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12/10/2018

The Secret of the Longhorn: How Texas Surrendered Her Soul   

The Secret of the Longhorn: How Texas Surrendered Her Soul   

Descending from the first cattle ever to see North America, brought there by Columbus and the doom-bearing sailors under his command, the Texas longhorn is widely-known as a symbol of that state. The longhorns inspire the symbolism of the University of Texas football team, also called “the Longhorns.” These drought-resistant and gentle-natured beasts (the cattle I mean, not the student-athletes) are so named for their huge, impressive horns.

Polished sets of such horns, decoratively mounted on somebody’s wall or pickup truck, come across as something unmistakably Texan. But we in the United States of 2018 – a sickened country, moaning and murmuring and half-asleep in the sickbed of Trumpism – we have seen bigger horns than theirs.

I’ve seen it alleged that Texas is to be the next California (solidly Democrat and demographically reshaped). There’s much to be said for and against California. The embarrassing and tragic defeat of Beto O’Rourke in Texas led to Democrats on TV consoling one another, and viewers at home, with the notion that his ascent (albeit stalled, at least for now) represents a glimpse of what a new Texas “could be.” As for me, better than fantasizing about new kinds of Texans (who, the conceit runs, would never vote any way but Blue) I find silver lining in something else: that by re-electing Ted Cruz, Texans illustrated for the whole country just how enfeebling, how really disfiguring are the effects of Trumpism, considered as a kind of political “disease” — an analogy we’ve all  seen, but for whom the Texas midterms are a more perfect an example than anything else I know.

None but a diseased polity could re-elect Ted Cruz after the staggering civic cuckoldry of his calculated, simpering reconciliation with Donald Trump; Trump’s manic yawping at reporters:

“He’s not Lyin’ Ted anymore! He’s ‘Beautiful Ted!’ He’s ‘Texas Ted!’ That’s what I call him! He is so smart!” To bury the hatchet and fall in line behind someone like Donald Trump — after he spread lies about your own father having a hand in the assassination of President Kennedy!

Recall the bitterness of the Republican primary. Cruz dared call-out Donald Trump’s “New York values.” The jab backfired, rather painfully, in a shriek of 9/11 remembrances and accusations of dog-whistling to anti-Semites. But Texans may have known just what Cruz intended them to think he meant: that Texans have real values: that – as GK Chesterton said, not necessarily of Texans, but certainly not of Trump’s milieu – “One has a sense of honor as one has a backbone… the purest ambition of a republic.”

While Cruz will always remain “Lyin’ Ted” to me, I confess that I almost fell for his outrage-signalling when Trump insulted his wife.

Just recall the childish stupidity of it all, when Trump bullied Heidi Cruz before the millions by declaring her deficient in the one and only thing that Donald Trump values in women. He did this by tweeting a photo of Heidi Cruz, looking flustered, her mouth strangely open as if in mid-speech, next to a photo of a very different woman: that most miserable woman, a woman whom Trump might regard as his favorite possession — or if not, than as a possession nonetheless, face heavy with makeup, thin physique almost like that of a statue, and as void of healthy human instincts as any statue; a physique suggesting rigorous fasts, compulsive workouts, cleanses, pills and pain.

Her expression was of that bored, soulless generic type affected by professional models in the fashion world. Of course, reflecting on the extent that her background involved modeling of another kind entirely, one wonders whether said background adds to that vacuous fashion-model aura of hers a barely perceptible, but never wholly absent, flicker of sorrow — a sorrow she’s given up all hope of curing, but will endure as long as she lives, howling in her heart as the frozen Alpine wind howls and howls in her far-off Slovenia.

Barbara Bush, as FLOTUS, cuddled and held and kissed HIV-infected newborns on live television, when the panic of AIDS recalled the image of the leper in the imagination of earlier times. And so she became beautiful — and she is beautiful still, because beauty of this kind can’t fade, and even in death incurs neither blemish, nor wrinkle. It’s a kind of beauty that I suspect is invisible and even inconceivable, to some.

Of course, Trump said far more about himself and the degenerated political life of our times than about either woman he set in such obscene comparison when he mocked Mrs. Cruz. And she whom Trump judged the more beautiful? I wonder if she’d feel a fresh gust of her perpetual sadness and shame, if someone tells the president, whether in irony or in all honesty, and she should overhear: “If a glorified prostitute from a far-away country occupies the office of First Lady, it still may not be the most hideous joke of your entire grotesque and ridiculous Presidency, as there are very many ugly jokes in the running. And though her grasp of English seems feeble (to put it very kindly) it’s immensely stronger than your own grasp of anything decent or good.

Ted Cruz did the perfect impression of a righteous husband when he responded to Trump’s bullying with his own manly insult, snarling into news cameras, “Donald, you’re a sniveling coward! Leave Heidi the Hell alone!” So — what do you call someone who knowingly kowtows to “sniveling cowards?” Thanks to Texas, at least one such man retains the title of “US senator.”

Even when Ted Cruz exposed his honor and backbone as no more corporeal than any mirage on the wide, lonely deserts and blazing heat of Texas, his voters dumbly followed him anyway, like steer following the taut rope and whip-hand of the rancher. In artistic and literary representation, cuckolds are sometimes depicted as wearing horns, or a headdress thereof. The expression, “wearing the horns,” is still used as a euphemism for cuckoldry. For what it’s worth, I will never look at Texas longhorns the same way again!

 
Paul Adams Shepard
Writer, political analyst and cultural critic (USA)

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