Oh, we benighted Texans!

Posted: Jun 19, 2001 12:00 AM
Reports from Europe have it that the "Toxic Texan,'' aka "the cowboy'' president of the United States, failed abysmally to pollute the world or touch off a Third World War while conversing with sophisticated European leaders last week. Consequently, entire ranks of reporters, editorial cartoonists and TV commentators -- American as well as European -- are said to have keeled over from cardiac arrest. This strikes me, on balance, as a gain for humanity. Forty or 50 fewer professional Texan-ophobes -- why not? Forty or 50 more will quickly arise to take their places, the better to corral the rustic, uncouth, barbarous, shoot-first-ask-questions-later impulses of those who live in moral squalor south of the Red River. Sigh! We've learned during the past three politically correct decades just to smile and take it. Texan-icity, like it or not, violates the canons of political correctness, Violates them flagrantly and nose-thumbingly. Texas politicians are assumed to embody these attitudes (or how else could they have gotten elected in the first place?). Take Bush, for instance, and now Gov. Rick Perry, who over the weekend really stirred up the editorial suites by vetoing -- in accordance with sound principle -- a bill to abolish the death penalty for the "mentally retarded." To have signed such a bill, as have other governors, including Jeb Bush, for reasons of their own, would have been to carve out one more refuge from moral responsibility. Moral responsibility we don't talk about much anymore. There seems always to be some artful explanation for the bad things some people do: For instance, Texas' own Johnny Paul Penry, who barged into the home of Pamela Carpenter Moseley, raping and stabbing her to death; who, due to childhood abuse and low mental wattage, is said not to deserve execution. It takes a certain IQ, so runs the theory, to distinguish right from wrong. Intellectual understanding trumps moral knowledge, and only the rednecked (to pursue the theory) could deny it. Thus, one of our own state senators -- author of the vetoed bill -- fumes that Perry's philosophically correct (just not "politically correct") veto leaves us looking "blood-thirsty and callous." The senator will be further dismayed, I'm afraid, by a readers' poll on The Dallas Morning News' Web site, in which the veto wins strong support. Comments one reader: "If you're bright enough to squeeze the trigger, you're bright enough to face the penalty." Remedies for this sort of thing? Two come to mind: 1) federally financed subscriptions to the New York Times, with mandatory testing on content, or 2) acceptance, in this odd age, of the civic value of horse sense. The essence of what the politically correct refer to, patronizingly, as "Bubba-ness" is actually horse sense: a thing this nation needs even more than a good five-cent cigar. The politically correct are welcome to spin and market theories disconnected from reality; they are less welcome to demand that everyone else tug his forelock at the new wisdom from on high. One test of political correctness is skepticism regarding, or outright opposition to, a strategic missile defense. Horse sense says, in response: Huh? Someone might fire missiles at you, and the government is supposed to renounce development of the technology to thwart such a possibility? That's the politically correct, Bush-is-a-yahoo theory. Our president's insistence on developing new technology to defend the nation of which he is chief magistrate amounts to horse sense. Likewise the seemingly novel notion he advances about energy: viz., when you don't have enough, you look for more. Oh, those "toxic Texans!" We'll have to get used to it, no doubt. Just us and our immediate past governor to uphold "backwardness" and "barbarism" -- meaning common sense, patriotism, and some lingering sense of responsibility for personal actions. All we can do is our backwards best. But that's pretty good so far, I'm guessing.