About Rationally Speaking
Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Texas near 400 hits
So, what's the matter with Texas? According to a recent article by Ed Stoddard and distributed by Reuters, the crucial factors are fundamentalist Christianity, the “Old West” mentality, and a good dose of racism – a lethal mix, as it turns out.
Christianity is supposed to be about the relatively gentler Jesus of the New Testament superseding the paranoid, self-centered and genocidal god of the Old Testament. Not so in the good 'ol South, where Matthew Wilson (a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas) says “a lot of evangelical Protestants not only believe that capital punishment is permissible, but that it is demanded by God.” And they are correct, of course, as these things go, although the real question is whether their god is acting morally in making such demand.
That the Old West mentality plays a role in all this will not come as a surprise to anyone who has ever been in Texas and has witnessed first-hand the peculiar pride that many locals take in wearing cowboy hats and boots, even though they may never have seen a cow in their lives. Still, the “rough sense of justice” made famous by screen stars from John Wayne to Chuck Norris (the latter, incidentally, recently turned rabid born-again) is apparently embedded in the Texan collective consciousness.
Finally, we get to racism. Yes, racism is all over the United States, but I've lived in different parts of it – from the South to the east coast, and if anybody tells you that the degree of racism is the same everywhere, they're full of it. One simple statistic is telling about Texas: blacks comprise 12% of the state's general population, but a whopping 41% of the prison population.
Christianity, cowboy attitude and racism welcome you to the Lone Star State – if you are white and god-fearing. Then again, things may be improving even there: just as in the rest of the country, the rate of executions has steadily being going down. The reason seems to be that the demographics are changing, with the Latino population in particular going up. And the new immigrants apparently have little taste for state-sponsored revenge. That is one good reason to make immigration easier, especially in the South. Oh, right, but that's also where the most xenophobic anti-immigrant politicians reside. I wonder if it is a coincidence.