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“The rabbits rush around the brush (clap, clap, clap, clap) deep in the heart of Texas.” That infamous lyric from the song about the Lone Star State could be updated with, “The legislators crush laws to mush (clap, clap, clap, clap) deep in the heart of Texas.”
What is going on in Texas has many likening it to a third-world country. And, that’s not really all that wrong. First, if Texas was its own country, it would rank 39th most populous in the world, right behind Zambia and ahead of Myanmar. And given the fact that there are over 200 countries in the world, that means that most of them are smaller than Texas.
While everything is big in Texas, one thing the state has going for it is the narrowness and smallness of its leaders' minds – those in the legislature, as well as the governor, and of course one lunatic U.S. Senator named Ted Cruz.
Governor Greg Abbott, a Trump minion and protégé, is trampling over freedoms and laws in the state in an effort to pass legislation that makes Texas arguably less tolerant than North Korea or Iran, and that is saying an awful lot.
Yesterday, Texas's new abortion law went into effect, essentially making abortion illegal after six weeks. Many women don’t even know they’re pregnant at six weeks, and the law makes zero exceptions in the cases of rape or incest. What makes this law even more warped and evil is that Texans are now charged with being abortion vigilantes. They can report anyone who is seeking an abortion, and with a cash reward of $10,000 if the person is convicted.
This is absolutely monstrous. And speaking of monsters, the Supreme Court in a midnight decision voted to uphold the law, predictably with Alito, Gorsuch, Coney-Barrett, Thomas, and Kavanaugh in the majority. Trying to have the court appear somewhat even, anti-abortion Chief Justice John Roberts voted in the minority. This means, for all intents and purposes, that abortion is illegal in the state of Texas – the second largest state in our country. The implications of this, not just for Texas, but for abortion rights, will be catastrophic.
I’m not a lawyer, but I can differentiate between thoughtful and nonsensical writing. If you read the majority opinion, it blathers on like some irrational run-on sentence. If you’re interested, and you have a bucket and Pepto-Bismol nearby, you can read it here.
In her dissenting opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor was ruthless, and rightfully so, in her dissent. “The court’s order is stunning,” she wrote. “Presented with an application to enjoin a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny, a majority of justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand.”
Abbott has done anything but bury his head in the sand. He has been flagrantly and sinisterly busy this summer doing his best impression of Kim Jung-un. Abbott has called special sessions of the state government throughout the summer in an effort to pass bills and proposals that severely erode freedoms in the state, trample on civil and LGBTQ+ rights, and ignore the protection of the state’s citizens from COVID-19 and the Delta variant.
Together, with the state’s authoritarian-friendly legislature, they passed restrictions on vaccine and face-mask requirements in schools. This as states around the country send more than 8,000 contract health care workers as hospitalizations from COVID-19 in Texas approach the record set last winter. This is all being paid for by the state’s taxpayers, who are ending up sick in record numbers. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to encourage people to get the vaccine and wear a mask?
And how is the no mask mandate working? Consider what’s going on at the Humble Independent School District in Texas, where masks are optional, and which violates a local mask ordinance. Instead, school officials told CNN the district is following Abbott's pandemic-related executive order banning school mask mandates, and since the start of the school year, more than 1,800 Humble students and 350 staff have tested positive for the virus.
If COVID doesn’t kill off half of Texas, the new voting rights laws will shut out the voices of many in the state. The new laws, which Democrats in the state’s lower house went to great lengths to scuttle, are considered the strictest in the country. According to the Texas Tribune, once the bill is signed into law, there will be stricter rules for voting by mail, no drop off boxes, increased protections for partisan poll watchers, and a rollback of local voting initiatives meant to make it easier to vote. These are squarely aimed at abolishing rules implemented by Harris County, where the city of Houston is located, that made it easier for people of color to vote.
The dogmatic Abbott also signed a divisive bill that advocates how Texas teachers can talk about current events and America’s history of racism. Texas is one of a few states across the country that have passed such legislation, which aims to ban the teaching of “critical race theory” in public school classrooms.
Finally, Texas is one of the least hospitable states for LGBTQ+ individuals. Gender identity is not included in the hate crime law, and even though federal law prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, there is no statewide law banning anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination.
And while the state legislature failed to pass broad bans on trans-related medical care, they are still considering a bill to restrict transgender student athletes. In regard to the medical treatments, Abbott is brazenly working around the law. Last month, he asked a state agency to decide whether allowing transgender kids to have gender-confirmation surgeries is child abuse; a false flag since such surgeries are not performed on minors. Unbelievable.
Actually, all of this is unbelievable, unfathomable, unthinkable, and incomprehensible.
According to Bloomberg, these new draconian laws have forced businesses and chambers of commerce to step up in protest, not only against the narrowing of voting rights and the anti-mask mandates, but also to demonstrate their inclusive values, and these include Hewlett Packard Inc., Microsoft Corp. and American Airlines Group Inc.
We’ll see how far corporate America goes to punish Texas for all their discriminatory work. If you put all of what’s happening in Texas together, under Abbott’s leadership and the consent of the Republican legislators, it’s barbaric, anti-American, anti-Democratic, and anti-everything else. Cruz used to be considered the most reviled and dangerous person from Texas; however, Abbott and his cronies are crawling all over themselves to outdo Lyin’ Ted.
The Texas governor and legislatures are taking the state back to the 1950s, when people of color were prevented from voting, when white history was indoctrinated, when LGBTQ+ people were forced to hide their sexuality and true gender, and when there was no treatment for an avian virus the killed millions worldwide.
All of this is meant as a last gasp effort to keep the white man in control of a populous that they prefer to be in ill-health, ill-informed, and ill-equipped. The recent Census data about the diminutive growth of whites, and the increase in Latinos and people of color have scared the bejesus out of the white angry men in charge of the state.
Abbott and all those older, straight, narrow-minded guys have one thing in common: they are fast becoming the only people who can live lawfully and in peace...“deep in the 'no-heart' state of Texas.”
John Casey is editor at large for The Advocate.