Please don’t call it “the second battle of the Alamo.” That shop-worn phrase has been more overused than “Houston, we have a problem,” which is an incorrect quote. This latest dispute about the mission is one of the strangest and most outlandish proposals ever to come before our crazed State Board of Education, or SBOE. It seems a panel of advisory educators recommended eliminating from a textbook guide on the Texas Revolution the words, “all the heroic defenders who gave their lives” at the Alamo. The panel called “heroic” a “value-charged word” and said the reference to “all” defenders is too vague and covers too many individuals. I suppose we could call the defenders “an unwashed mob” or “men who liked to wreck a church” or “rowdy tourists who got bombed on the Riverwalk.”
It gets worse. This same group wanted to eliminate a specific reference to William B. Travis’ letter addressed to “the People of Texas and All (note the vague “All”) Americans in the World,” commonly referred to as the “victory or death” letter, an appeal for reinforcements written near the start of the siege. Maybe the panel would have preferred the letter to end: “We may have to bug out of here and reform in Louisiana. Victory or whatever.” It does boggle the mind that the SBOE appointed some people — who haven’t any idea of Texas, Texans and our history — to make recommendations as to how to change our textbooks. What backgrounds do they have, how out-of-touch and clueless can a state advisory panel be? Fortunately, the SBOE temporarily rejected the changes, but we can only wonder how they even got that far. And what a waste of time. The board agreed to keep in Moses’ influence on our founding documents and require that students explain how the “Arab rejection of the State of Israel had led to the ongoing conflict.” But any mention of Hillary Clinton was tossed.
At this point we must consider the word “hero.” Like “the second battle,” the title “hero” is much overused, including for a sandwich. Some refer to the souls buried at Arlington as “heroes,” although that covers more than 300,000 buried, and we can safely suspect that not all qualify for that honor. John McCain was called a hero, but not by President Donald (Bone Spurs) Trump, who said he preferred people who were not captured. McCain qualifies to be called a hero because, when the North Vietnamese discovered McCain’s father was commander of the U.S. Fleet in the Pacific, they offered to release the son. Most people would have jumped at the chance to go home, but McCain rejected the offer until those captured before him were freed, too. “No, thank you. I like staying here at the Hanoi Hilton so you can break my bones and beat me and hang me by my arms so that I will suffer pain and damaged limbs for the rest of my life.” That qualifies for the hero title. So do the defenders of the Alamo, who could have left, but chose to stay and fight, giving Gen. Sam Houston the time to raise an army and supplies and defend Texas.
Question: Why wasn’t there a backdoor at the Alamo?
Answer: There was. That’s why there’s an Oklahoma.
Stephen Cure, the former director of education with the Texas State Historical Association and a member of the committee that recommended changes to the Alamo curriculum, said the panel never really recommended the changes and described the uproar as a misunderstanding resulting from – one guess – “faulty journalism.” When you’re in a mess, blame the press. A new version would change “heroic defenders” to “the heroism of diverse defenders who gave their lives” at the Alamo. Got to get “diverse” in there to be PC.
Among the many opponents of the original change was Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, a former history teacher, who issued a statement blasting the proposal, saying Travis’ letter and the Texians’ eventual defeat and death “must remain at the very core of Texas history teaching. This kind of politically correct nonsense is why I will always fight to honor the Alamo defenders’ sacrifice.” He has a dog in this fight because Bush has pushed a plan to revamp Alamo Plaza into a more history-oriented experience, though the changes would restrict pedestrian access, the removal of nearby buildings and relocation of the Cenotaph monument. This has made the plan deeply controversial among San Antonians, but they have had the sacred mission in their front yard forever, and have let the area become a circus midway complete with a Ripley’s Believe or Not shop, Baskin & Robbins (remember the a la mode!) and assorted seedy commercial enterprises. You don’t have to be a Crockett scientist to feel disgust at the way the Alamo City has treated the Alamo.
As for the SBOE, while they are changing our children’s textbooks, they might want to reconsider the wording on the Texians’ flag at the Battle of Gonzales, when Mexican troops tried to get back a cannon given earlier to the Texians. The flag had a picture of the cannon with the words, “Come And Take It.” Sounds awfully defiant, so make the wording more like an invitation: “Come And Get It.” Then serve the Mexicans a nice dinner. The students should learn the state’s motto discouraging drugs: “Don’t Meth With Texas.” Our history books often overlook Santa Anna’s famous cry at the beginning of the Battle of the Alamo: “Read my lips: No new Texas!”
There is a recommendation that the SBOE change the order of causes of the Civil War, which now teaches that conflict was caused by sectionalism, states’ rights and slavery (in that order). Some say slavery should be moved to the top of the list, ignoring my grandmother’s preference for that conflict: The War for Southern Independence. Just don’t change the textbooks to read “the first battle of the Alamo.”
Ashby remembers at firstname.lastname@example.org