I’ve never lived in Texas but from what I’ve read and heard, it’s a weird place. Where else in the civilized world, in the year 2015, would there be a bloody shootout between rival biker gangs? In broad daylight? Right out in the open for all the world to witness?
I used to visit Houston when I worked for a company that was headquartered there, but my experience of the local culture was limited to an occasional attempt to learn the two-step. I was shut up in an air-conditioned office building with fluorescent lighting most of the time, tapping away at my keyboard or enduring endless corporate meetings.
I imagine that a big state like Texas has many different faces. But the one projected by the media is certainly bizarre. So bizarre that when I was offered a chance to work at a newspaper in Beaumont I recoiled in horror.
The incidents are too numerous to recount. From those rednecks dragging a poor black man to his death behind a pickup truck to that nightmare involving the Branch Davidian Christian sect, Texas has produced some of the most chilling news stories I’ve ever read.
It seems to me that Texas is not just a state but also a state of mind. Texans project an aura of in-your-face outrageousness, a willingness to embrace the unacceptable, to defy conventional behavior, to think the unthinkable and do the unacceptable.
It’s an intoxicating aura that has made the Wild West a global legend – and a lucrative entertainment commodity.
But in real life, it is sad and sordid.
What’s most scary is that the violence and rebelliousness that so many Texans seem to admire is becoming more acceptable across the country – across the world.
CNN aired a program by Fareed Zakaria on Sunday explaining the rise of ISIS, and he observed that young men and women in the western world are more susceptible to enlistment by the barbarous organization because they have grown up playing video games and watching movies that glorify death and destruction.
I think he has a valid point. It is much easier to accept violence and outrageous behavior in real life if you have been immunized by make-believe horrors.
I have long wondered why children in America are shielded from sex but exposed to unlimited violence and wanton destruction in movies, video games and TV shows.
And I hope you won’t think I’m a conspiracy-theory nut if I wonder out loud whether some sinister force is choreographing this total-immersion culture of savagery and defiance.