stay warm. (The irony of resorting to 19th century tactics while living in Texas wasn't lost on me.) It was 33 degrees Fahrenheit in our home for approximately 48 hours. Hundreds of other people and animals had it worse and died as a direct result of derelict leadership and the power grid failure. Perhaps thousands died if we consider how many livestock perished. Yet little has been done to fix it! Some essentially performative bills were passed; bills that posture reforms yet allow some of the governor's friends in the natural gas business off the hook with an exemption to winterize their infrastructure... By paying a menial application fee of $150, they can simply opt out of making updates that would make the grid reliable and safe. This tragedy was also an opportunity for the governor to spread disinformation against the growing wind power industry in TX, blaming the blackout on that market, even though it was proven that the failure of natural gas infrastructure played a MUCH bigger role in the grid's failure. Corruption and personal gain for good 'ol boy Greg Abbott and his oil and gas cronies-- the lives of Texans is the risk they're willing to take to keep the convoluted economic structures behind the TX power grid from changing, thus continuing to enrich his friends and himself.
The detailed grievances above impacted my household directly and are just the tip of the iceberg concerning the harms done to Texans by Texans. There are so many more cons about living in Texas that outweigh the pros of living there: Attacks on voting rights and access, including state sanctioned violations of the federal Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871. Lack of affordable housing and de facto segregation, especially in schools. Racist gerrymandering. More attacks on LGBT+ people. The abuse of migrants and human rights crimes committed against asylum seekers. Despite bragging otherwise, Texas republicans are soft on crime (gun violence IS crime) by making it easier for all people, including criminals, to obtain, possess and carry firearms. Mental healthcare support was cut just months before the massacre in Uvalde, TX- in a state that's already sorely lacking in access to mental healthcare services. The overarching cultural current of chauvinism including but not limited to disdain for the environment and conservation in favor of exploitation and extraction. Even MORE attacks on LGBT+ folks. Citizens and state lawmakers who sympathize with The Lost Cause of the Confederacy, the rise in white nationalism, christian nationalism and terrorist militia groups in Texas. This is still not an exhaustive list, not by far. I understand that many of these problems exist to some degree nationwide including within states that overall trend center to very liberal. But in Texas, the scourge of chauvinism, nationalism, religiofascism and white supremacy are underpins. They're part and parcel of the Texas gestalt and identity, persisting well beyond the critical threshold effectively forming a majority represented, pulling the strings at the Texas State House and in Washington D.C. Despite all of this, there are a lot of good people in Tejas, unfortunately the leadership scarcely represents that. The good people of Tejas are effectively outnumbered and the state is controlled by terrible people.
Having now lived in both the country's largest blue state and the country's largest red state has offered a whole lot of valuable perspective. Some of my own views have softened and shifted as a result of getting to know different people in Texas, being there in person and having a direct lived experience. At the same time, some of my previously held views have only been reinforced by my experiences there. There's something to be said for fighting the good fight; for staying and "being the change" in a place. But we've done the math again and again and for my family unit, the odds are against us. The risks are too high, the prospects are too low for us in TX. So we left.
My conclusion is that Tejas and Texas are two different places and different ways of being that, unfortunately, overlap in time and geography. And that Texas' shitty conservative politics aren't the answer to California's shitty politics. I don't regret moving to Texas- I learned a lot, made friends, grew some righteous natives in my little pollinator garden, sent love into the waters of Turtle Creek and did some other good works too. I don't regret moving to Texas but I would regret having stayed there. Living and dying in Tejas just isn't an option for me; when my time comes, I need my bones to rest in a better patch of earth than Texas.