REGULAR READERS of Unca D -- both of you -- know the Houston Chronicle has proudly and ostentatiously declined for many years to embrace, or express even minimal respect toward, the civic holidays that help define and strengthen and our American and Texan culture and polity.
Fourth of July? What's that? A bunch of beer-swilling, dog-roasting, flag-waving plebes . . .
Year after year, the editorialists either ignored the Fourth, along with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and all the rest; said something hateful (we give thanks that America is not as bad as it once was); or busted a jiujitsu move with no real purpose other than to upset the ignorant celebrants (true patriotism is not passing a flag-burning amendment).
Never would they simply relax, lay down their arms in truce, and join the rest of us in waving a flag, giving thanks, or showing reverence toward something greater than ourselves.
Well, that changed last Thanksgiving . . . then against last Christmas . . . and again Saturday on Texas Independence Day. Three decent holiday editorials in a row make a trend, worthy of notice and applause.
I wrote last November about the honest Thanksgiving editorial.
This year an adult returned to the helm and gave Houston . . . a sincere, thoughtful, and reverent essay on Thanksgiving that boldly exposes the Christian roots of the holiday.
Long before this country was mesmerized by the mantra of "hip and cool" and came to worship at the altars of popular culture and celebrity, Americans proudly answered to the labels "stiving, God-fearing and humble."
Most of us still do.
. . . .
[Remarkably] the word "us" intimates that the Chronicle sees itself -- if only in the person of the unidentified essayist -- as a member of the same community.
I cannot remember the last time our local newspaper so generously treated the people it serves or so unreservedly identified with them.
But I can remember the next time the newspaper did that, which was the following Christmas -- last Christmas. The editorial was more than decent and respectful; it was near sublime.
In the Christian tradition, the Old Testament prophecy recorded in the book of Isaiah is reaffirmed in the New Testament Gospel of Matthew with these words, "The people which sat in darkness saw a great light." That light . . . was brought by the birth of Jesus, which Christendom celebrates on this mid-winter's day . . . .
. . . .
Darkness is a feature of our modern world, no less than it was in biblical times. It shows itself in wars, famines, sickness, economic insecurity and a host of other fears that beset humankind. The message, symbolized by the birth of the Christ child, proclaims that the light of love and peace will triumph over the darkness of humankind's misguided deeds and acts of hatred and betrayal toward one another in every generation of recorded history.
Wow! And thanks!
Now comes Texas Independence Day, a perfect occasion for the snarkiest of the cadre of Chronicle editorialists to unload on the state they love to hate. Instead we get this editorial, the lede in the paper paper (though indecently tucked away on the Web behind a far lesser editorial, serving a bowlful of green blather):
In the early 19th century, the initials "GTT" sometimes were found carved in haste on the doors of homes abandoned by folks fleeing unpaid debts and other life problems. The three letters were shorthand for "Gone to Texas," the frontier sanctuary of choice for folks in these kinds of unfixable fixes. The three letters have found a place in our state's lore and legend.
With an estimated 1,500 new Texans arriving here each day, "GTT" isn't merely an interesting anecdote born of our pioneering past. The daily influx of newcomers in 2013 also reminds us that Texas remains very much a frontier state of mind, appealing to all sorts of people with ideas for starting a new life. We say, "Welcome!"
The steady flow also should be a reminder to those of us who are natives or longtime Texans not to take for granted that those coming in from Ohio or California or Rhode Island necessarily know a thing about Texas' [read Texas's] past. Many if not most haven't a clue about our state's history or the significance of March 2 on the calendar.
. . . .
The Texas we know in 2013 is a far cry from the empty wilderness of 1836. But the seeds of the mythical Texas character -- tough, determined, never-say-die -- were sown in those events and men we honor today.
Again, wow! Again, thanks!
"Mythical Texas character" in the hands of one of the lesser editorialists would have been sarcastic. Here it points to the importance of myths in forming a culture and forming character.
Myths are sometimes, though not always, less than true to history -- the myths of the American left in particular -- but they are usually true to some extent as parables or allegories that try to instruct us in the meaning of things.
The wonderful holiday editorials, sadly, are sports -- individual shoots of decency and sanity popping from the mossy bole of the Chronicle's support for big government, more taxes, more spending, more laws and regulations.
The myth here is that the American people -- Texans, especially, but others as well -- are incompetent and untrustworthy to run their own affairs, individually, through voluntary associations, collectively through the operation of the rule of law and a well-regulated marketplace, or through the device of a limited government.
The myth here is that we are all, to one degree or another, victims.
The myth here is that the spirit of toughness, determination, and never-say-die is mockable false consciousness (you just think you're tough).
Logically, the Chronicle cannot have it both ways. The ideologues of the past disrespected our civic holidays, to be sure, but they had it right, in a perverse sense. One cannot simultaneously condemn America, Texas, and Houston, then pivot to honor the holidays that celebrate the values of America, Texas, and Houston.
Consistency does not hobble the Chronicle's mind, apparently. By opening its editorial column to honest expressions of respect for the sense, beauty, and purpose of our holidays, the newspaper has -- whether deliberately or accidentally is yet to be determined -- allowed a few bright rays of light to penetrate the dark chambers in which it usually labors.