Giving lip service to patriotism

I hope it was only a coincidence that Gov. Greg Abbott chose June 7, the day after the 77th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, to sign a law creating the “1836 project” to promote what he calls “patriotic education.”

More than 2,500 real American patriots, including many Texans, died on the beaches at Normandy on D-Day to help liberate Europe and eventually end World War II. Abbott’s new 1836 project has nothing to do with patriotism or education. It is merely another dose of Texas chauvinism that will do nothing to improve the lives of the governor’s constituents.

The new law, HB2497, creates a nine-person committee that will be charged with increasing awareness of the state’s history, including its independence from Mexico (hence the 1836 modifier), and advising the governor on how the “core principles” of Texas’ founding “enrich the lives of its residents.”

The panel also will be responsible for helping state agencies ensure that the 1836 message is provided to visitors to state parks, museums, battlefields and other landmarks. So far, this new endeavor isn’t expected to directly affect public schools, which already are required to teach Texas history at specific grade levels. The school curriculum includes the revolution as well as the exploration, exploitation and settlement period before 1836.

But the Texas Education Agency will be required to provide funding and support for the new program, including for pamphlets to be distributed to new Texans getting drivers licenses, pamphlets that soon will be tossed into the nearest trash cans.

It has been estimated the new law will cost nearly $2.3 million over the next two years, tax money to brag about Texas. Tax money that would be better spent on real educational costs in public schools or finding health care for some of the millions of low-income Texans who don’t have Medicaid and can’t afford to see a doctor.

Compounding the political crime is the fact that the same governor who signed this law will soon sign another law, HB3979, which is designed to whitewash the teaching of history in the public schools. It will discourage instruction and discussion about our history of racism and slavery, which was one of the reasons the Texas colonists brought the 1836 revolution against Mexico, which prohibited the practice.

There is nothing patriotic about denying, deemphasizing or ignoring historic truths, even if the governor and many other Texans find them uncomfortable today.

And, of course, there is nothing patriotic about trying to enact laws to impede the ability of millions of Texans, including people of color, to cast ballots for the political candidates of their choice. This is a raw attempt to cling to political power.

Yet, this is what the governor, the lieutenant governor and the speaker of the House – the three officials who will appoint the members of the new 1836 committee – spent much of the recent legislative session trying to do. Having failed the first time, Gov. Abbott will add the voter suppression bill to the agenda of a special legislative session later this year, even though a free and open voting system is at the very heart of true patriotism. It is what countless American patriots have died for over the years.

There are people who practice real patriotism. The D-Day invaders come to mind. And there are people who practice lip-service patriotism, like the governor is doing now.

Clay Robison

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