In the wake of the British vote to exit the EU, several of Texas’ more “colorful” politicians have renewed their call for Texas to exit the United States.
In my snarkier moments, I’d love to see Texas leave; for one thing, the federal government sends more of our tax dollars back to the Lone Star State than its taxpayers remit to Uncle Sam, and the rest of the U.S. certainly doesn’t benefit from most of the state’s forays into public policy, or from the wisdom of the people it sends to Congress. (Just losing Louie Gohmert would make “Texit” worthwhile.)
In my more measured moments, however, I recognize that Brexit and the subsequent efforts not just of Texan separatists but of far-right movements elsewhere represent a reaction to—and rejection of—modernity. We see that rejection everywhere, from the Taliban and ISIS trying to “purify” the Muslim Middle East, to the French members of Marie Le Pen’s National Front, to homegrown nativists wanting to “Make America Great Again.”
Elections have become a choice between accepting modernity with all its maddening complexities and frantic and futile efforts to “return” to a time that never was. That is just as true of local contests as it is for national referenda; Hoosier voters will face that choice in November.
Governor Mike Pence hasn’t just strongly endorsed Donald Trump, disqualifying as that endorsement is; well before Trump became the GOP nominee, Pence was advocating measures to keep Indiana from engaging with the 21st Century. (There’s a reason for the Facebook meme advising Hoosiers to turn their clocks back to 1800.)
Just a few of the more obvious examples: RFRA was focused on turning back the clock to a time when “God fearing” Hoosiers could discriminate against LGBT citizens with impunity. Signing the demeaning and punitive anti-choice bill (the most drastic in the country) was part and parcel of the old-time belief that women are not competent to make our own decisions about reproduction. His refusal to accept Syrian refugees (until a court reminded him that immigration comes under federal jurisdiction) was entirely in keeping with a worldview that looks askance at immigration, diversity and globalization.
In all fairness, Pence had plenty of help from Indiana’s GOP super-majority.
It’s easy to understand why so many people find modern life threatening. Change is constant; technology is confounding. Foreign people with different cultures and ideas can make us uncomfortable and unsure of our most foundational beliefs. The economic ground beneath our feet keeps shifting.
As disorienting as modernity is, however, the choice is not between a discomfiting now and a mythical then. If we find going forward too demanding, too frightening—if we vote for people firmly planted in an imagined past—we will simply be throwing in the towel, refusing to meet the challenges of our time.
What we won’t be doing is reinstating a world that never was.
A lot of people—including a number who read this blog—are unhappy with the candidates proposing to lead us forward. I understand that. But the choices this November are pretty stark: we can inch forward with people who are less than perfect, or we can go backward with people who live in never-never land.