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My wife’s dad is from Grenada, and we visited there last October. It was an incredible place, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, but when I was speaking with one of my father-in-law’s relatives, I unknowingly committed a geopolitical faux pas. It had been a while since I had traveled to a less commercialized destination, and, unaware that the relevant categorizations had changed, I said something about being proud of myself because I thought I had gotten too soft to travel in a Third World country. A group of us stayed in a modest seaside villa. My wife and I didn’t have hot water for a week. I bathed in the ocean or the pool. We drove on the opposite side of the car and navigated the opposite side of occasionally crumbling, precipitous roads. And we amateur-Anthony Bourdained our way through every restaurant meal. We were forced outside our comfort zone, and I found it wonderful, exhilarating, and, ultimately, therapeutic.

My father-in-law’s relation listened patiently and then politely corrected me. “The term ‘Third World’ is discouraged now,” she said. “These days, we say ‘developing nation.’ ”

I promptly apologized, and we continued our conversation. We discussed my travels and many of the developing nations I’d had adventures in over the years. I think she realized I wasn’t the average “Ugly American.”

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The term “developing nation” avoids the derogatory connotations of “Third World” nation which, in the last half of the 20th century, referred to countries that were economically underdeveloped and had little or no affiliation with major or “First World” powers (i.e., Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, the United Kingdom, the United States, others). Many countries formerly dubbed “Third World” nations were also disparagingly deemed “Banana Republics,” which connoted small, poor nations often hamstrung by limited resources and sometimes led by despotic or authoritarian regimes big on corruption and economic exploitation. These countries usually functioned poorly for their general citizenry while disproportionately benefiting a specific “elite” group or class of individuals.

Today, this thought process often comes to mind when Lone Star politicians and pundits try to establish rube cred by threatening to secede from the United States, but it simply demonstrates that they don’t know much about most of the rest of the world, much less their own state’s place or perception in the eyes of most of the rest of the world.

These days, America itself is hardly impressive or inspiring, specifically because it seems that only Americans are ignorant of their nation’s imperialist agenda. Everyone else knows.

And if so many people are attempting to migrate to the United States, it’s not so much that anything is great here. It’s because they, like us, prefer being the boot rather than the ass. The United States bootheel hardly discriminates between the guilty and the innocent in foreign states.

But America as a whole is Camelot compared to Texas.

Texas is unrepentantly Third World and would become Third World on steroids if it seceded. And not because Texas is small, poor, has limited resources, and lacks connections with First World powers — it certainly wouldn’t be considered a developing nation. It would be Third World because it’s governed by a rabid, despotic governor and legislature rife with corruption, keen on economic exploitation, and defiantly proud of functioning poorly for its citizenry while disproportionately benefiting a specific “elite” group or gaggle of entitled individuals. So much so that no one even bothers to deny it anymore. And, this, trumpeted alongside blatant political chauvinism, gleeful censorship, innumerable challenges to fair representation, and frequent, reprehensible threats to freedom of speech, reveals what we really are: ugly. Ugly Texans.

While we may seem attractive to every Golden State “God and Guns” troglodyte, we are repulsive to fair, decent-minded people all over the world. We seem to aspire to a virulent checklist of vomitous superlatives like most sexist, most racist, most homophobic, most xenophobic, most fascist, most ignorant, and — yes, let’s throw it in — most unAmerican.

This is who we’ve become. These are the “values” our legislature champions.

If the United States were Europe, we’d be the Brexiting British. If the United States were Asia, we wouldn’t be Japan or even China. We’d be North Korea. We’re an international embarrassment full of maleficent, separatist blowhards, and the Texas lege is doing everything it can to ban mirrors.

 

Fort Worth native E.R. Bills is an award-winning journalist and author. His latest works include Tell-Tale Texas: Investigations in Infamous History and Letters from Texas, 2021-2023.

 

This column reflects the opinions and fact-gathering of the author(s) and only the author(s) and not the Fort Worth Weekly. To submit a column, please email Editor Anthony Mariani at Anthony@FWWeekly.com. He will gently edit it for clarity and concision.

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