Educating the world about Texas one Yankee at at time.

Educating the world about Texas one Yankee at a time.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Friendship, not xenophobia, is Texas motto

Texans are noted for being friendly.

Our state motto, “Friendship,” bears this out.

But folks, I’m going to out my fellow Texans on an issue of which I am not proud. There are some Texans who are so adverse to outsiders that they qualify as being xenophobic.

Xenophobia (pronounced, “ZEE-no-foe-bee-yuh”) is a dislike and/or fear of that which is unknown or different from oneself.

There are two kinds of Texans; the first kind is the genuinely kind and gracious person who is actually glad to see you and wants to get to know you. The second kind presents a hail-fellow-well-met façade when he or she greets you, but you’ll never, ever get an invitation to their inner circle of friends for any reason, let alone an invitation to a barn-burning.

The “Second Kind” are the way they are because, in their minds, outsiders don’t belong. You can live in the same home town with ‘em, but you will never, ever be a part of the social strata. You will forever be the “new kid” in town, even fifty years later…and even if you are a native Texan, six or seven generations back. To them, you will never be truly from (insert small town name here) and that’s that.

I can’t stand these folks. Anyone who acts like this and treats people this way has no business calling themselves Texans.

It’s one thing to be suspicious of strangers; that’s just survival and not a bad way to be, considering the way of the world these days. But when you’ve been neighbors for fifteen years and never so much as had a cup of coffee together and a real attempt to learn the names of one another’s children…well, shame on ya. That’s not the behavior of a real Texan.

A real Texan lets you know exactly where you stand in her or his personal cosmic scope. If they don’t like you, they won’t be nasty about it (unless you are). You’ll just get a bit of a frosty reception with little attendant chatter. If he or she likes you, you’ll get more than just small talk when you meet. You’ll get a play-by-play of her or his family’s latest adventures.

You’ll get diatribes about politics and the price of gas. And you’ll get invitations to be a part of their social arena, whether it’s to a church social, the wedding of the first born child or a frog gigging.

The Second Kind is not all made up of snobs; they just don’t see the point of getting to really be friends with an “outsider.” After all, “outsiders” can’t possibly be able to put down real roots in a community. They just moved to (insert town name here) from a town 25 miles west; how can they relied on to be here when the next century comes around? Shoot, if an “outsider” marries a local gal, he might just make her move to the next neighboring town and she’ll never be seen again!

Folks, this is how jokes about in-breeding get started.

I grew up in a city so socially closed that not even the wealthy families mixed, depending on how long a family had its wealth. There are, to this day, two country clubs in Tyler. Willowbrook is for the “old money” and Holly Tree is for the “new money.” The two seldom, if ever, socialize.

Even the bourgeoisie follow the same lines; if your family wasn’t in Tyler by 1930, forget ever being invited to hang out on their party barges at Lake Tyler.

Tyler schoolteachers can tell you that parents will come in for a parent-teacher conference, shake hands and make pleasant conversation. But do not ever acknowledge them in the grocery store unless you are a part of their caste. You are not to be socially friendly; only in a professional context may you address one another.

Is it any wonder I didn’t just move away, but that I ran away screaming?

“How do you do…who are your mama’s people,” is a standard greeting issued to newcomers. I was, for a time, a member of a service league in Tyler via my ex-mother-in-law, but not without a pedigree being presented first. An exception was made to allow me membership, since I was, at the time, married into a family considered acceptable by the establishment, my father was a well-liked professor at the university and my maternal grandmother had had a business in Tyler since 1952.

Never mind that I was five and six generations of old Texas family on my father and my mother’s sides, some of whom had helped settle and build much of North, East and West Texas. No. What mattered here was Tyler, and not Texas.

As Groucho Marx said it best, “I don’t want to be a part of any club that would have me as a member,” and certainly not one that cares more about bloodlines than people.

So if you meet a Texan and you get treated like an alien after the first three friendly gestures you’ve extended to them, don’t take it personally at all. You’ve just had a close encounter with the Second Kind.

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