Tag Archives: Don’t Mess with Texas

Littering provokes militancy

SEA RIM STATE PARK, Texas — I am married to an anti-littering militant.

I have known it for the nearly five decades of our married life, but I saw it on full display on a morning walk along the Texas Gulf Coast.

We sauntered onto the beach from our fifth wheel. Immediately, she became incensed at what she saw … and what she began to collect on our stroll. I figure we must have picked up close to a 40 pounds of trash on our walk of several hundred yards.

I am proud of her, as you might surmise.

The point she made struck home with me. Why come to the great outdoors, enjoy nature and then soil it with this kind of trash? We understand fully, though, that a lot of trash washes ashore from offshore — from seagoing vessels and from the oil platforms one can see from the beach.

In the early 1980s, the General Land Office launched its anti-littering campaign, labeling it “Don’t Mess With Texas.” The phrase over time has been perverted to connote some sort of macho statement about Texas and Texans. However, it means simply that we shouldn’t toss litter onto our landscape.

I get it, and I assure you my bride certainly gets it.

Let me be clear on this matter: We are proud supporters of our state parks. We intend to see them all before we no longer are able to haul our fifth wheel around our immense state. I also am proud of the way Texas Parks & Wildlife cares for our parks. TP&W does a stellar job of keeping them well-groomed, which makes them so attractive to us.

It’s no one’s fault here at Sea Rim State Park that the beach is littered with too much trash. The fault lies with the nimrods who come here, as my wife says, to “enjoy nature” only to sully it with their trash. The fault also lies with the seagoing vessel crews and the dipsticks who work on those platform way out there on the horizon.

To those who aren’t as careful as they should be about disposing of their trash, be forewarned: Don’t mess with Mrs. Kanelis.

Black Lives Matter? Yes, but no more than any other


We’ve been getting bombarded lately with commentary about Black Lives Matter, a movement born out of a spate of deaths of young black men at the hands of police officers.

I don’t intend here to debate each case, but I do want to call attention briefly to what I believe has been something of a perversion of what the message “Black Lives Matter” is intended to convey.

Critics of the movement contend — wrongly, in my view — that its name suggests that Black Lives Matter more than others’ lives. They have formed a kind of counter-movement, calling it All Lives Matter.

Certainly, all lives do matter. The loss of anyone’s life unjustly is a shame and should be mourned.

Black Lives Matter’s intent, as I understand, is to suggest that Black Lives Matter as much as anyone else’s life.

But as we’ve seen in recent days, with the shooting in Dallas of those five law enforcement officers at the end of a Black Lives Matter march, critics of the movement have actually sought to blame its organizers for the violence that erupted.

The young man who opened fire on the officers was seeking precisely to undo the intent of the march. He didn’t speak for the movement with his weapon. He spoke only for himself, but the critics of the movement have sought to conflate the individual’s evil intent with what — until the gunfire erupted — had been a peaceful march through downtown Dallas.

The perversion of Black Lives Matter’s name is a bit reminiscent of what has happened to the Don’t Mess With Texas slogan that was adopted in the 1980s — as a statewide anti-littering motto. Some groups around the state have morphed that slogan into a kind of macho mantra that speaks to Texas pride, Texas individualism and Texas bravado.

Do black lives matter? They damn sure do. Let’s not presume, though, to suggest it means that black lives matter more than anyone else’s life.

It also would do us all good to stop seeking to find blame for what happened the other night in Dallas. Let us devote our energy into healing a stricken community and nation.

Texas getting special attention these days


Manny Fernandez has written a fascinating essay for the New York Times about Texas.

He seems to like living here. Indeed, he is not alone in being attracted to Texas, as the state’s population is growing rapidly. We aren’t likely to catch California any time soon, but the number of Texans is now approaching 30 million.

Here’s the article:


As I read it Sunday, though, I was struck by something left out.

Fernandez talks extensively about how some Texans take their Texanhood so very seriously, even to the point of putting Texas soil under the bassinet of a newborn baby to ensure the baby’s Texas roots.

He didn’t mention how an anti-littering slogan coined in the 1980s has been morphed into a kind of macho mantra.

“Don’t Mess With Texas” came into being after the Texas General Land Office decided to make the state more conscious of litter and how it soils the landscape. (Note: The picture on the link does have a “Don’t Mess With Texas” sign in it.)

We can thank then-Land Commissioner Garry Mauro, on whose watch the slogan came to life.

Since then the slogan has come to mean something quite different in many people’s eyes. It’s come to mean that you don’t “mess with” the state at any level. Don’t disrespect us. Don’t insult us. Don’t make fun of us.

Don’t do this or that … or else we Texans will make you pay for it.

I have no particular problem with the Don’t Mess With Texas slogan as long as it is being used for its intended purpose, which is to admonish litterers to avoid tossing their empty beer cans or their used-up containers of Skoal onto our highways.

I wonder, though, if the Land Office ever envisioned it being perverted in the manner that it has over the years.

It’s also become, in addition to a kind of battle cry for Texans, grist for those who seek to belittle the state.

Sure, Texas is a special place. We’ve lived here for 32 years. We call it home — even if the right-wing politics here at times makes me a squirm just a little.

I encourage you to read the New York Times link. It spoke clearly to me as a Texas transplant who has learned about the state’s peculiar obsession with itself.


Anti-PC rhetoric becomes code for rudeness


You’ve heard politicians say, “Don’t Mess with Texas.”

They say such things to convey some sort of macho image. The phrase they quote, of course, came into being in the 1980s when the Texas General Land Office sought to call attention to littering.

Not very macho, right?

Politicians today are fond of debunking “political correctness.” Oh, they say, “That’s just so PC. Let’s cut that crap and speak the truth.”

Actually, what I find happening to political correctness is that it’s becoming a punching bag for politicians who think it’s OK to be crass, rude, uncaring or lacking in humanity.

Pay attention, Donald Trump. I’m talking about you.

I agree that political correctness at times can be taken too far. Politically correct speech at times does drive me a bit batty. Maybe the most maddening example of PC language appears under photos of hunters who’ve killed game. The caption might refer to the hunter posing with a beast he or he has just “harvested,” to which I say, “BS, man. You ‘harvest’ cotton or wheat.”

Trump uses the anti-PC dodge whenever the media question the intemperate language he uses to describe his Republican Party primary field opponents. Jeb Bush is a “loser”; Lindsey Graham is an “idiot.”

Yes, some of them have hurled personal insults at Trump, too, but Trump tends to employ the anti-PC dodge as his justification for saying outrageous things about other human beings.

Perhaps politicians ought to think more about the Golden Rule than about whether it’s OK to toss political correctness into the toilet.


Messing with the message

The Texas General Land Office has come up with a far superior anti-littering slogan than the one that’s been taken hostage by right-wing politicians in our fair state.

The sign, which my wife and I saw on a weekend trip to the Davis Mountains region of far West Texas, reads “Drive Clean Across Texas.”

Excellent message, don’t you think?

The previous message, which still appears on some signs, states “Don’t Mess With Texas.” Taken literally, it, too, offers a nice admonition to drivers who might be inclined to toss an empty longneck beer bottle or a potato chip bag out the window of a speeding motor vehicle.

It no longer means what it was created to mean back when Garry Mauro was land commissioner and when his office adopted the campaign to fight littering in the state. Instead, the slogan has been perverted to represent some kind of misplaced machismo.

Gov. Rick Perry and other right-wingers have used the message as a warning to the federal government, telling them nasty feds to “don’t mess with Texas” by making us obey all those meddlesome federal laws enacted from the halls of Capitol Hill.

Now the state has a new slogan to remind motorists to keep their trash inside their vehicles. “Drive Clean Across Texas” has a sort of Texas-style slang feel to it. Plus, taken literally, it means what it says, although I know a few English teachers who would argue that it would be better to encourage motorists to drive “cleanly” across Texas.

Whatever. The new message is less prone to be used as a cheap political gimmick.

Don’t mess with this Texas slogan

Texas tries to get serious about littering … so much so that it has adopted a slogan that to many millions of Americans, and even some Texans, has taken on an entirely new meaning.

“Don’t Mess With Texas” has been around since the mid-1980s. The state’s General Land Office launched the anti-littering campaign with the slogan that has, shall we say, become as popular as a Friday night football tailgate party.


The New York Times story linked here discusses how Texas is trying to protect the integrity of its slogan. I have an idea: How about using it exclusively for its intended purpose, which was to tell people they shouldn’t litter the state’s vast and varied landscape.

Texas officials say they’re trying to preserve the slogan’s original meaning. Some leading politicians, though, aren’t following suit. As the Times article noted, then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush used the phrase in a political context when he accepted the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2000. Other pols have thrown the slogan around to tout some people’s view of Texas machismo.

As the Times reported: “The phrase is known around the world, and it is important for everyone to recognize that ‘Don’t Mess With Texas’ means ‘Don’t litter,’ ” Veronica Beyer, a (Texas) Transportation Department spokeswoman, said in a statement. “When an alleged infringement is discovered, the department quickly seeks the appropriate legal remedy, which is usually a cease-and-desist demand of the unauthorized use and all future uses thereof. In the majority of such cases, our request for the violator to cease and desist has been all the action required.”

I couldn’t agree more with that view. The problem for the state, though, is how to reel in those who keep abusing the slogan.