New York Times columnist Gail Collins, author of the new book As Texas Goes, spoke to Salon about the state on Saturday, in an interview that was conducted by Kyrie O’Connor of the San Antonio Express-News.
“I’m certainly crazy about the people in Texas,’ Collins said. “They’re kind of amazing. But as I said in the book, Texas has both managed to lead the country in paranoia about the federal government and dictate a great chunk of this national agenda over the last 30 years, which is kind of a strange combination.”
Collins discussed the state in the context of her theory of “empty places” vs. “crowded places.”
If you live in a place that you perceive to be a crowded place you appreciate government, you see it as this thing that protects you against crime, that keeps order, that makes sure that nobody puts a massage parlor next to your house, that keeps other people’s dogs from pooping on the sidewalk.
If you live in what you perceive to be an empty place, it’s sort of like: What’s the point? I’m here, I’m taking care of myself, I’m not bothering anybody else, why are you messing with me? And the sense of what government can do and should do is vastly different.
Now the problem for empty places is that outside of the U.S. Senate, if you don’t have any people, you don’t really have much power. Nobody is going to write a book about how Wyoming is running the country. But Texas is genius in that it’s gotten huge. Most of its residents actually live in metropolitan areas, yet they really feel like they’re all living in empty places. You can live in Houston and still feel as if you’re living someplace where there’s lots of elbow room and you’re not getting in anybody else’s way. It’s very interesting.
Collins did have praise for the fact that Texas’ was