August 9, 2005
The Texas Minnesota Thang
This morning's Star Tribune featured an article "Grinding Axes with Texas," which began with the lead, "It really chaps our hide the way the Lone Star State takes things we'd rather claim as our own."
As a holder of dual citizenship (having lived in Texas for 25 years and in Minnesota for 19 years and counting), I have a few comments to make.
I was recently introducing myself to my new next-door neighbor and found myself talking about Texas and Minnesota - and he asked what kind of connection there was between the states, because he had observed some kind of affinity between the two.
Well, the first connection is geographic. Texas and Minnesota are the "bumpers" on Interstate-35 before you cross international boundaries into Mexico or Canada, respectively. So the connection's pretty simple. Just hop on I-35 and head either north or south, and you'll wind up in one or the other. I-35 stretches from Duluth to Laredo, passing through the Twin Cities, Dallas, and Austin along the way.
The Twin Cities and Austin (TX) also have affinities. Both are centers of high tech and lots of white collar business, both are state capitals, and each is home to one of the U.S.'s largest state universities. The rankings of UT Austin and U of M Twin Cities tend to be very close. One may be a point or two ahead of the other on one dimension, but then the direction is reversed on another dimension. (But only UT Austin has a library that is built in the shape of the state of Texas.)
I think the 2 states also share a certain type of pragmatism that comes from dealing with harsh climates, although Minnesota has the "pleasure" of dealing with BOTH extremes, as this summer's continuing heat / humidity wave is continuing to teach us. As a consequence, people in both states dress casually in accordance with the weather -- or at least they tolerate people who do. People are adaptable.
However, my extended stays in both states have shown me that there are significant differences as well.
One of them has to do with a general approach to life. Minnesotans analyze and whine -- well illustrated by this morning's article. Here's the first sentence: "Texas, you've got our dander up!" (See?)
Texans just grab and run. They could care less whether Minnesota thinks it has 10,000 lakes. If they want to claim 10,000 or 20,000 -- well brother, they will.
There'a also a real difference in attitudes about the use of power in government and in universities. Minnesota touts its populist, participatory approach to life. Which is true in many ways. But sometimes it seems that the participation and consultation go on forever and either a) no one makes a decision, or b) someone steps in and grabs power and makes a decision in spite of all the consultation. In Texas, there's no pretense of consultation or government-by-the-people. Those in power just decide. Now I realize that I am edging into political territory here that others may care to analyze in much more depth. And maybe I'll add more in a subsequent post. But I couldn't let the occasion of this article pass without SOME comment about the two states that I alternatively love and hate. As with most things in life, wouldn't it be great if we could take the best things about each state and roll them into one? But what would we call it?