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March 01, 2005

Texas Independence Day

By Vince Leibowitz

Tomorrow, Texans everywhere will celebrate one of the most sacred days on the calendar: Texas Independence Day.

Though many of you might think I'm a bit of a sentimental sap for this very un-bloglike post, I'm going to go ahead with it anyway.

Over the past few decades, interest in the holiday seems to have waned, but for me, it is still one of the most important days of the year. It's a time for us to reflect on our unique heritage and the sacrifices of generations of Texans--not just those at the Alamo or San Jacinto--that have made our state especially great.

Every year about this time, I drag out or pull up copies of a couple of documents to read and reflect on. The first is William B. Travis' letter from the Alamo on Feb. 24, 1836. The second is the most important document in the history of our state: The Texas declaration of Independence.

Regardless of the fact that Travis does tend to use the word "I" a lot in this letter (as opposed to "we"), few Texans can read it without feeling--at least for a moment--that, if we were alive in 1836 and read Travis' dispatch, we would have hopped on the nearest horse and headed for San Antonio:

The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken--I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the walls--I shall never surrender or retreat. Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid with all despatch...

This year, though, as I was reading the Texas Declaration of Independence, it seemed to take on a new meaning to me in light of what happened in the last legislative session and what's going on in the current one.

In particular, the introductory phrase should hold a special meaning for all of us:

When a government has ceased to protect the lives, liberty and property of the people, from whom its legitimate powers are derived, and for the advancement of whose happiness it was instituted, and so far from being a guarantee for the enjoyment of those inestimable and inalienable rights, becomes an instrument in the hands of evil rulers for their oppression.

As I read this, I couldn't help but think: did the patriots who signed this risk their lives so, today, 150,000 Texas children would want for affordable health insurance? Did the brave soldiers who died at the Alamo die so the Legislature of the Texas they were fighting for could summarily lock its own citizens out of her courtrooms and see them denied fair and appropriate compensation for their injuries? Did the men who stormed the battlefield at San Jacinto do so in order that corrupt influence from behind-the-scenes power-brokers and millions of dollars in illegal money could help foster a partisan gerrymander resulting in thousands of Texans being underrepresented?

Could these patriots have ever imagined that the Texas they fought and died for--the Texas they put their lives on the line for by creating a revolutionary government--would be in the shape it is in today?

What would Sam Houston have to say about House Bill 2? I doubt he'd like it much. What would Mirabeau Lamar have to say about school vouchers? The father of public education is probably turning over in his grave. What would Stephen F. Austin, Thomas Rusk or Lorenzo de Zavala have to say about any number of problems facing the state today? I'd venture to say they would not have kind words for those in power in our state today.

When a government has ceased to protect the lives, liberty and property of the people...[it] becomes an instrument in the hands of evil rulers for their oppression.

I'm not sure if one of the signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence was alive today, that he wouldn't call Rick Perry, Tom Craddick and some of their cronies "evil rulers" working for the oppression of the people.

What regime in the modern history of Texas has done more to stifle legislative debate, oppress the poor through cuts in services, or generally ignore the broader spectrum of Texans to look out for the interest of its cronies and political allies than the current one?

What regime in the modern history of Texas has gone to such corrupt lengths to gain and retain power? Even the Sharpstown scandal of decades gone by is beginning to pale in comparison to what is unfolding in grand jury and courtrooms in Travis County today.

This Texas Independence Day, as we think about all that has happened in our history and look toward our future, surely we must all realize it is time for change.

The Republicans holding power in Austin today have betrayed the trust of the people of this state. They have conducted a wholesale slaughter of much of what we hold dear as Texans. And, what they haven't already attacked, destroyed, consolidated or weakened, they are preparing to. Perhaps not this session and perhaps not this election, but surely the next.

As Texas Democrats, we have the opportunity to work to restore our government to one our forefathers would be proud of. We have the chance to undo what has been done, and make our state the brightest shining star in the union such that the corporate-owned, special-interest serving, poor-people hating majority that has us now in a legislative stranglehold can't change it back in 100 years.

There is only one way for us to accomplish this: we must work at it. We must educate and inform the people of Texas what they have been deprived of and of the corruption of our government. We must register more voters. We must raise more money. We must walk more blocks. We must make more phone calls, encourage more candidates for public office, and give as much as we are able as often as we are able--whether it is money, time or influence--to do what we can to get our state back on the right track once and for all.

More than 150 years ago, it was the "Delegates of the People of Texas
in General Convention at the town of Washington," that shaped our future. Today, it is the Texas Legislature, elected by Texans For A Republican Majority, the Texas Association of Business and Tom DeLay as sent to the city of Austin. But, for a brighter tomorrow, it must once again be a Legislature and executive elected by the people to serve all the people--and not just the special interests--and to protect all the people. Then and only then can we get Texas back on the right path.

It's time for a new generation of people like those legendary Texans Barbara Jordan, Ann Richards, Coke Stevenson, Lyndon Johnson, and others to return our state to its former glory. They're taking their place now. Soon there will be more Hubert Vos and Mark Stramas joining the ranks of the Pete Laneys, Elliott Naishtats, and Judith Zaffirinis under the Pink Dome.

And, this Texas Independence Day, we must remember to do all we can to help them. Then and only then will our state again mirror its former glory, and again live up to the long ago expectations of those who fought, bled and died for its very independence.

I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid with all despatch...

Posted by Vince Leibowitz at March 1, 2005 07:48 PM | TrackBack


Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one and indivisible!

Happy Independence Day

God and Texas!

Michael Moon

Posted by: Michael T Moon at March 2, 2005 10:13 AM

God Bless Texas and God Bless You, Vince.

Happy Independence Day!

Posted by: Andrew Dobbs at March 2, 2005 03:13 PM
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