I am not a Texan, but I’ve lived in Texas for the last two years. Even after two years, these Texans continue to surprise me. Last night at our city’s Fourth of July celebration, I was once again reminded that I am a stranger living in a strange land.
At the celebration, a military guard presented the flags so that we could pledge allegiance before we demonstrated our patriotism through witnessing a pyrotechnic display. This was all well and good.
I felt very American at that moment. I was standing in a minor-league baseball park with my children, looking upon Old Glory as we listened to a young lady belt out “The Star-Spangled Banner.” What could be more American than baseball parks, the flag, and a family dressed in red, white, and blue? I along with a few thousand compatriots pledged allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. But then things got weird.
The emcee announced that it was time to pledge allegiance to the Texas flag. What? Before I even realized what was happening, I was no longer standing in the midst of my fellow countrymen. I was a foreigner. Instead of thousands of Americans celebrating their shared cultural identity, our gathering became thousands of Texans and three outsiders.
My two children looked at me helplessly. My nine-year-old daughter mouthed, “I don’t know the words.” I mouthed back, “Me either.” We merely shrugged at each other. At some point my hand dropped from my breast. The entire episode seemed surreal. It was as if the universe shuddered, and I had been shifted into some alternate dimension.
I never quite managed to regain my sense of oneness with the crowd. We weren’t Americans anymore. They were Texans, and we were not. They knew the pledge, and we didn’t. They wanted to pledge allegiance to the flag of Texas, and I didn’t.
I am a Louisianan. We can be pretty proud of our state too, but we’re not like the Texans. Our allegiance to Louisiana tends to be more cultural and culinary. These Texans can be so political. Louisianans find Texas pride both amusing and irritating. Texans tend to take pride in things that we don’t care about. If the citizens of my home state knew that Texas had its own pledge, it would induce statewide eye rolling. There they go again.
This morning a friend informed me that here in Texas children recite the Texas pledge in the public schools. Now I have one more reason to be thankful that my wife homeschools our children. I can protect them from unwanted indoctrination. My wife and I are Louisianans, and we will raise our children to be Louisianans. We shall not let the state decree our family’s cultural identity.
There’s a spiritual lesson in this. We all have multiple allegiances. America, Louisiana, SEC football. Often these allegiances do not come into conflict, but sometimes they do. You can’t be a Louisianan and a Texan in the same way at the same time. For the Christian, it’s even more complicated. We have another citizenship in heaven. We believe that this citizenship demands our ultimate allegiance because this citizenship is the only eternal one. The Church draws its citizenship from every tribe and tongue and nation. It even includes a number of Americans and Texans.
I have a suggestion for when we gather as the Church. Let’s leave all those other allegiances at the door. Just like America is bigger than Texas, the Church is bigger than America. I felt out of place at a celebration for America, even though I am an American, because everyone else took a minute to be Texans. I couldn’t regain a sense of community. Let’s not promote Americanism at our weekly celebration of Christ’s resurrection. Don’t sing the national anthem or “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” during your church service. It’s just not appropriate for the moment. The Church is filled with people who don’t have any allegiance to America. There’s no reason to make them feel that it’s us and them. Can’t we be united in Christ once a week?
ADDENDUM: It was brought to my attention that Louisiana actually adopted a pledge to the state flag in 1981. Revised Statute 49:167 reads:
There shall be a state pledge of allegiance, to read as follows:
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the state of Louisiana and to the motto for which it stands: A state, under God, united in purpose and ideals, confident that justice shall prevail for all of those abiding here.”
Who knew? Certainly very few Louisianans.
18 responses to “Where’s Your Allegiance? A Louisiana Boy in Texas”
Maybe you should just learn the pledge.
Keep in mind that Texas was an independent nation before it became part of the United States. That is why Texan’s have an independent nature.
Texas will be free once more. The Republic will rise again as the USSA goes to its death bed.
My first thought was to say “It’s a Texan thing, you wouldn’t understand.” But that would be more of what you perceive as the same thing you got treated to.
I’m a native Texan. We are born to a legacy that is taught to us when we are small. Our state was once its own country and people fought and died for it, for the right to have “Texas”. Our state history is taught for one whole school year growing up and you get another dose, along with Texas Politics, in state colleges.
When I was born in 1957, the Texas Senator for our home district sent my parents a congratulatory note with a certificate that said I was a “Native Texan” with all the responsibility and honor that goes with it. I still have that paper. Yes, it was “political” but to a young kid growing up, to know you hold a very special place in the world is awesome.
We learn the pledge. We learn the history. We treat the Alamo as sacred ground and every person can tell you what that means. We settled the west, innovated things from Texas Instruments calculators to the Mission Control at Johnson Space Center. There’s a lot to be proud of here.
My husband says he was born in Oklahoma but, because he lives here and has become a Texan by Choice, he has all the rights and privileges that every person who crosses the Sabine, or the Oklahoma panhandle, or the Rio Grande and takes the name Texan.
Thing is, you live here too. And while a Native will tell you that it’s special to be Texan, it’s also a state of mind. If you want to be Texan, all ya gotta do is move here and put down roots. Learn about and celebrate the six flags we lived under (yes, it’s not just an amusement park in Dallas!), buy a pair of boots and a hat and hit the Houston Rodeo or any of the other little fairs and rodeos that go on all year round. Find the five different areas of the state, visit Palo Duro Canyon (we have our own Grand Canyon!!), find out what makes the Hill Country different from Big Bend or East Texas, the difference between North Texas and the even more north and west Panhandle/South Plains area. it’s all different yet the same.
Just like not all of Louisiana is not New Orleans Bourbon Street (and believe me, my second home-of-the-heart is the Crescent City), Texas is not all redneck, asshole, or pushy conservative. Get to know a few more of us, we welcome you with the same open arms and chicken-fried steak that we find when we go Louisiana and get hugged and invited to the crawfish boil.
I think, Tom has it right. The little something more–in terms of state pride–that Texans have goes back to the 1830s. Fought own war for independence, then was an independent country for 10 years.
I agree with you. If Louisiana had an ounce of the pride Texans have in their state maybe they wouldn’t be ranked in the worst 5 in the majority of categories and fewer residents would leave for the greener pastures and better life one can have in the Great State of Texas.
As a fellow louisianian, I can say that I’ve never even heard the Louisiana pledge until now. We also take a whole year of Louisiana history in 8th grade. I am very proud to be a Louisianian but the difference is that Texans have a boastfulness about them that is, indeed, incredibly humorous and irritating. I understand Texas was it’s own nation at one point but it is not now. It is a member of the United States of America and it should be treated as such. You were not part of that nation so it seems to me that you didn’t earn that right to continue on its legacy. It reminds me of someone holding onto their glory days from high school.
Great post! I grew up in Monroe – went to Ouachita Parish schools first through twelfth grade and then undergrad & grad school at ULM. Not only have I never said a pledge of allegiance to the flag of Louisiana, I don’t even know if we have such a thing. Like you, I think Louisiana’s identity is cultural/ culinary and pretty inclusive. We know we’re different/ weird but we welcome anyone to join the party – hence all the reality shows based in Louisiana.
Our fathers’ God, to Thee, Author of liberty, to Thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright, with freedom’s holy light, protect us by Thy might
Great God, our King.
What’s so bad about that? Puts the prior three verses in context, now don’t it.
I suppose it all depends on who your “fathers” are. If you mean Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine, and the rest of that crowd, then you’re invoking some other god who is not the true God.
But my real qualm is that it’s not the message of the church. The church cries “Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!” We pray for the coming of his kingdom which will necessitate the end of this one.
How about John Witherspoon? How about the “Black Regiment” of the “Presbyterian War?”
Is the church in this country that fails to pray for the country and its leadership a faithful church? I don’t think Paul would think so.
Of course Paul wants us to pray for our leaders and people, and I’ve never suggested otherwise. I do, however, think that the Paul who wrote Romans 13 would condemn the sorts of things that you seem to laud in Witherspoon and the Black Regiment.
I suppose you can have it both ways if you want. The message of the church is “Maranatha! come Lord Jesus” which obviates something like ‘Our Country ’tis of Thee,’ effected a prayer by the last verse, yet concede that we are to pray for leaders and people, who *are* America.
As for Witherspoon and the Black Regiment, I neither laud nor denigrate, nor did *anything* I wrote imply that. I merely offered them as examples of Christian men also in that group of ‘fathers,’ as opposed to those you apparently do not think were such.
[…] and say the pledge every day, right after performing the same ritual to the American flag. Some people might call it brainwashing or indoctrination. I like to think of it as an act of appreciation for […]
I’m late to the debate, but I grew up in Texas and I still don’t get it. Also, I went to A&M and I don’t get that either. Bunch of WEIRDOS. But in a good way, I think. And, as Lyle Lovett says, Texas wants you (anyway).
Dr. Garbarino: I really enjoyed your post and I totally agree. The only allegiance we truly need to be concerned with in life is our spiritual allegiance to God and Jesus. Dr. Frear and your posts are very similar. I have lived on and off in Texas since 1962 and only attended a total of 4 years in a public school setting while here. My parents enrolled my brothers and I into religious based schools. While in high school for the first 3 years I attended public school in another state and my senior year in another public school district outside the corporate city limits of Houston. I remember prayer for the first three years in public schools, pledge of allegiance to both the US and The Republic of Texas. I always grew up under the assumption that “Texas” was wild, untamed, and full of “ram-rods, old derricks, long horns, spurs, boots, horses, and open ranges that never end.” I got this impression not from the true-born T
Continuation– true-born Texas, and elderly relatives of mine from my Mississippi and Alabama roots.
Texas in a nut shell has always been a “wild” independent state of bigger, better, and faster than any other state around. I learned in my older years, that was (what I called) an old western myth. As I learned Houston really isn’t a large city but a small town, where everyone knew everyone’s business at one point. I had become accustomed to this town and appreciate more my hometown which is Mobile, Al. One thing I did learn is that the attitudes of Texans are forever changing. Nothing here remains the same for year to the next more so than the seasons of nature. The only way to survive in Texas is with your Bible in your hand, the spirit in your soul, and God/Jesus in your heart. That is the true allegiance.