By Alysa Sides
I am a lifelong Texan. My family has lived in this state for longer than any member who is alive can remember. Texas is all I have ever known. Yet, the Texas legislature makes it so hard to be proud of this.
The more I pay attention to this state’s governing, the harder it is to believe that the lawmakers elected into office care about protecting and addressing the needs of Texans. Just this year alone, I have endured enough catastrophe within this state to question its legislative agenda — or the lack thereof.
During the state-wide freeze and failure of the electrical grid in February, I held my partner and our cat as we all shivered under mounds of blankets while silently praying that the thermostat in my apartment stopped dropping as quickly as it had been. I spent days worrying about when the next burst of electricity would come — if it ever did — so I could rush to prepare some form of food or water.
You’d think the Texas legislature would have addressed the failed electric grid, given that it affected nearly all Texans, causing catastrophe and even deaths across our state. Over 6 months later, they still haven’t.
In June, my partner was planning a night out with friends in downtown Austin. Steps away from the Uber dropoff, a mass shooting broke out. Fourteen people were injured and were rushed off for medical care. Their last-minute canceled plans were the difference between a nice evening and calamity.
You’d think the Texas legislature would have addressed the failed gun laws when innocent bystanders continue to die in shootings every year. They still haven’t.
Throughout this year, I’ve held my breath when receiving the phone calls that told me my diabetic grandmother, aunt, and father contracted COVID. I watched the number of hospital beds available to them dwindle to nothing, as this virus tore through Texas and my family. With COVID horror stories replaying in the back of my mind, I could dread the worst-case scenarios.
You’d think the Texas legislature would have addressed the failed response to COVID, especially after proven solutions have been presented. They still haven’t.
This was all just within this year.
I recognize the privilege that I have in having survived, and having loved ones survive, these crises that have swept the state. I understand and mourn my fellow Texans who did not have the same fate. Their deaths are a brutal reminder of the severity of these issues. No one should be faced with these situations, especially when we know they could have been avoided.
The legislative agenda of the Texas Capitol has been circumvented by hyper-partisanism. Lawmakers have worked hard to convince Texans that we should care more about “critical race theory” being taught in schools and trans kids being able to play sports with their friends than fixing the electric grid and offering sustainable COVID relief. It’s exhausting to have to fight back against the state’s unnecessary erosion of abortion and voting rights while knowing nothing substantial has been passed to protect us from actual threats. I am so tired of having to fight for my survival and right to exist in this state.
In times where it feels hopeless to continue caring, and when it might seem easier to move elsewhere, I remember the community that Texans have built with each other.
When people were freezing in their homes and dying of carbon monoxide poisoning from trying to stay warm, Governor Greg Abbott talked about how bad the Green New Deal is on Fox News. It was the mutual aid organizations that rallied together within communities to provide Texans with water, food, and blankets.
At the height of the pandemic, communities were more reliable in providing resources than the state legislature. Schools opened food drives to continue providing breakfast and lunch to kids. Funds were created to support the houseless, hungry, and jobless during the pandemic. All the while, the state avoided all accountability for enacting key mandates to ensure the health and safety of its citizens against the catastrophe that COVID created.
The Texas community has gone above and beyond to help one another in dire times. But we shouldn’t have to. We should not have to rely on ourselves to find a way out of crises that our state leaders create. We should not be left to our own devices in times of peril. We should not be left behind and ignored by the very people elected to serve us.
We deserve a functional state government that actually cares about our needs. Texans deserve better.