Thursday, November 29, 2018

Furthermore: Messing with Texas

What most of us know about the Texas Revolution.

I'm going to be horribly behind on this, since Mike Daisey's A People's History wraps up this past weekend, and I am just five entries into the tapes. But, they have sparked a lot of thought on my part about our history and how it is told. And I end up with multiple truths. Here's an example.

From the history that Mike and I (back in PA) were taught, here's the story of Texas:

American settlers in Texas rebelled against an oppressive Mexican government, with a big fight at the Alamo. They formed their own nation, and nine years later joined the US.

That is true. This is what Mr. Daisey said on the tape:

Americans settled in Texas. Provocateurs from the US government among those settlers agitated for independence, with the support of the US. After they rebelled against the government in Mexico City, the US propped them up, and eventually brought them into the Union. When they entered the Union, the US Army occupied Texas and grabbed a huge amount of additional land, and formented the Mexican-American War.

This is also true, and has incredible echoes with the current situation in the Ukraine. But here's another version:

American settlers moved into Texas with their slaves. The Mexican government was cool with it, but a change in government both reduced the powers of the states of Mexico and banned slavery. Texas and other Mexican states rebelled. Texas gained its independence, but was not recognized by Mexico. When the US admitted Texas into the Union, the US grabbbed a huge amount of additional land. They did not take over Mexico itself in part because they didn't want a huge, Catholic, non-English-speaking, non-slave-holding population threatening their control.

This is also true. I can also give you a bit more including the Republic of the Rio Grande, a Mexican state just south of Texas that ALSO declared its independence but did not get anywhere with it. The history of Mexico is just one more of those empty spots in our history - they show up as opponents (because all wars must have one), but the US influence and meddling gets glossed over (Flash Fact: The word "filibuster" was once applied to American adventurers who were mucking about in Central America, toppling and setting up their own governments - it soon afterwards was applied to congresspeople taking the process of government hostage by refusing to cede the floor.).

But the point is (and I have one) that there is so much history, that the narrative that we choose gets pulled out of bits and pieces that we ourselves select. It is the editor and the storyteller that chooses which parts get left on the cutting room floor. So historical fact provides the raw material, from which we choose our stories. And how our stories get chosen is as important as the stories themselves.

More later,