While vacationing in northern England, my wife and I toured Flodden battlefield, the site of the decisive 1513 victory of the Earl of Surrey over an invading Scots army under King James IV. It was a breezy, rainy day and we had the place virtually to ourselves. I say virtually because an elderly English couple were the only other people silly enough to be out in such nasty weather. They represented a previous generation of Englishmen, all tweed and teatime; they might have been characters from an Agatha Christie mystery. We introduced ourselves and, recognizing our accents, they asked us which of the states we were from.
“Texas,” I said.
The wife beamed. “Ah, yes, that’s the Alamo isn’t it?”
“Yes, ma’am,” I assured her, “that’s us.”
There’s no escaping it. Even if we sometime wish to forget it, the rest of the world will always remember the Alamo.
As the subtitle of my new award-winning book Lust for Glory, asserts, the sacrifice at the Alamo defined the Texas Republic. Yet, as the anecdote above demonstrates, it also looms large in the identity of modern Texans—and frequently reveals itself in the most unlikely of places.
Texans celebrate their history and the unique culture it forged. There is integrity in tradition, value in the verdict of experience, of lives lived, and principles cherished. It does not venerate the ashes; it feeds the flames. And Texans heat multiple irons in that fire. Explain to the heirs of William Barret Travis, James Bowie, and Juan Seguín that compliance is a virtue, submission but another form of patriotism. Texans have spent enough time in feed lots to recognize this notion for what it is—and their mamas taught them to scrape it off their boots before they came into the house. Ultimately, identity remains the best argument for Texas exceptionalism.
It’s just this simple:
If a people decide that they’re different—they are.