Friday, March 2, 2012

Happy Texas Independence Day

Today is Texas Independence Day! It's the anniversary of Texas declaring independence from Mexico on March 2, 1836. The formal declaration marked the moment when Texas, after having been ruled by France (1684-1689), Spain (1690-1821), and Mexico, decided that whatever form of government followed, it would be a form chosen and not imposed.

Celebrate, Texans near and far. Dust off your Stetson and head out for some barbecue.

Should you decide to celebrate more formally, through a little rumination, I suggest you celebrate by remembering everything Texas' declaration was not. When Texas declared independence from Mexico, it was not the beginning of peace for the region. It was not an insipid, vapid, bipartisan announcement. And it sure as hell wasn't a suggestion.

The Texas Declaration of Independence marked the end of an internal war, a fight of ideals. Texas woke up, looked in the mirror, and saw Texas as Texas. The physical war went on, ending the following month, at San Jacinto.

Why would a state; or a nation, for that matter; celebrate a declaration of independence rather than the end of the physical war? To be fair, Texans do recognize San Jacinto Day (April 21). But we don't call it Independence Day. The day the last shot was fired was not the day independence was won. The day independence was won, was the day we stood up and proclaimed it to be ours.

Of course, the internal war for independence was less violent than the physical war. But that does not lessen the critical nature of the internal struggle. A physical fight unfueled by passion will be lost. A war without a goal cannot be sustained. But find within yourself a reason to take up arms, shout that reason to the heavens, and you can fight on through impossible odds. You can come back from disaster, to win the war.

So why is an author horror / supernatural law stories writing about Texas Independence Day? Two reasons. First, there is the geographic connection. Most of my stories are set in Texas. Second, and most importantly, there is a thematic connection between the concept of independence and my stories.

Today's culture is obsessed with gilded myths of undead monsters. The undead are shrouded in a dark, sexy allure. They're not like us, so we should want to be with them. We should aspire to be them.

The undead are different from the living, in one key way. It is not an enviable difference. The undead have no independence. Each variant of undead is controlled, their existence driven by some insatiable need. For zombies, its the need to eat brains or flesh. Vampires, blood. Ghosts are forced to haunt a place, person, or thing, until business is finished or the spirit is avenged. Werewolves are driven by a condition or disease they can rarely, if ever, control. The undead are not independent of their state. They cannot choose to become independent of what they are.

You appreciate the difference between the living and the undead when a living person picks up a weapon, faces the unholy hoard, and declares, “I don't care that you out number me. I'm not putting up with your crap any longer. This is my world, and you're leaving it.” The living assert there independence from what the world wants them to become, separating themselves from the controlled and grotesque undead masses.

Independence is a privilege. You declare it, and you fight for it. You can not assume independence will be given to you, or that it will never be taken away. If you presume the existence of a static sanctuary, you sacrifice a chance to be the best person you can be. Be complacent, and lose yourself. Lose your independence. When that moment comes, you join the ranks of the undead. You get to be another controlled thing, stumbling around in a cold night-world that is not nearly as sexy as the rank and file culture would have you believe.

Today, we remember those who fought a war against their own fears, and won. We celebrate their courage. And if we're wise, we honor their memory, by recognizing what their moment was and was not...and by deciding and declaring who we will be.