“Being slightly paranoid is like being slightly pregnant - it tends to get worse.
---- Molly Ivans
When it comes to extremes, you can’t beat Texas.
Weather? Everything from oppressive heat and humidity to ice storms. Throw in tornadoes and hurricanes and it’s got it all.
Distances? Driving the width of Texas is like a mission to Mars. It feels like it may take a decade or more to make the trip.
Food? I’m sure there are pockets of fine dining somewhere but the dietary staple is barbecue and Tex-Mex. You can find either or both in every town and hamlet in the state.
But if you want to take it to the limit, try the Texas State Fair where you can ingest such culinary delights as Biscuit Fries with Chocolate Gravy, Fried Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich, Deep Fried Salsa and Fried Banana Pudding. Or a personal favorite: Chicken Fried Bacon.
Sports? In Allen, Texas, they built a $60 million football stadium for a high school. The Dallas Cowboys play their games in a facility that cost north of $1 billion.
Spreads? The King Ranch encompasses 825,000 acres extending into six counties.
It’s the land of Big Ideas, Big Egos, Big Oil, Big Hats and Big Hair. Not to mention Tall Tales and Wide Open Spaces.
But there is something else that looms large in the Texas psyche: Paranoia.
In a state that likes to think of itself as the land of God, guns and guts, any real or imagined attempt to mess with the right to bear arms results in spasms of conspiratorial insanity served up a large dose of hostility.
Take Jade Helm 15, for example. While it may sound like the name of a European rock band, it is in fact a multi-state exercise involving members of our armed forces.
The Army Special Operations Command explains it this way:
“USASOC periodically conducts training exercises such as these to practice core special warfare tasks, which help protect the nation against foreign enemies. It is imperative that Special Operations Soldiers receive the best training, equipment and resources possible.
“While multi-state training exercises such as these are not unique to the military, the size and scope of Jade Helm sets this one apart. To stay ahead of the environmental challenges faced overseas, Jade Helm will take place across seven states…The diverse terrain in these states replicates areas Special Operations Soldiers regularly find themselves operating in overseas.
“The training exercise will be conducted on private and public land with the permission of the private landowners, and from state and local authorities.”
Military officials go on to say that “the public can expect nothing much different from their day-to-day activities since much of exercise will be conducted in remote areas. The most noticeable effect the exercise may have on the local communities is an increase in vehicle and military air traffic and its associated noise.”
That seems like a plausible explanation. But not for a lot of Texans.
At a recent information session, command spokesman Lt. Col. Mark Lastoria fielded questions about whether Jade Helm 15 will involve bringing foreign fighters from the Islamic State to Texas, whether U.S. troops will confiscate Texans’ guns and whether the Army intends to implement martial law, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
“It’s the same thing that happened in Nazi Germany: You get the people used to the troops on the street, the appearance of uniformed troops and the militarization of the police,” one resident told the Statesman after the meeting. “They’re gathering intelligence. That’s what they’re doing. And they’re moving logistics in place for martial law.”
Another version is offered by a website called the All News Pipeline. They connected the dots between Jade Helm and the closure of several Texas Walmarts to ask, "Will these massive stores soon be used as 'food distribution centers' and to house the headquarters of invading troops from China, here to disarm Americans one by one as promised by Michelle Obama to the Chinese prior to Obama leaving the White House?"
Yet another source says “the Operational Plan for the exercise clearly shows that this drill is about the implementation of martial law and the subsequent pacification and subjugation of the American people by their government.”
The hue and cry has become so serious that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sent an open letter to the Texas State Guard asking it to keep a tight watch on the exercise. "During the training operation," Abbott wrote, "it is important that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights, and civil liberties will not be infringed."
Mistrust of government is as American as apple pie and as old as the nation itself. It thrives in places like Texas which maintains a frontier mentality despite the fact that the state is being increasingly urbanized.
The problem begins when it spins out of control. Distrust turns to hatred. Hatred begets violence.
Timothy McVeigh hoped to inspire a revolt against what he considered to be a tyrannical federal government. So he blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 and injuring 600 innocent people.
Much of this vitriol is directed at President Barack Obama who has been demonized by the Right as evil, ruthless, calculating, even murderous.
But party affiliation or political philosophy doesn't seem to matter. Even President Bush, a favorite son of Texas, was accused of nefarious deeds. He was accused of advancing a plan to build a huge Super Highway, four football-fields-wide, through the heart of the U.S. along Interstate 35, from the Mexican border at Laredo, Tex., to the Canadian border north of Duluth, Minn.
Why? Because it was whispered that Bush is pursuing a globalist agenda to create a North American Union, effectively erasing our borders with both Mexico and Canada.
It appears tin foil hats are replacing Stetsons in Texas.
Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com.