S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Holidays and cultures in Texas today

Lansdowne portrait of President Washington by Gilbert Stuart from Wikipedia
Some interesting news stories popped up in a quick scan of the Texas newspaper, the Houston Chronicle (title-linked above).
Today is President's Day, which is one of the threads that tie the Chronicle's Texas news articles together. The other themes include stories spotlighting Texas' unexpected diversity of political, religious and cultural expression.
Bible Belt Conservatives will work today - The first piece details an opportunity for Texans to formally protest today Governor Perry's HPV vaccination mandate: Dated Feb. 18, 2007, the headline reads: "Public gets first chance to testify on HPV mandate." Quoting from the story,

AUSTIN — Doctors, public health experts and cervical cancer survivors are expected to testify on Monday at a public hearing on legislation aimed at overriding the governor's anti-cancer vaccine mandate.
. . . The hearing marks the first chance for the public to comment on Gov. Rick Perry's Feb. 2 mandate, which directed the Health and Human Services Commission to adopt rules requiring the vaccine for girls entering sixth grade as of September 2008. The shots protect girls and women from the HPV strains that cause most cases of cervical cancer and genital warts.
LBJ shows up online - Former president Lyndon Johnson continues to fascinate many of us for a number of different reason. Texans often either loved him or hated him. If you are on holiday today, take a look at this interactive presidential history buff's library resource. It was in the news yesterday: Feb. 17, 2007, and headlined, "Project makes presidents' day just a click away." To quote a bit more,
LBJ Library is taking the lead, with plans to add archives from most of our past leaders The Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum is leading a collaborative effort with the other 11 presidential libraries and the University of Texas to put records from each library on the Web for easy access, at
It features records related to significant events and issues faced by 12 presidents, Herbert Hoover (1929-33) to Bill Clinton (1993-2001). Materials include audio and video clips, photos and documents, including diaries, some of which have been available only to scholars.

New presidential dollar debuts - Just in time for President's Day the U.S. Mint is making another attempt to get us to use a dollar coin in addition to our paper money. I is certainly more durable, but whether it will take off in popularity is yet to be seen. They hope it will be used, rather than merely collected. The Feb. 16, 2007, article is headlined, "New dollar coin hits the streets." A quote follows:
The United States mints in Philadelphia and Denver already have cranked out 300 million of the new George Washington dollar coins, said spokesman Michael White.
. . . The coin, which features a likeness of the nation's first president on one side and the Statue of Liberty on the back, is the first to be released in the new series, which will honor four presidents a year.
White said mint officials are optimistic that the continuing nature of the releases, modeled after the mint's successful issue of quarters honoring the 50 states, will maintain public interest.
This "day" celebration takes a month - The story is one of cultural pride and immigrant assimilation all wrapped into one big week-long party in South Texas. Dated, Feb. 17, 2007, the headline is "Laredo's Washington birthday celebration a mix of 2 cultures." Here is the quote:
. . . the annual Society of Martha Washington colonial ball, which combines red, white and blue patriotism with Latin American flair. It could be the nation's biggest President's Day celebration.
A city that is 94 percent Latino and can sound, feel, and smell more Mexican than American presents its aristocracy during an annual tribute to a president whose birthday elsewhere is more associated with department store sales.
. . . Laredo became part of Texas in 1848, when everything north of the Rio Grande became the United States. Mexican loyalists moved south, forming Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. Those who remained — including those whose names are still prominent in Laredo today — saw their daughters marry Anglo men from the East Coast.

Also Chinese New Year - Texas residents include people who celebrate the Chinese New Year. "New Year events grow with Asian community" (2/19/07)
Over the weekend, thousands of Houston-area families ushered in the Year of the Pig — which is supposed to be an especially prosperous and fruitful year — at festivals throughout the city, including events hosted by the Chinese Community Center and the Culture Center of the Taipei Economic & Cultural Office in Houston, and the Tet Houston Festival in downtown.

Another blending of cultures - Islam and Missions in the Bible Belt: The first Catholic mission in San Antonio was established in 1718, according to TSHA Online. Quoting further, "By 1996 there were 642,824 Catholics in 145 parishes in the archdiocese, who were served by 435 priests, 1,025 nuns, 106 brothers, and 230 permanent deacons." The Feb. 17, 2007, story is headlined, "The public face of Muslims in the Alamo City: Sometimes-decried activist dedicated to ridding adopted home of injustices." To quote from this unexpected story beginning with the events of 9/11, which would,
. . . open her eyes to the reality that anti-Muslim sentiment was on the rise, it would motivate her to become the public face of the San Antonio Muslim community. Today, she's the founder, president and sole woman on the board of the San Antonio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington, D.C.-based anti-discrimination group.
. . . Her admirers almost uniformly describe Husain as strong and fiercely dedicated to stamping out discrimination against Muslims wherever she finds it. Her detractors say her outspoken style and what they describe as a hypersensitivity to perceived slights limit her effectiveness.
. . . In her work, Husain stands up for the right to wear a hijab one day, then organizes a Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless with a group of young Muslim volunteers the next. When her two grown children still lived at home, the family celebrated Ramadan, and enjoyed decorating a Christmas tree. She said she has taught her daughter and son — both U.S.-born — the importance of understanding two cultures. She reads the Koran and the Bible, and espouses her convictions in a way that contradicts the submissive stereotype of a Muslim woman. With that intensity comes friction and, at times, combativeness, say her detractors.

Houston's working class to protest against Bush - Texas may have the reputation of a really "Red" state politically, but Dallas and Austin usually vote Democratic. Here is an example of political diversity from Houston; the concluding Chronicle story linked in this post is dated Feb. 16, 2007. Lori Rodriguez' report begins with the headline, "Coalition plans march to protest Bush's economic policies," and continues,
A coalition of community leaders, grass-roots groups and elected officials will march through downtown Houston on March 24 to protest Bush administration policies they say hurt the working poor.
The newly formed Coalition for Working Class Americans wants residents of all backgrounds to join them in the demonstration that will culminate with a City Hall rally aimed at showing concern for economically squeezed Americans.
. . . The march will take place against a backdrop of heated, partisan debate about the president's proposed budget, which contains cuts to social services including Head Start and workfare programs.
A proposed increase in minimum wage also is generating a political tug-of-war.

It is too easy to stereotype people who live in Texas as rural rednecks, or swaggering oilmen and brassy big-haired women. Texas' unexpected diversity of political, religious and cultural expression is not widely known. Thus today's South by Southwest post is an attempt to add a bit of counterintuitive new information for my wider audience of readers. More next week.
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