Latham: Abbott doesn’t represent the Texans who care

Texas owes its name and state motto to a Caddo Indian word supposedly meaning “friendship,” though the word “Tejas” is just the Spanish pronunciation of the real Caddo word, which has been lost to time.

For all we know, the word could have meant, “Go away, stranger.” Certainly, as more settlers moved in to supplant the Caddoans from their ancestral home, that may have been what they were thinking.

Or it could just be one of those fanciful stories that get passed on as the truth. In any case, “friendship” doesn’t fit these days, that’s for sure.

The Texas way, as interpreted by Gov. Greg Abbott last week, is much more akin to turning our backs to those in need. He was acting on a presidential executive order that gives states the right to refuse to allow refugees to settle within their borders.

Compassion just oozes out of every pore in the Republican body politic, doesn’t it? That’s not completely fair. Old-time Republicans — I hope some of them still exist — are a compassionate lot. Raise your hand if you dare identify yourself.

I should say the executive order may give states the right to do that. It’s being challenged in court, along with just about every other executive order. But, hey, it’s the thought that counts, right? That must be true even when the “thought” is not worthy of thinking.

Oddly, the “friendship state” so far is the only one invoking the inclusion clause. More than 40 other states have opted out, maybe on the theory that what goes around, comes around, or maybe that they understand their responsibility to the human race actually goes beyond their imaginary state line boundaries.

I know my complaints sound so First Century, but one can always hope for a return to the old values.

Most likely, Abbott is making Texas stand nearly alone to do his part to help his Dear Leader President Donald Trump, who is said to be upset that more states aren’t banning refugees. Of course, Abbott also has an election in two short years to worry about. He wouldn’t want to disrupt the base and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick would love to take the next step.

In making his announcement, Abbott said Texas has already done its part by taking the largest amount of refugees. There’s no doubt the good people of Texas have opened hearts and doors to take care of those looking for a better life.

This has almost always been private citizens who have given of themselves. The state has largely spent money trying to capture and send refugees back or to put them away in cages. Any real humanitarian care has been done mostly by faith-based organizations.

Abbott’s actions only serve to make it difficult to impossible for these private citizens to help.

Get this straight, Gov. Abbott: Texans have done their part — though they are willing to do much more. Texas, under your leadership, has mostly stood in the way, trying to confound all useful work. You don’t represent any of the people who have done the real work.

Abbott famously got his Boy Scout chops right here in Longview, but I can’t help but wondering if he really earned all those merit badges.

The slogan of the Scouts is “Do a Good Turn Daily.” That’s what we want to teach our children or, at the very least, to not do any “bad” turns. That’s just what Abbott has done, and made it all the worse by pretending that bad is really good.

— Phil Latham is editor emeritus of the News-Journal. His column appears Wednesday. Email

Today's Bible verse

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”

2 Timothy 4:3-4

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