An Imaginary Country

Occasionally I ponder how one might describe Texas to someone from far flung parts of the US. Today I was thinking about central Europe, and a new angle struck me. This is the result.

Imagine central Europe. The Czech Republic and Germany especially. Beer, strudel, lederhosen, sausage, quaint little Alpine cottages. Lots of polka. Lots. And plenty of unpronounceable names. Take all those people and set them down on some dusty hills right next door to the Great Plains. Still imagining the polka? Good. That’s Central Texas.

Now take all the Cajuns and creoles out of Louisiana. Empty it out until there’s nothing but woody hills up north and swampy bayous down south. Then fill it with people from Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia. That’s East Texas.

Now take the nice parts of Chicagoland, both the city and the suburbs, and put them on the flatter side of Wyoming, complete with all the cattle and Sheriff Longmire and the antisocial types. The central Europeans and the rednecks will fly out of this airport. This is DFW.

Now combine the Wenatchee area of Washington with the drier and emptier parts of Arizona. This will be owned in large part by the people from Chicagoland and central Europe. This is West Texas.

South Texas bleeds into central Europe and Arizona-Wenatchee. Except it’s got a lot of Spanish influence, and a lot of Mexican music. They also grow oranges here. So it’s like SoCal, but older and minus the glitzy parts of LA.

All of these are united by the shared memory of a revolution. This revolution was fought by a combination of Willie Nelson, Ron Paul, homeschoolers who raise goats, and a lot of roughnecks.

Between SoCal and central Europe is the capital, Portland. Everyone in Portland likes to think about the revolution. They also vote for Bernie Sanders. When they’re not writing surprisingly conservative laws, going to offbeat indie concerts, or inventing new kinds of organic pizza, they go to college. This particular college acts like Berkley some days, like an Ivy league school on others, and gets wilder about their football program than Alabama fans.

Now take the way Europeans see Americans (“American cowboy! John Wayne! Bang bang!”) and crank it up to ten. That’s how everyone not from these areas sees everyone from these areas—when they find out that’s where they’re from. Little German guy who listens to polka while making schnitzel? John Wayne. Goldman Sachs banker from Chicago? Also John Wayne. Redneck swimming in a creek in the woods behind the mobile home park? Also John Wayne. Maoist vegan didgeridoo player? Clint Eastwood.

Some people are okay with that image. Some are not. Either way, it’s too late to find a new one, and it makes good branding for the ad guys. Also Hollywood.

That’s Texas.

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