On UNESCO World Heritage and Jade Helm 15 – More of the Texas New Normal

This is a view towards the center of Toledo, Spain, which is, like the Taj Mahal, the Namib Sand Sea in Namibia, the historical centers of Quito and Krakow, the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, Stonehenge, Venice and its lagoon, the Maya site of Copan and about one thousand more of the planet’s most profoundly treasured natural and cultural sites, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Cities and countries routinely lobby for the honor to be added to the list. Others work hard not to have the designation removed.

In Texas, people turn out to protest being added to the exclusive club.

Last Saturday, a group of protesters gathered in San Antonio to decry the UN agency’s decision to give the Alamo and four other missions World Heritage status. Because there simply aren’t enough other more important things to get upset about in this city where 20% of the population lives below the poverty line.

“I think it’s a bad thing,” organizer David Watts told a local TV reporter. “I think it opens the door for UN influence in how we manage and preserve the Alamo.”

It’s of course not fair to say all Texans are losing their minds. It’s just that those who are make it so easy to do.

It’s not only the UN and its mysterious squadrons of black helicopters that many Texans are suspicious of. This week many are preparing for what they believe is nothing short of a U.S. military takeover of Texas. Yes, it is as crazy as it sounds.

The fear stems from Jade Helm 15, a massive Special Operations military exercise that will take place over the course of two months in parts of seven southwestern states —Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, California, Nevada and Colorado— beginning on Wednesday, July 15. That’s today.

The idea is primarily being fueled by conservative radio talk show host Alex Jones who has built his career, along with a massive following, by pushing inane conspiracy theories. The countercurrent is particularly strong in Texas, where the idea has picked up enough steam that Governor Greg Abbott said he will use the Texas State Guard to monitor the military operation.

Why Texas?

By one county Republican Party chairman’s own assessment, part of it is the state’s particularly irrational brand of fervent anti-Obama sentiment –accept that’s not exactly what he calls it. Here is Chairman Albert Ellison from Bastrop, Texas, providing his explanation for the Washington Post last week:

..County Chairman Albert Ellison pulled out a yellow legal pad on which he had written page after page of reasons why many Texans distrust President Obama, including the fact that, “in the minds of some, he was raised by communists and mentored by terrorists.”

So it should come as no surprise, Ellison said, that as the U.S. military prepares to launch one of the largest training exercises in history later this month, many Bastrop residents might suspect a secret Obama plot to spy on them, confiscate their guns and ultimately establish martial law in one of America’s proudly free conservative states.

They are not “nuts and wackos. They are concerned citizens, and they are patriots,” Ellison said of his suspicious neighbors. “Obama has really painted a portrait in the minds of many conservatives that he is capable of this sort of thing.”

Or more concisely, according to Terry Orr, the mayor of Bastrop from 2008 to 2014:

“The truth is, this stems a fair amount from the fact that we have a black president.”

It’s a good read on not just how polarized large pockets of the US have become, but also illustrates how far to the fringes an alarmingly high amount of the debate has moved. I’m starting to wonder if that chasm will ever again be bridged.


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