Juandering Out Loud: Know the Earth on Which You’ll Stand

A hand passes a red cowboy hat to another in a style reminiscent of socialist propaganda. In the quest to combat fascism in the U.S., it’s important we remember each of us has a part to play in the fight against this shared threat (Illustration by Bonnie Lord).

I have a confession to make: When I bought my first pair of Western-style boots back in 2021, I was definitely trying to play up the cowboy aesthetic. In the years since then though, it’s just become one of those things that I’ve incorporated into my daily existence, rather than just being part of a costume.

As a Texan, I know I’m not doing anything to challenge that particular aspect of how the rest of the United States views us; especially when it looks as if I’m still playing up that aesthetic.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely do so at times; it can be fun to play the cowboy in a room full of city-slickers. I could say the same about a lot of Texan stereotypes.

For instance, I’m a devout consumer of cane sugar Dr. Pepper, the only beverage besides water that makes life worth living. I absolutely bash Houston every time it comes up in conversation, as is my duty as a Dallasite. Most importantly, I undergo a pilgrimage to the nearest Whataburger any time I am craving a patty melt.

These are the stereotypes I embrace happily. I do so in the company of my friends, fellow Texans that they are, because we get a good laugh out of it. 

Better we laugh at the good ones as opposed to the bad ones, the ones that we can’t in good conscience joke about.

As a Texan, I am very much aware of the way that the rest of the United States views us. When so much of the news coming out of Texas is about how, among other things, the state government is actively attempting to restrict the rights of marginalized communities and complicate the livelihoods of the Texan working class, it makes me reconsider much of the way I present myself to other USAmericans.

The only time we matter to Governor Greg Abbott and the rest of his cadre is election time, but even then, the concern they give us is minimal; the Republican Party of Texas is more than aware that it will win elections time after time because it has established the proper infrastructure needed to maintain a hold over the Texas legislative and executive branches.

It must be nice to be Abbott; during the 2022 gubernatorial race, he was swimming in over 7.5 million dollars in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry alone.

Meanwhile, as of Sept. 1, certain pieces of legislation such as House Bill 4520 went into effect, which stated that educators could lose their teaching certificate and become ineligible for receiving retirement benefits if they sell, distribute or display “harmful material” to a minor. Because it’s Texas, what constitutes harmful material can vary in practice; suffice it to say that pieces of legislation like this are designed to target the accurate teaching of history. 

For instance, it isn’t enough that queer folk must be targeted for their existence, no. In the eyes of the Texas government, queer folk have never existed. The youth mustn’t be allowed to learn that, actually, gender and sexuality are constructs built to sell heteronormative, cis-centric lifestyles that not everyone meshes well with. 

Let the record show that Texas isn’t alone in this. 

Michiganders, you are not immune to this threat. If things haven’t gotten as bad as Texas, it’s because you all actually have some semblance of liberal infrastructure to give your Democratic candidates an actual fighting chance. 

Were that to be taken away though, were you to lose the few safeguards y’all have against the openly fascistic rhetoric and politicians that roam the country though, y’all would be in a similar state of affairs to that of Texas. I get the feeling y’all would feel as much shame as I do when talking about my state government.

I’ve reached a point in my life where I don’t consider myself a Texan just because it’s where I was born. That stereotypical Texan pride has been replaced by a desire to not be seen as one – to distance myself from those who are supportive of the state government’s efforts to target queer folk and people of color.

So, I reject that version of Texan identity. I instead build myself a new version that allows the people in my life some room to breathe easy. I consider myself a Texan because I am ready to fight for those individuals in the state who will need every outstretched hand available. I consider myself a Texan because that’s where I’m ready to make my stand when the time comes to put up a good fight.

That time is now.

I am ready to challenge the entirety of the Texan government for the people I love if it comes down to it. I will not go quietly into the night, not when it means my friends and family are subject to harassment by a consortium of foul-tempered politicians. 

Ultimately, I pin my grievances on the political class, those wretched hags that govern over my state with no regard for either my neighbors or myself. 

See, there’s a threat on the horizon, one that prospers off of our division and fear of one another. The threat whispers its lies, pinning the blame on our neighbors while urging violence upon those it paints as culprits for the ruinous state of our country. The only way that the worker will rise above ruin, the threat says, is through the violent excisement of the harmful elements in society.

It whispers lies into the ears of the renters and tenants who don’t own the roofs over their heads and land on which they stand. It whispers its recognition of the state the worker lives in and insists that said worker is meant for something greater, that they are part of a great people who have been weakened and despoiled by filthy parasites and degenerates; it pins the blame on queer folk, on people of color, on addicts and any other individual in desperate need of protection.

It asks you to surrender your community, those who are very much feeling pressure in the same way you are, in the name of your own well-being. 

This is the threat that is attempting to make itself at home in my home state. This is the threat that is attempting to hurt my loved ones. This is the threat that, if we do nothing about it, will claim more lives than it already has. It won’t stop at Texas and Florida and the southern United States.

Michigan, you are not immune to fascism.

I know I sound like an alarmist. If it was up to me, I would be a calmer man. I would go to sleep at night without being haunted by the specter of fascism. I wouldn’t have kept a rifle locked up and unloaded in my room back home, quite frankly; without an existential threat, I wouldn’t have much reason for a firearm outside of hunting.

That isn’t the world we live in though. The looming specter of fascism hangs overhead like a guillotine’s blade.

I am a peaceful man, but I won’t sit around and let myself be subject to a threat that seeks to harm my friends, family and loved ones, as well as myself. 

Fascism preys on the isolated and desperate. In order to properly combat this threat, it falls to us to strengthen the bonds that already exist; what better way to kill a movement than to starve it? We must tend to our connections and the people we share them with, caring for them both regardless of time or place. 

So begins the work to build up the infrastructure needed to withstand the threat, a bulwark against the coming storm and a lighthouse to guide the way to safe harbor. I do all of this because there’s no one else who will do the work for me, certainly not the politicians who either actively court fascists or willingly enable its spread.

In the great affair of democracy, there is no room to tolerate intolerance. The intolerant elements of society pose too great of a threat to those tolerant members of society. Intolerance will walk all over the tolerant if you even give it the inch to do so. 

Do you want an example? Look at our political system. We let Donald Trump take office and we’ve seen him weaponize intolerance for his own political gain. A horde of Republican nominees are making attempts to weaponize the same strategy in the coming election. Simultaneously, we’ve seen a rise in hate crimes and in the number of hate groups since Trump’s presidency. 

Thankfully though, it seems that enough people just don’t care about some of the hateful rhetoric being spewed from these walking sacks of bile. If anything, it seems that many politicians are so obsessed with peddling fascistic rhetoric that they forget that it isn’t a sustainable policy choice. Who’d’ve thought that hate doesn’t sell well in the long term?

All hate does is tear down what we’ve worked so hard to build. It’s a destructive force that overwhelms and leaves its survivors struggling to find a way forward.

Eventually, though, they will find a way. We will survive that destructive force and find a way forward. At the end of the world, there’s new land on which to tend to a garden. All this open space and none of the social barriers from the world before exist; all it takes is the vision to make this new world a better place, something in which we can all partake in.

Born of the love I have for my friends and family back home, continue to go to sleep at night. Sure, fascism may haunt me in the early hours of the night, but come daybreak I can feel my dreams take definite shape.

Come sunrise, I feel my soul lifted out of its grave as warmth returns to an apparent corpse. 

To them, I owe my life; It’s a debt I’ll never be able to repay in full, but I will still do my best to do so.

So consider me a friend in the fight for a better world; be it in Texas or Michigan. I have no intention of letting the fascists claim a single acre of land for their cause. Wherever they are allowed to congregate and propagate, they will only do further harm to the most vulnerable individuals in our society. 

When the time comes, I’ll stand proudly alongside my friends up here in Michigan in defense of what is right. 

For now, I ask for Michiganders to stand beside those of us in Texas facing down fascists in our streets. I urge you to remember that an injury to one is an injury to all; we may come out of the fight wounded, but we will come out of it alive – through your support. We will carry with us the satisfaction that the fascists didn’t claim another life. 

No pasarán; they will not pass. Not if we all have a say in this.

About Juan G. Rodriguez 45 Articles
Juan G. Rodriguez is a senior sharing his time between Dallas and East Texas. He is majoring in English and minoring in Political Science. As an individual with two pencil leads in his left knee, writing seems to be the only career that Juan is capable of. Contact Juan via jgr13@albion.edu.

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