This week, millions of Texans sit down to a Thanksgiving meal with friends and family members who see the world differently. There will be awkward silences. There will be heated exchanges. There will be whispered side conversations. (“Don’t get Uncle Joe started … ”)
As much as we may laugh about the dynamics around Thanksgiving tables — as much as social media may embolden us to avoid or minimize such interactions — there is something valuable in them. There is something wholesome and healing that happens when rivals sit down together and express thankfulness.
Texas used to have a ritual for that. Once upon a time, Texans from rival factions came together at an appointed place to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, and to play football. Those football factions aligned with many of the cultural divides in our state: conservative vs. liberal, rural vs. urban, Jackie Sherrill vs. Darrell Royal.
We need to get that tradition back. In fact, we need it now more than ever because, as our nation desperately needs to remember, healthy rivalry is not about hate or hostility. Did the Texas A&M vs. Texas rivalry drift that direction sometimes? Sure. Just as Thanksgiving dinner conversations sometimes turn nasty. But passionate disagreement is better than cold disregard. Somehow, we were better when we fought hard and shook hands afterward.
Never was that more evident than this holiday 20 years ago after 12 Aggie students died in a bonfire collapse. The bonfire, as any Old Ag will tell you, was meant to represent “the burning desire to beat the hell outta t.u.” But eight days after the tragedy, those victims were honored by both sides of the rivalry.
Longhorns coach Mack Brown wept when he heard the news. Texas’ annual Hex Rally was turned into a candlelight vigil with Aggies invited. The night before the game, an estimated 40,000 people gathered near the bonfire site for a silent memorial, including former President George H.W. Bush and then-Gov. George W. Bush. ...
These were people whose school loyalty reached back for generations. These were people who gave money, time and devotion to their universities. These were people who chose careers and even spouses based on school affiliations. These were people who broke laws to prank the opposing team. These were people whose loyalties were reflected in every detail of their lives — from the color of their cars to what time the Thanksgiving meal would be served. And yet, these were people who knew when to set all that aside in deference to something bigger. ...
This year, all across Texas, there will be Thanksgiving arguments about impeachment, about media bias, about SEC dominance, about turkey vs. ham, and about how early is too early for Christmas music. But there won’t be a football game to bring us together. We wish there were.
A complete census
We’re a month shy of 2020, a year in which a new U.S. census will be taken, and Texas is one of five states without what’s know in census-taking circles as a “complete count committee.”
It behooves each state to help the Census Bureau take as complete a count as possible. The larger the count, the more federal money and U.S. House members a state gets. The Census Bureau strongly recommends complete count committees as a way to ensure a complete count, just like the name of the committee suggests. A high-ranking Census Bureau official told The Associated Press that complete count committees are “extremely effective.”
The 2019 Texas Legislature considered but did not pass a bill to create one. This is a state long dominated by the Republican Party, and the AP reported that some Texas lawmakers feared that a complete count of Democratic-leaning urban and suburban counties could hurt them.
How? By changing their district boundaries in ways that would make it harder for them to be re-elected. A new census every 10 years helps determine how political-representation districts are redrawn every 10 years. Incumbent Republicans in Republican-safe districts don’t want a bunch of likely Democratic voters drawn into their districts.
It’s what your parents and grandparents called “cutting off your nose to spite your face.” If you’re an officeholder and the price for protecting your chances of re-election is an undercounted Texas, you’ve won what’s called a zero-sum game in which the price of your winning is everyone else losing. Meanwhile, the seat of power you retain is not as powerful as it could have been because Texas is less powerful than it deserves to be. ...