When my young family lived in the Dallas area during the early to mid-80's, I could only go three to four months at a time without feeling an urge, almost a positive obsession to see, of all things, pine trees! I spent half of my youth growing up amid the concrete, glass and steel of the metro-plex and the other half here among the rolling green hills and forests of East Texas. Perhaps because I was surrounded by these verdant woods when I was born, this is the place that I identify with most. It's home.
But home is not always the most welcoming of places if in your politics, your religion, and I suppose just in your overall view of reality itself, you tend toward the liberal outlook. In that sense, I would have to say that I don't fit the profile of a home grown East Texan. That said, I am absolutely committed to claiming my place at the table here at home.
Somewhere along the way I escaped the insular mind-set so typical of East Texas, but I didn't escape, nor would I wish to escape, the natural beauty of this place. So "loving it or leaving it" is simply not an option here. No, I am absolutely inclined to stay and claim my rightful place as a native son, and raise my voice loud and clear and speak my piece. Furthermore, I would suggest that other liberal East Texans stand up and do the same. After all, what good is American free speech if Americans are too timid to use it.Here in East Texas its common upon entering restaurants, book stores, doctor's waiting rooms, and coffee houses to find ubiquitous televisions tuned to FOX news. There is an unspoken assumption here that the public is OK with news that is so slanted to the right as to no longer deserve the title of "news." I have on occasion raised objections with businesses just to let them know that the "assumption" at least from my point of view was off base. I wonder how it might level the playing field of our public spaces if other liberals quietly, yet firmly spoke up.
Believe it or not, I voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980 (I'm not proud of it, but there it is). At the time I was a fundamentalist Christian and I wholeheartedly bought into the idea making the rounds in those days that "Good Christians" voted Republican. Time has changed my view considerably. Now, after being a practicing Buddhist for some 24 years, I would find it quite difficult (if not impossible) to vote that way again.
But liberals who happen to be Christians obviously can (and do) vote Democratic. Let's face it, the GOP did quite a number on religious people for a number of years by co-opting the Christian message in order to win elections. But ownership of the "Values Vote" has come into serious question in the wake of a rash of high-profile sex scandals of late, and the light being admitted into the room seems to be waking religious Democrats to the truth that they have (and have always had) values aplenty. I don't think we'll be falling for that one again, and that's good for liberals. It's good for America. As Linda Seger writes in her 2006 book "Jesus Rode A Donkey," no one has a corner on Christ.
We live in a place caught in a moment of transition between the rural values of a fading past, and the new exigencies of a fast paced global environment. The landscape features farmlands, antiquated water towers and derricks, as well as microwave towers and satellite dishes affixed to thousands of rooftops. We attend our various houses of worship on Sundays and spend our evenings surfing the web. Liberals have a stake in making our home welcoming and comfortable for everyone regardless of their particular set of values, opinions, and loyalties.
Sure, East Texas will always bear the marks of the conservative values and families who settled and developed the land, but liberals have been here all along and have worked and contributed mightily as well. We should never accept second class status in our own home. Conservatives may outnumber us, but we liberals are free to speak our minds and to stand firmly on principle when it's called for. Know that, and live accordingly.