When I was a kid, and my grandma would tell me the story of the Battle of the Alamo, she tended to exaggerate the final acts of Col. James “Jim” Bowie. As Santa Anna and the greatest army ever assembled broke through the gallant Texians’ final fort defense, the Texian republicans fought to the very last—this much we know to be true. But according to my grandma, as Bowie lay dying on a cot, he threw his famous knife into the chest of the first Mexican who found him, striking the man dead in an instant.
Now that’s a pretty tall tale. (In fact, Bowie died of a fever in his sick bed, and may not have fired a shot throughout the entire ordeal.) But it’s nowhere near as tall as those being spun in the Lone Star State today. As Texas faces what some there deem the greatest threats yet to its viability—plurality, expanded access to affordable health care, Eric Holder—its laureates are spinning out a new genre of fable: the Texas secession fantasy novel. Three of the latest feature plot twists that would make my grandma blush. Mostly self-published or issued by small local presses, these novels run long on bull shit—from dried-up cow patty–grade bullshit, like the endless spelling and punctuation errors that pockmark two of these books, to the fresh-squeezed Texas Longhorn bull shit that is the ending of the third one. While Obamacare more or less inspires secession throughout, each novel winds a different road to freedom. Common to all of them, though, is a recipe for privileged grudge politics as old as a bowl of Texas red.
It will come as no surprise to true Texans that the star of the most ominous of these Texas secession fantasy novels—The Yellow Rose of Texas by Dennis Snyder, book one in the Struggle for Sovereignty series—is none other than Col. James Bowie (a few generations removed). Fictional Col. Bowie’s relationship to his ostensible ancestor is never explained. Coincidence? Clone? “He was willing to die protecting the Republic of Texas,” Snyder writes, in the way of introducing his field marshal, who digs trenches to prepare for war with the United States in the 21st century. “Even if it meant emptying his gun into anyone who would burst through the door just like the original Jim Bowie had done at the Alamo.” (A variation on the bedtime story I know.)
Before we arrive at secession—which comes by Page 23 of Yellow Rose, fast as a turn in Texas weather—it’s worth thinking through why a bid for secession must come to trench warfare at all. Why not just let Texas go? Writing in 2009, on the occasion of real-world talk from Texas about secession, Matthew Yglesias outlined the argument for parting ways: “The core elements of an amicable divorce would, I think, be Texas membership in NAFTA and NATO so as to ensure that disruption is minimized and nobody is threatening anyone else.” Those aren’t even passing concerns in the new Texas fanfic, except for the threatening-anyone-else bit (there is a lot of threatening-anyone-else). Yglesias continues, “Texas would need to assume responsibility for a portion of the U.S. national debt that’s proportionate to its share of the population,” describing financial details shrugged off by the authors of Yellow Rose, The Secession of Texas, and the grimmest of the three, Lone Star Daybreak. What’s in revolutionary Texans’ wallets? The same dollar found on the other side of the border with the United States.
Not that a dollar could get you half a Whataburger Jr. in Yellow Rose—not once President Nicholas Watson, Obama’s successor, cedes the nation’s military might to the United Nations while racking up a $22 trillion national debt. The president’s shenanigans begin at his swearing-in; asked by John Roberts to repeat the solemn presidential oath, Watson swears instead to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, as I understand it.”
Constitutionally empowered by a gotcha, the president goes on to eliminate tax breaks for churches and successfully prosecutes the war against Christmas. He strips the citizenship of all 125,000 people who signed the White House’s “We the People” petition supporting the secession of Texas. “I have so many plans and changes to put into effect now that we have all three branches under Democratic control,” President Watson tells America, presumably over steepled fingers.
Much of the novel’s drama focuses on the plight of Southern sympathizers trying to make their way to Texas. It’s never clear why the story’s Texas-bound Carolinians don’t support secession for, say, a Carolina. Or why so many likeminded conservative whites don’t form, I don’t know, some kind of club for southern secessionist states. Snyder’s Texas isn’t very Texan: no conjunto music or Lockhart smokehouses, no dynastic San Antonio Spurs, no mesquite and no mesas. As it turns out, Snyder might not know one damn thing about Texas: The author is a pastor based in Michigan. He would be better off taking up a Great Lakes State cause. Isn’t Detroit more or less free of intrusive government at this point? What about that little part of Michigan—aren’t they tired of Wisconsin wearing them like a hat?
With The Secession of Texas by Darrell Maloney, the reader is at least safe in the hands of a San Antonio author, but it’s a cold comfort. Maloney ups Yglesias’s let-’em-go train of thought. By a popular referendum attended by some 80 percent of eligible state voters, Maloney’s Texas secedes on April 1, 2013. Night hasn’t fallen on April Fool’s Day before newly minted Texas Secretary of State Mario Ramirez is on cable news discussing details of the transition team established by the (U.S.) House of Representatives and State Department.
And that’s that: no fuss and no muss. After successfully seceding, Texas President Rick Perry embarks on an economic goodwill tour, which takes up the rest of the book. From Corpus Christi to Lubbock, he gives town-hall speeches concerned mostly with relating the successes of the new national economy. President Perry transitions well from cutting hypothetical federal departments (commerce, education, what was the third one?) to adding them.
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