By Lynn Ashby 18 April 2016
THEY’VE GOT OUR NUMBER
THE REFRIGERATOR – A warm spring afternoon, time for a beer. I was given a six-pack of some new product made by Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co. The can is bronze colors, (and says it’s “copper ale”) and the name is 1836. Interesting. Here are some words on the side: “If you have to ask what 1836 stands for, please put down this beer and leave our country.” That’s not very nice, but at least they said “please.” It is yet another reminder that Texas is awash with newcomers who are changing Texas, Texans, our very culture and, which speaks volumes, the name of our soccer team.
First, some stats I stole from others. They call it “plagiarism,” I call it “research.” As we know by bumper stickers and license plates, newcomers are arriving from everywhere, many from the other 49 states, lots from Mexico and the rest of Latin America, and all over the world. One example: almost a quarter of the residents in Harris County were born in foreign lands. OK, two examples: Houston has 84 foreign consulates, third most in the U.S. This surge of arrivals is easily seen when a Houston team plays a visiting team, college or pro. You will see as many flags, T-shirts and cheers for the Dodgers, Sooners, Dolphins or Bears (Chicago) as you will see for the local team
Houston, Austin-San Antonio, and Dallas-Fort Worth added more people last year than any other state in the country, growing by more than 400,000 residents. It is as though every man, woman and child in Minneapolis moved here in that 12-month period, and sometimes I think they have. Austin is the fastest growing big city in the country, and according to new U.S. Census Bureau data, the five-county Austin region now has almost 2 million people. But when it comes to metropolitan areas, greater Houston is Number One, adding more people than any region in the country. Harris County alone added nearly 90,500 residents. Combined, the greater Houston metropolitan area, which includes Houston, The Woodlands and Sugar Land, grew by about 160,000 people between July 2014 and July 2015. Even in a year when the area was hit with the oil bust, the fracking finale and when U-haul companies report a greater exodus of rentals than in-bound, the population gain was still bigger than the two previous years.
All of these folks may change, acclimate, assimilate, accommodate, or die off. A neighbor moved here from Pittsburg and remained an avid Steelers fan the rest of his life. His kids, one a Longhorn, the other an Aggie, aren’t. But our new Texans have changed us, too. For years there were big parades in Houston on April 21 (that’s the anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto, pilgrim). If it weren’t for the Sons of the Republic of Texas firing a few shots in the air to celebrate, the day would go unnoticed. Fortunately, the Texas Aggies mark the date with their Muster. At noon on March 2, Texas Independence Day. UT students would drop a huge Lone Star Flag down the Tower, the band would play our national anthem, “The Eyes of Texas,” and afternoon classes would be forgotten. I don’t think they do that anymore.
We require that our young people take Texas history, and daily recite the Texas Pledge of Allegiance, in English I assume. I once got an angry letter from a mother who had just moved here, and objected to her children saying the pledge. Then I got another letter from a newly arrived mother who objected to a column I wrote about requiring my children to say Sir and M’am to their elders, be they coachmen, butlers or food-tasters. She wrote, “I will ask them to do so only after I have earned their respect.” (At this point I will note that my own mother sent her three sons off to the U.S. Marine Corps – we were seeking an easier and less disciplined life.)
Most native Texans would not haul statues of Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee off a college campus to be dumped elsewhere. The Houston ISD is in the midst of changing the names of several schools, including John H. Reagan: He was the postmaster of the Confederacy. What did he do wrong, mail pipe bombs to Grant? One might think that the massive arrivals from such liberal places as California and New York would nudge Texas to the left. Oddly enough, we now have the most conservative state and federal elected officials since they authorized Ku Klux Klan Day at the State Fair of Texas in 1923. But when did anyone greet you with “Howdy,” and when was the last time you heard “Dixie”? On the other hand, Texas has been blessed by new ideas, habits and food, like good delis, better pizza and the best Tex-Mex on earth, Remember that Houston was developed by two brothers from New York, which explains our original city slogan, “Fugetaboutit!” Of course, there are those missionaries to the savages who like to tell us how things are better Up North. They are easily dismissed with that old Texas term, “Git a rope.”
Finally, earlier we mentioned the ale, 1836, and its warning label. That year, 1836, was the original title of Houston’s brand new pro soccer team (those teams have odd names). In our case it was a fitting title, that being the year of the founding of both the Republic of Texas and the city of Houston. Big and unexpected problem: Many, if not a majority, of new fans would be newly arrived Hispanics. To them 1836 was also the year of the Alamo, San Jacinto and Mexico’s defeat. The new Houston futbal team was renamed the Dynamo, a totally meaningless and useless title. So much for assimilation.
Here I am, contemplating the true meaning of 1836. It mean Texas, ever changing, welcoming the new while keeping the good stuff, M’am.
Ashby is changing at firstname.lastname@example.org