He asked the standard question at the museum ticket counter: “Where are you visiting from?” When I said, “The U.S.–Texas, specifically,” the Singaporean gentleman raised his eyebrows.
“Oh! Texas!” he exclaimed. “Are you ready to go to war?”
US News Overseas
I didn’t know how much I needed a break from America’s toxic political sludge until I got away. Checking out Singapore’s newspaper was a breath of fresh air. Though the hotel lounge’s TVs were tuned to CNN, the sound was muted and stories easily avoided. Twitter? Formula One’s Bahrain Grand Prix and a mass of soccer filled my feed.
Aaaah. Polite, reasonable news and level-headed reporting, as refreshing as a frangipani-scented spa treatment.
As we toured Singapore’s National Museum, I realized how little I knew about this area of the world . . . and just how faulty some of that “knowledge” was.
- I am older than this government, which declared independence from Malaysia on August 9, 1965.
- Singapore has four official languages (English, Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil).
- And, like Vatican City and Monaco, it’s a city-state, explaining my confusion on how to answer when a friend asked, “What city are you visiting in Singapore?”
Now, when friends heard I was traveling to Singapore, many jokingly told me not to chew gum or I’d get some lashes. False.
Gum isn’t illegal in Singapore (spitting it on the ground, however, is). Folks misremember an incident involving an American who was jailed and caned for vandalism.
Now, consider all the completely faulty “facts” generated these days by American news. What had leaked into my negative-news-free paradise like so much rotten egg stench was America’s southern “emergency” and Trump’s threats to close the Mexican border.
That Situation at the Texas-Mexico Border
I’ve always believed pragmatic, independent Texans would eventually rise up to protest the complete political bullshit being slung about our border. We’ve got a lot to defend.
According to Texas Department of Transportation (TXDoT), “Texas and Mexico share 1,254 miles of common border and are joined by 28 international bridges and border crossings. This number includes two dams, one hand-drawn ferry, and 25 other crossings that allow commercial, vehicular, and pedestrian traffic.”
My home state is 972 times larger than Singapore (thanks, MapFight), which measures 31 miles from east to west and 17 miles, north to south. But this tiny island’s two causeways handle nearly 300,000 daily pedestrians traveling between Singapore and Malaysia. Both economies depend on this workforce interchange and fluid foot traffic. Singapore has recently invested in high-tech options to help screen travelers; they’ve worked closely with U.S. Department of Homeland Security to incorporate facial recognition and explosive detection to prevent terrorism and deter undesirable people from entering the country. High tech solutions.
Texas and Mexico have a similar symbiosis; the two economies need one another as much as they genuinely enjoy their proximate relationship. Washington’s Republican administration has elevated wall construction–that dog-whistle catch-all for keeping “them” out–above and beyond specific border protection needs. Their “emergency” isn’t about thwarting terrorism or curtailing drug traffic at ports, nor are their proposed solutions, whether a wall or border closing, addressing the dysfunctional asylum process creating a real humanitarian crisis.
Even the staunchest of elected Texas Republicans, those who’ve wholeheartedly backed an antiquated 30-foot tall concrete campaign promise, are giving a timid “now hold on here” to this insanity. The Texas Tribune reported that, after the Texas Association of Business stressed one in five Texas jobs is dependent on trade with Mexico, even Lt. Governor Dan Patrick was less than enthusiastic about closing the border.
Senator John Cornyn is semi-standing up for Texas. He admits “our border communities on the U.S. side are some of the safest in the country” and “the funding bill we passed last month included five specific areas, including the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge and the National Butterfly Center, where barriers cannot be constructed. It also included language stating that the DHS must consult with local elected officials in certain counties and towns.” But he’s got a long walk ahead of him before he stops unnecessary wall construction in sensitive areas, supports logical and humane border policy, and puts national base-pleasing Republican power-plays behind what’s best for Texas.
Texas History and Today’s Policy
Maybe that gentleman in Singapore’s museum sees things more clearly. Reflecting on the past often illuminates the present. In 1830, Mexico abolished U.S. immigration to their territory, Tejas, and that highly unpopular border closing didn’t endear the government to settlers. Diplomacy failed; fighting erupted; and on March 2, 1836, Texas issued its Declaration of Independence. For roughly ten years, the Republic of Texas existed all on its lonesome. That ornery, feisty streak–best exemplified by the battle for Gonzales’s cannon–still runs strong in every Texan I know today.
I still hold hope that Texans will stand up to fools. That we won’t allow the federal government to enact border policies contrary to the Lone Star State’s best interests (OMG, that’s classic Republican!). That state government won’t waste taxpayer money, destroy pristine border land, and ruin relationships with Mexico to fulfill a delusional president’s vanity project. That goodhearted Texans will work out decent, humanitarian solutions for desperate asylum seekers and their families.
That we’ll issue a revolutionary challenge to Washington: “Come and Close It.”