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What's Your Alamo?

Dear Friend,

Today me, my wife and the four kids spent the day futzing around, wasting time while waiting for Monday to roll around.

The RV dealer says that our new motorhome is ready, but we expect to spend Monday morning going over a detailed punch list of systems that we will want to test and get repaired, if necessary, before we shove off.

We have decided that after leaving the dealer we will first head straight home. We want to pickup a few items and my oldest daughter has a doctor’s appointment that we don’t want to miss. There is some last minute provisioning, and I may want to work with a friend to do some modifications and tweaking to the rig before we head out. From home we will likely head north. Perhaps far north.

We spent part of today buying a few laptops for the road at a Best Buy store near Austin, Texas. Did you know that there seem to be Best Buy stores on every corner in Texas? I have also never seen so many nice new shopping centers in this state. It’s an easy place to spend money.

And everything here has been quite nice. People are relaxed and friendly. And we hear surprisingly little accent in the voices of those around us, including people born and raised here.

It seems that the culture across English-speaking North America is becoming quite homogenized. Whether that’s good or bad I’ll leave to you.

One thing that is noticeable here in Texas is the great pride that people have in their state, and in particular in their flag.

It is typical to see across the US huge US flags flying at car dealerships and at the occasional fast food place. It’s a great marketing technique. And the flags are quite attractive.

In Texas you will see as many, if not more, huge Texas flags flying from these flag poles as you do US flags. Often the Texas flags fly alone, without an escort from an equal sized US flag.

I leave this state with the distinct impression that the connections between any other place and Texas have always been and will always be just a bit tenuous.

In San Antonio, we visited the Alamo. I was shocked to discover that not one of my kids had heard of it. When I was a kid, every one knew the story of the Alamo. I think that in the 20th Century, such stories were repeated more in the spirit of patriotism, but today I guess schools and the media no longer consider them important.

We watched an IMAX movie about the battle of the Alamo, and we read the historical presentations and displays.

What I learned is that Texans went from being Europeans, US citizens, or from other areas of Mexico, to being “Texians.” In about ten years after settling the Texas state in Mexico, the Texians fought for an won independence from a Mexican dictator, becoming an independent nation for a few years, and then joining the US as a state. A few decades later, Texas left the union and joined the Confederate States, and was returned to the union only by overwhelming force. In its early history Texas was once a colony of Spain, and later of France. The amusement park, Six Flags Over Texas, derives its name from this multicolored past.

As you probably know, the story of the Alamo is really the story of a determined spirit of independence that cannot be broken. Liberty or Death was their theme, and they chose death over surrender.

In the Alamo I found a small shrine donated by a Japanese gentleman prior to 1920. He saw parallels in the Alamo story to the traditions of the Samauri in Japan, and he wished to commemorate that shared heritage.

Perhaps there are parallels between these two traditions, but I think that those similarities end at the willingness of the participants to die for their principles.

The Samauri code is a code of medieval honor and loyalty. The spirit of the Alamo is a spirit of resistance to submission. The Samauri celebrated personal discipline. The Alamo defenders shunned it. But both groups could work as a team with great efficiency when circumstances required it.

The Samauri fought for personal honor. They defended and enforced the edicts of authority figures. They lived according to a shared idea of what constituted a righteous life, much as a religious colony might today.

The Alamo spirit was based on a shared belief in a right to individual freedom and independence – on the idea that any individual should be free of the control of his or her neighbors, and free to live life as he or she chooses, regardless of what authority figures, or neighbors, might think.

Both groups were willing to die for what they believed in. Not because they were fanatics. Or were suicidal. But because what they believed in, their principles, were so close to who they were, that to surrender them was little less than death anyway.

How many of us would be willing to die rather than give up something that we hold close? How many of us are so in tune with our core principals that we know what would be worth dying for?

I’m not talking about someone being brainwashed into fanaticism. There is plenty of that around these days. I’m talking about really being in touch with what matters in your life.

It’s an interesting thought. If the Alamo were being fought today, who would show up to defend it? What is your Alamo? What would you die for rather than surrender it to a tyrant?

Hope you have a great week.

Hugh

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