The Talibanization of Texas
When they took over Afghanistan in the mid 1990s, the Taliban, a group known for its regressive, misogynistic, and bigoted views, banned the country’s access to polio vaccinations. The claim, well-received in a tribal and ill-educated population, was that the polio vaccine was a move on the part of Western powers to sterilize and decimate the Afghan population.
The Taliban also banned women’s access to schools, depressing the 10% literacy rate among Afghan women to new lows. To prevent them from being morally corrupted by modern ideas, boys found their textbooks replaced with those sanctioned by the Taliban and discussions on “offensive” subjects and topics were banned. Rhetoric deemed critical of the Taliban became a criminal offense.
The Taliban also banned women from seeing male doctors in a country of 20 million people that had about 300 female doctors.
The Taliban also instituted a vigilante system of “vice and virtue” informants, civilians, in other words, to force a hapless population into adherence of their draconian laws.
Twenty-five years later, history is repeating itself.
In Texas, that is.
Texas Republicans — a particularly regressive, misogynistic, and bigoted strain of an increasingly regressive, misogynistic, and bigoted political party — white-knuckled and festering over the browning of the state, have decidedly chosen to follow in the path of their kindred spirits, the Taliban.
The state’s Republican governor has banned Covid vaccination requirements and has remorselessly presided over the deaths of 74,000 Texans (and counting) from the virus. Not surprisingly, the ban has been cheered and cherished most in the state’s red districts, places known for their racial homogeneity, tribal qualities, and generally lower levels of education.
While the governor has passionately invoked constitutional rights and freedom on vaccines, the state’s anti-intellectual Republican lawmakers have worked with equal zeal to take away those very constitutional rights and freedoms from school teachers and librarians. Legislation now prevents teachers from discussing current topics and events such as Black Lives Matter and critical race theory. Emboldened, some luddite lawmakers now want school libraries to discard hundreds of books they believe will corrupt the moral fiber of our society by exposing our children to issues related to gender identity and homosexuality.
The state’s misogynistic Republican lawmakers have also managed to pass a law that significantly curtails women’s access to healthcare and slyly prevents them from exercising their constitutional rights to reproductive freedom. The state’s Republican attorney general, among the zaniest the country has produced, and not one to be defeated in any race to the bottom, has gleefully defended the law in the US Supreme Court.
To enforce these draconian laws, the state has instituted a vigilante system of justice that vests the power of enforcement on every self-respecting Texan. Texans are now legally encouraged to go after teachers who discuss “banned” topics and to bring lawsuits on any woman who gets reproductive care. Going further, the recent election bill signed allows partisan poll watchers (again civilians) the power to sue any government-hired and trained poll worker. We are truly in the wild, wild west here in the third decade of the twenty-first century.
Meanwhile, with eyes on November 2022, the fearmongering Republican governor and his fellow Republican lawmakers, all opportunistic Trump acolytes, rally their base by crusading against the creeping Californization of the Lone Star state. Indeed, we should be so lucky. For now, we are staring squarely at the sweeping Talibanization of Texas.