Constitutional Carry Passes Texas House

On April 15 at 5:46 pm, Constitutional Carry passed the Texas House of Representatives. After nearly eight hours of debate, HB 1927 by Matt Schafer passed in a record vote of 84 to 56. The vote was mostly along party lines, though some Democrats voted in favor. The bill has yet to pass in the Senate.

HB 1927 creates what is known as “Constitutional carry” or “permitless carry” by allowing gun owners over the age of 21, who are not otherwise prohibited, to carry the weapons they are already legally allowed to own. Constitutional carry is based on the part of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution stating that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Opponents of the bill claim that it is far too extreme and that it would cause more shootings by allowing potentially unstable individuals to carry firearms.

House members proposed and discussed 21 amendments on the bill, with proponents attempting to perfect the bill while opponents tried to weaken it. Democrats in the House raised over a dozen points of order on these amendments in a coordinated attempt to delay the passage of the bill. A point of order is a claim that someone has broken a rule of the House, and it requires house business to pause so the matter can be investigated.

Pro-Life Bills in the 87th Texas Legislature

There have been several bills introduced in the 87th Texas legislature that take steps towards protecting unborn children. These bills accomplish a wide rance of things, from holding abortion providers and physicians accountable for taking advantage of women, expanding informed consent, providing personhood rights to unvorn children, and outright banning some or all abortions (these bills are specially marked with a **). Here is a comprehensive list of all the pro-life bills introduced this session.

HB 42 (Swanson) – This bill potects women from losing their health coverage if they refuse to get an abortion, regardless of whether the abortion was recommended by a physician.

** HB 44 (Swanson) – This bill creates criminal and civil penalties (2nd degree felonies for the first offense, 1st degree felony with other related offenses, and a $30,000 fee for each violation) to be brought against a physician who: 

  • aborts third-trimester unborn children,
  • performs abortions without themselves determining the post-fertilization age of the unborn child, or performs an abortion knowing that age is over 20 weeks,
  • performs partial-birth or dismemberment abortions.

Swanson’s HB 92 could create only the $30,000 fine, and her HB 2855 would create only the criminal penalty.

** HB 69 (Toth)- This bill would ban abortion after 12 weeks post-fertilization, lowering it from the 20-week ban that currently exists.

** HB 1165 (Slawson) – Known as “The Heartbeat Bill”, HB 1165 requires that physicians test for a fetal heartbeat, and prohibits the performance of abortion after a heartbeat can be detected.

HB 1171 (Sanford) – This bill would require the appointment of a willing attorney to represent an unborn child in a courtproceeding to authorize a minor to obtain an abortion.

HB 1173 (Noble et al.); SB 650 (Campbell et al.)- This bill prohibits a governmental entity from using taxpayer resources to provide logistical support to assist a woman seeking an abortion.

HB 1229 (Leman) – This bill requires that doctors that prescribe abortion-inducing drugs schedule a follow-up appointment not more than two weeks after the drug is administered. The purpose of this bill is to keep abortion doctors accountable, because they are not subject to the same scrutiny as other physicians.

** HB 1280 (Capriglione et al.); SB 9, SB 391 (Paxton et al.) – This bill prohibits the performance of abortion unless a physician, through the exercise of “reasonable medical judgement”, determines that the woman is in a life-threatening condition caused by her pregnancy, and the physician provides the best opportunity for the unborn child to survive. It is a 2nd degree felony, or a 1st degree felony if the child dies as a result, and a charge of $100,000 per offense.

HB 1291 (Bell, Keith); SB 573 (Springer) – This bill requires that hospitals or healthcare facilities notify each physician, nurse, and staff member that they have the right to object to direct or indirect performance of abortion, and that the hospitall or facility is prohibited from discriminating if they choose to object.

HB 1424 (Oliverson et al.) – This bill expands the rights of any hospital or healthcare facility employees to object to participating in procedures that violate their ethical, moral, or religious beliefs. This right to object would no longer be limited to just abortion.

** HB 1432 (Shaheen) – This bill would prohibit anyone from aborting an unborn child based on the race, ethnicity, or national origin of that child or woman. Physicians who violate this law would have their licenses revoked and would incur an administrative penalty.

** HB 1515 (Slawson et al.); SB 8 (Hughes et al.) – Titled the “Texas Heartbeat Act”, this lengthy bill creates the same ban as does HB 1165, after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, with several additional regulations on the abortions that remain legal. However, it also ensures that anyone aiding or abetting in the abortion faces civil liability, except for the woman on whom the abortion is performed. Notably, 50 Republicans in the House and 17 in the Senate have signed on as additional authors of co-authors of this bill.

** HB 1623 (Toth) – This bill would designate unborn children at all stages as “persons” and recognizes their unalienable rights listed in the Declaration of Independence, including the right to life.

HB 2313 (Leach); SB 802 (Paxton) – This bill requires that physicians who are going to perform an abortion on a woman must ensure that the woman recieved free pre-abortion counseling from someone who does not perform abortions. The counseling must include medically accurate information, an offer of alternative assistance, and screening for trafficking or family violence. This bill also establishes a 24-hour helpline for women seeking abortion to provide them with information about available resources.

HB 2337 (Klick); SB 394 (Lucio et al.) – This bill expands the definition of “abortion-inducing drug”, prevents the provision of those drugs via delivery service, and requres that physicians examine abortion-seeking women in person.

HB 2727 (Hefner) – This bill expands informed consent to abortion by creating a criminal offense to anyone who threatens harm to a woman in order to coerce her into abortion.

HB 2949 (King, Phil); SB 1439 (Campbell et al.) – This bill requires that any hospital employee or intern cannot be scheduled to perform or assist in an abortion unless they opt-in to do so.

HB 2976 (Cason) – This bill requires a physician who performs or induces an abortion at any point in the pregnancy to file a death certificate for the unborn child. This modifies the previous requirement that the unborn child must weigh 350 grams or be 20 weeks post-fertilization for a death certificate.

** HB 3218 (Schaefer et al.); SB 1173 (Hancock) – Known as the “Preborn Nondiscrimination Act”, This bill covers several different issues relating to abortion. It will:

  • Ensure that a pregnant woman who is told that her unborn child has a life-threatening disability is informed of available perinatal palliative care; HB 4304 (Schaefer) accomplishes this requirement
  • Prohibit all abortion in the third trimester, regardless of the viability of the child,
  • Prohibit the performance of abortion on a woman based on race, ethnicity, sex, or disability of the unborn child, or coersion into abortion based on these standards; HB 4339 (Schaefer) accomplishes this requirement 

** HB 3326 (Slaton); SB 1671 (Hall) – Known as the “Abolition of Abortion through Equal Protection for All Unborn Children Act”, this bill recognizes that from the moment of conception a child has the same rights, powers, and privileges as any other human child and fully bans abortion.

HB 3641 (Slaton) – Known as the “”Roe v. Wade Is Unconstitutional Act”, this act voids Roe v Wade and any other federal court decisions related to abortion. It finds that the US Constitution does not allow for abortion, and that Texas can make its own decisions related to abortion. 

** HB 3760 (Oliverson); SB 1647 (Perry et al.) – This bill is large in scope and accomplishes several things. First, it requires that physicians provide a greater scope of information to a pregnant woman concerning the availability of palliative care for her unborn child (HB 4304 (Schaefer) satisfies this portion). It also protects disabled children from being discriminated against and cuts off abortion at the point the child’s heartbeat can be detected.

HB 4200 (Hefner) – This bill allows home-rule municipalities to prohibit abortions.

HB 4271 (Schaefer) – This bill would prevent institutions of higher education from providing instruction on performing abortion. Those instutitions are also prohibited from assisting in litigation that would prevent the enforcement of laws relating to abortion, religious freedom, immigration, or capital punishment.

HB 4527 (King, Phil) – This bill would add one hour of instruction on the laws relating to forced abortions to the training required for police officers.

*HJR 15 (Vasut) – This resolution calls upon the US Congress to propose a constitutional amendment to prohibit abortion, euthanasia, or any other act that deprives someone of life from conception to natural death.

HJR 80 (Slawson) – This resolution proposes an amendment to the Texas Constitution clarifying that the constitution cannot be interpreted to secure or protect the right to obtain an abortion or the expenditure of public money on abortion. 

HJR 113 (Cason); SJR 25 (Hall) – This resolution proposes an amendment to the Texas Constitution recognizing that the right to life applies to all unborn children.

** HJR 158 (Bonnen) – This resolution proposes an amendment to the Texas Constitution stating that the term “citizen” applies to all unborn children and that they are granted the right to life, prohibiting all abortion.

SB 294 (Perry et al.) – This bill requires the Department of State Health Services to report the number of abortions performed in each county.

SB 1146 (Perry et al.) – This bill requires greater reporting of abortions performed outside an abortion facility

SB 1546 (Hughes) – This bill generally strengthens abortion restrictions and regulations. It also increases the standards required for abortion facilities.

Edited on 3/24/2021. *HJR 15 would call on the US congress under article V of the constitution to overturn Roe v Wade. If this petition is joined by 34 states, the convention would be required.

Cover image taken by Rebekah Wendt at the 2020 March for Life in Austin, TX

Keynote Speakers Announced for Annual Young Conservatives of Texas Convention

In a press release on Tues. Mar. 9, The Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) announced its keynote speakers for its annual convention, which will be held April 23-25, 2012. Each of the two days of the convention will feature educational panels throughout the day, along with larger events featuring notable keynote speakers in the evenings. On Saturday night, the keynote speakers will be U.S. Congressman Chip Roy (R-TX) and Representative Mayes Middleton (R-23). The speakers for Friday night’s reception will be Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and the honorable Steve Munisteri, former chairman of the Republican Party of Texas and founder of YCT.

YCT announced in a press release on Wed., Feb. 3, that Cruz would be the keynote speaker for Friday night. Manfred Wendt, the Executive Director of YCT, expressed his excitement for YCT to host the senator in the press release, saying that “Senator Cruz has proven to be a rock-ribbed Conservative who fights for the people of Texas.”

The keynote speaker for Saturday night, Congressman Roy, serves as the Congressional Representative for Texas’ 21st district and as a member of the House Freedom Caucus. In YCT’s second press release, Wendt describes Roy as “the leading conservative in Washington” who “leads the fight in support of conservative principles and serves as a role model for young conservatives across the state of Texas.” Roy has had a long history of working with YCT, including serving as the keynote speaker for their convention in 2019. YCT has been heavily involved in both his 2018 and 2020 campaigns.

Representative Middleton is currently serving in his second session in Texas’ House of Representatives. In YCT’s legislative scorecard, wherein they provide a score to each state legislator according to how conservative their voting record is, Middleton was awarded a score of 97 for the 86th legislative session, the highest of all the house members and senators. He currently serves as the chairman for the Texas Freedom Caucus, which is composed of members all ranked highly by YCT.

According to YCT’s press release from Mar. 9, there is an expected attendance of over 200 at each of these speaking engagements.

Wendy Davis: A Danger to Texas

We in CD-21 cannot afford to have someone like Wendy Davis represent us. She does not represent Texan values, and she would fight only for her personal progressive agenda.

On Nov. 3, residents of the 21st congressional district in Texas will make the choice between re-electing the incumbent, conservative Republican Chip Roy, and progressive Democrat Wendy Davis. Congressman Roy is an extraordinary conservative, one whom I have supported and admired since before his nomination in the 2018 primaries. I believe it is imperative that we re-elect Roy so that he can continue to fight for our fading liberty. As much as I think it is important to articulate why Roy is an asset, it is imperative that I explain why it would be extremely dangerous for Texas to send Davis to Washington in his place. 

Wendy Davis might be a familiar name to Texans who have paid attention to state-level politics in the past several years. Davis was a member of the Fort Worth city council from 1999-2008. After that, she held the Texas Senate seat in SD-10 from 2009-2015. Despite being involved in policy-making for fifteen years, she is really only known for two things in her political career, both of which are failures. 

Her first claim to fame occurred while she was a member of the Texas Senate. In 2013, SB5 was introduced to the Senate floor. SB5 would ban abortion after 20 weeks of gestation (which is very close to the point of viability outside of the womb). It also would require that abortion facilities maintain the same medical standards as other surgical health care facilities, and that they have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Davis so badly wanted to keep legal the killing of viable babies that she filibustered for eleven straight hours in front of the Texas Senate, famously wearing pink tennis shoes and a catheter so she could urinate herself on the floor of the Texas Senate.

Davis broke the rules of the filibuster multiple times, so Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst called for a vote to end her filibuster so the legislature could vote on SB5. However, the crowd in the gallery and outside the chamber raised such a ruckus for two extra hours (also in violation of the rules) that the vote on the bill was successfully delayed beyond the end of the special legislative session. However, then-governor Rick Perry called a second special session where SB5 was reintroduced as HB2, and it passed less than a month after Davis’ filibuster. Despite the ultimate failure of her efforts, Davis garnered national fame for this singular act, and earned and the nickname “Abortion Barbie.”

Her second time in the spotlight was her failed gubernatorial campaign in 2014, in which all of her perceived legitimacy came from the celebrity she gained from her filibuster. She succeeded in getting the nomination of the democratic party but was beat by Greg Abbott, who was then the Texas Attorney General. Davis garnered a mere 38.9% of the vote to Abbott’s 59.3%

Davis has been out of politics for the last five years since her loss. In that time, she has busied herself by founding a nonprofit organization called Deeds Not Words. This organization seeks to get radical legislation on gender issues passed by using female members of Generation Z as its footsoldiers. The organization’s website, which uses terms like “womxn,” “menstrual equality,” and “FEMZ agenda,” makes it clear that that Deeds Not Words centers around sex-related issues. The organization holds progressive social beliefs, such as the ideas that gender is not absolute, that voter ID laws are oppressive, and that masculinity is toxic. As a perfect example of how far off the rails abortion advocacy has gone, Deeds Not Words seeks to get rid of the famed notion that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare.” Although the organization claims that it “won’t stop until all Texans have the ability to make their own reproductive choices,” nothing has been posted in the “news” section of the site in over a year, indicating the group is not currently making waves, and little else has been posted since March.

But let’s get back to Davis’ current bid for the congressional seat in Texas’ CD-21, currently held by Congressman Chip Roy. Davis has a lot of money behind her, and she has been using much of that money to disingenuously attack Roy. If only disingenuous attacks on her rival candidate were the beginning of Davis’ historical misuse of campaign funds. During her run for governor in 2014, Davis was (rightly) accused of using campaign funds to pay for lavish living expenses in Austin. This practice is not necessarily illegal, but it is pretty scummy.

Davis also has ads of her own. In these ads, she performatively throws around the word “family” every chance she gets. “I’m running for our children and grandchildren, so they can live and love and fight for change themselves,” claims Davis in a self-promotional video she humbly titled “Amazing.” This statement is obviously ironic and somewhat darkly comical, considering that her stance on abortion means that she does not in fact want children to “live and love and fight for change themselves.” She wants parents to be able to kill their fully formed children. 

Clearly, as progressives often do, Wendy Davis is putting on a face to appeal to Texan values so she can sneak her harmful radical policies through. She avoids talking about policy, knowing that she would lose were she to tell the truth about what she wants to do to our state. Place Davis side-by-side with Roy, as was done in their debate, and you will notice how she tends to talk about lofty ideas rather than telling us how she plans on practically enacting change or paying for all the things she wants. She has shown many of her intentions, but she hides them for the most part, knowing that if Texans were aware that she is a proponent of abortion until birth she would never get elected. We in CD-21 cannot afford to have someone like her represent us. Wendy Davis does not represent Texan values, and she would fight only for her personal progressive agenda.

Socialism: What Would Jesus Do?

Implementing socialism in the name of the Lord Jesus will bring us no closer to the world he envisioned for humanity.

As political division increases, people on every side are increasingly keen on bolstering the legitimacy of their political philosophy. Sometimes, this means reaching outside the realm of politics and into religion to attempt to appeal to higher values. For some, this involves going so far as claiming that Jesus Christ himself would be a supporter or believer in one side or the other. Many Christians, even some conservative Christians, will admit that they believe Jesus envisioned an idealized socialist society for humanity. Their claim is that socialism represents Christian charity put into widespread practice. (As a note, in this article I will be referring to Jesus in the past tense, though Jesus is alive in heaven today, just for simplicity, and to indicate that I am referring to his time teaching incarnate.)

I think it’s important that we define socialism in the way that socialist Christians would before we can address this idea. When people make the claim that socialism and Christianity go hand-in-hand, they are referring to an idealistic and theoretical sort of socialism. We all know that, in reality, socialism as it has been historically implemented has not worked. Socialism, in theory, means that the community owns the means of production of goods and handles distribution of wealth. This would allow for provision for the poor while opposing extreme wealth by a few. It means radical social change and justice for the underserved. By itself, this sounds like something that Christians really ought to support. These ideas are, after all, part of the worldview that Jesus spent time promoting. Of course we should want to serve the poor. On the surface, it makes sense that we should vote for a system that would implement Jesus’ teachings, even if it wouldn’t work out as intended. However, voting in favor of socialism would actually go against many of Jesus’ teachings.

First, Jesus would not have been political at all. Had Jesus been alive (in the flesh) today, he would not have participated in marches or engaged in political debate or even voted. You will never find an instance anywhere in the Gospels where Jesus endorses politicians or bureaucrats or gives them the power to allocate resources, nor does he tell anyone how to run their business. He really has nothing to say about how the economy ought to be run. Christians in support of certain modern political structures fight to claim Jesus as their own or as the ultimate authoritative supporter of their ideals. Forcing Jesus and his teachings to conform to the structures we have developed today subverts his universal and ultimate authority by making him fit into our limited view of the world.

At the very core of his being, Jesus was charitable. The definition of “charity”, according to the King James Bible dictionary, is “In a general sense, love, benevolence, good will; that disposition of heart which inclines men to think favorably of their fellow men, and to do them good”. Charity is, importantly, freely given. Consider 2 Corinthians 9:7, which says that “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver”. You are not fulfilling your Christian duty to help the poor if you “give” because someone with more power forces you to do so. 

The truth is, socialism is completely antithetical to the Christian ideal of charity. There is no benevolence in socialism. There is no free will in socialism. Even if socialism “worked” as it should, if all the funds taken by the government were redistributed to the poor, it would not be Christian. 

But, what about the events in Acts 4:32-35? This seems to be an ideal society of believers providing for one another by laying their money at the apostles’ feet, who would then give it to anyone who had need. Further, in Acts 5, a man named Ananias and his wife Sapphira sold a piece of property and only gave part of the proceeds to the community. The apostle Peter knew of their deception and condemned their actions, at which point God struck them dead. Does this not indicate that we should aim to live in a redistributive society, and that people ought to be punished who don’t do their part? Answer: it does not.

What should be noted about this passage is that the believers did not live under a governmental regime that held the threat of force over their heads lest they not pay their societal dues. Everyone participated and contributed willingly, and the only one who reserved the right to inflict punishment for disobedience was God himself. Additionally, the apostles were the ones carrying out redistribution. They were men of God and their actions were according to God’s will. The same cannot be said for money laid at the feet of a secular governing body. Such a body cannot be trusted to carry out the Lord’s will, and as such, giving money to them, rather than to legitimate men of God or directly to the needy, will not carry out the Lord’s will. 

Jesus wants people to choose to follow him. He wanted them to want to give charity due to a personal spiritual drive originating in the heart. This is the core of the principle of free will. You aren’t doing your Christian duty by simply paying your taxes under socialism. Charity is freely given and done as a result of faith, as a part of free will. Socialism tries to appear charitable, but even if it did “work”, the “giving” would not come freely from the heart and would therefore not be Christian.

Implementing socialism in the name of the Lord Jesus will bring us no closer to the world he envisioned for humanity.

Socialists claim that Jesus disdained the rich, citing his driving of the money-changers from the Temple and his remark that it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. Jesus did condemn the hoarding of wealth, telling us that it is better to lay up treasures in heaven than on earth. But you’ve the right to be a rich atheist if you choose. You can also be a rich Christian, if you use that wealth wisely. Implementing socialism in the name of the Lord Jesus will bring us no closer to the world he envisioned for humanity. All it will do is create a worldly body that infringes on people’s legitimate rights to their own property and mask the crucial importance of the heart in matters of giving.

Government controls from the outside-in, while discipleship transforms from the inside-out. Jesus sought to complete his vision via discipleship, focusing on the means rather than on the ends. He didn’t establish a government or any sort of governing body during his time on earth. Outside-in control will lead to resentment and rebellion and resistance against truth. Inside-out transformation will lead to new life and to revelation of the truth.

Pro-Life Memorial Attacked

On Wednesday, Sep. 30, a pro-life memorial at the University of North Texas (UNT) was attacked. The memorial, composed of 1,000 pink flags and a few informational signs, was set up earlier that day by the Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) to commemorate the victims of abortion. Each flag represented 60,000 lives lost to abortion since the 1973 decision of Roe v. Wade.

The memorial after vandals took down the flags (photo taken by Madison Mills)

“The memorial was intended to help students understand the impact of abortion in a meaningful way,” says Kelly Neidert, chairwoman of YCT at UNT. “We were wanting to draw attention to overturning Roe v. Wade because that’s being talked about a lot in the political sphere with Amy Coney Barrett being the SCOTUS nomination.”

UNT student tweeting about plans to vandalize the memorial

Before it was even placed, UNT students who were hostile to the idea of the memorial were already threatening on social media to take it down. Many tweeted their intentions to take down the memorial in response to YCT’s announcement of their memorial a week before it was placed. “Can’t wait to spend a Wednesday night ripping out a [sic] 1000 flags” said one twitter user, with many others expressing similar sentiments. “Looks like I’ll be tearing them up,” threatened another, who also sent a direct message to Neidert encouraging her to kill herself. 

Many of these students were angry about the memorial’s pro-life message. They were also concerned that YCT was able to conduct such an activity despite UNT’s restrictions on student organizations hosting events due to COVID. YCT had direct permission from the school to place the memorial.

Soon after the memorial was placed, vandals attacked it, removing and stealing 350 of the flags as well as the display signs meant to inform UNT students about the purpose of the memorial. They also refused discussion while lobbing profanities at the YCT members who were there to witness the vandalism.

“I was appalled when I saw students planning ‘capture the flag’ games on twitter, and I honestly didn’t think they would go through with it,” says Neidert, who is a constant target of threats from students who disagree with her and with YCT. “It was so disappointing to see the vandalism and theft that occurred over such a sensitive topic.”

UNT student tweeting about plans to vandalize the memorial

One individual has been apprehended and cited for vandalism and theft. 180 of the flags have since been recovered.

Cover image taken by Madison Mills

Point: Music Should Reflect History

I am left wondering what is so “country” about “Old Town Road” or “The Git Up,” and why the motivation to make them part of the country canon is so strong.

Just over a year ago, the song “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X was released, and it took the world by storm. The song lived at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 Chart for a record-breaking seventeen weeks, and it was on its way to the number one spot of the Hot Country chart when it was removed for its lack of adherence to the country genre, spurring discussion about what defines country music, and even what defines any one musical genre. This discussion was furthered with the release of a dance song called “The Git Up” by Blanco Brown, which actually did make it to the top of Billboard’s country charts. Critics were quick to call “racism” when these songs, both performed by black men, were labeled as anything less than conclusively and absolutely country.

I am left wondering what is so “country” about these songs, and why the motivation to make them part of the country canon is so strong. “Old Town Road” features some slightly twangy vocals, a small banjo sample that spends most of its time behind a trap beat, and lyrics that mention horses. “The Git Up” features agregiously and almost mockingly twangy vocals, and a lap steel, again punctuated by a trap beat. Neither of these songs feature either the instruments, sounds, or the storytelling that live in the heart of country music. To me, they are clearly pop songs with some country-like elements, not country songs with a new beat, as many claim them to be. The popular opinion seems to be that country music and other “dated” genres must embrace the more up-and-coming sounds in order to stay relevant. Others claim that keeping musical genres distinct from one another and preventing crossover limits musical advancement by forcing it into a box. Either way, blurring the lines between genres is widely believed to be a virtuous pursuit.

However, I believe that such blurring can ultimately be harmful to American music and the role that different genres play in culture. Country music has held a solid position at the center of the American soul because of how it synthesizes sounds from far-reaching corners of our country’s culture and history. The banjo originated in West Africa, but became popular when used in slave music, and it became an important part of the African-American musical identity for many years. The dobro guitar was invented in Los Angeles in the 1930s and has been a key part of many American genres. The pedal steel guitar originated in Hawaii in the 19th century. Although Hawaii didn’t join the Union until 1959, the incorporation of its culture into the culture of the continental US is evidence of our acceptance of it as a state. As America has unified these different cultures together into one under a certain set of values, country music has united these characteristic sounds into a final distinctively American product, which tells stories of regular people in its lyrics. Country music is a metaphorical representation of our collective identity as a nation.

If country music is ultimately a blend of sounds from American culture, then what is the problem with incorporating elements like trap beats and rap? Shouldn’t that be a step in a similar direction? The problem is that musical genres evoke certain emotions and memories and they address different audiences. Country music plays a nostalgic role as it recalls our nation’s history and draws attention to honest and real lifestyles rather than lifestyles of glamor and glory. Pop music, on the other hand, is usually about the biggest lifestyles imaginable, and it seeks to break some fundamental cultural foundations. Pop sounds have been permanently melded to this message, making them incompatible with country.

Because society is always so desperate to move forward, as the world falls into a pattern of entropy the longer it is around, people will be inclined to pop music. Once it gets ahold of our cultural bedrock, it will not let go until that bedrock is shattered. Many of the sounds unique to country music will fade if the center of the musical format shifts further in the “pop” direction, and we will eventually lose these more traditional sounds entirely. It used to be such that the most pop-like sound tolerated on country radio came from the likes of Taylor Swift in her early years. However, since we have allowed intrusions into the genre in the name of “progress”, this is no longer the case. As the goalposts shift to accomodate more pop-like sounds due to artists who are more eager to please than anything, the traditional sounds, instruments, and songs will no longer be tolerated by the industry, and they will cease to exist.

I concede that there are (few) merits to this moving of the goalposts. It has introduced an appreciation for country music into the mainstream, however small or distorted this appreciation may be. However, those fans of trap music who find themselves enjoying the sound of a banjo aren’t likely to investigate that sound further and develop an appreciation for Hank Williams and George Jones. Meanwhile, fans of classic country are disappointed with what passes as “country” these days, as they are forced to listen to “Old Town Road” while Randy Travis is left forgotten. Country music is not expanding–it is shifting and vanishing.

In the current year, there is a perception that updating or even shattering cultural foundations that have been around for ages in favor of some single soft amalgamation is a virtuous pursuit in itself, because it pleases the most people. However, as conservatives, we hold tight to the principle that something that is new is not an inherent good by itself. We strive to remember our roots and preserve culture, and though this idea applies to much more than music, I feel that there’s no better avenue through which to track culture than through the progression of music. If something holds value, then we would be remiss to allow it to change only to improve its marketability. We don’t do that with faith (or, at least, we shouldn’t be doing that with faith). We don’t completely dismantle the foundations of our political principles to be more likeable. Why should we allow music, being the significant cultural element that it is, to get bent out-of-shape?

Temper CRISPR with suspicion

The prospect of designer genes comes with both good and bad.

The 1997 film Gattaca describes a dystopian future in which human reproduction is completely controlled by the government through genetic engineering and eugenics so that society will produce the most ideal bodies and minds possible. The film follows a protagonist, born un-engineered, as he tries to make something of himself in a world where he is seen as less-than. Today, this future–or some form of it–looms nearer than it seems.

As technology advances, so does our capacity to study and understand biology. Humans have searched to observe smaller and smaller subunits of life until we found the smallest in the form of DNA. Though we are far from knowing and understanding everything, we know enough to look for ways to control DNA from the inside. One recent discovery that has been getting lots of attention in the scientific world is called “Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) Cas-9”.

The CRISPR-Cas9 system allows scientists to edit the genome, which is composed of all the genetic information that makes up a person, and is analogous to an instruction manual telling our bodies how to build themselves. CRISPR works by targeting certain regions of DNA, cutting them, and introducing new mutations to the DNA sequence.

This process has loads of potential and some heavy ethical implications to consider. One of the most exciting positive possibilities is the ability to treat genetic conditions such as muscular dystrophy, hepatitis and certain forms of cancer. It has already been used in very exceptional cases to treat life-threatening diseases in humans. Just this past summer, CRISPR was used to treat a woman who suffered from sickle cell disease

While CRISPR opens the door to many benefits, it poses some tough ethical questions. While most don’t find a problem with editing somatic cells (regular body cells), there is also the possibility to edit germline cells (sperm and egg cells). We could, in theory, eventually eradicate certain genetic diseases by taking out the DNA that codes for them in reproductive cells, thus preventing them from being passed on. But if researchers eventually decide to edit the DNA in germline cells, they would be permanently altering future generations with no knowledge of the long-term effects. Plus, there is significant potential danger in using CRISPR on babies before they are born, as some research has shown that they might not live as long or they would die due to complications with the technology.

The power to possibly eradicate or prevent some diseases would be fantastic. However, this would inevitably come with the reduction in societal value of certain “undesirable” traits. One can take as an example the near eradication of Down Syndrome in Iceland, which was carried out by aborting nearly all fetuses that tested positive for Down’s in the womb. This is an awful form of eugenics that assumes that people with Down Syndrome don’t have anything to offer society. CRISPR will likely give us the ability to fix certain genetic diseases in babies before they are born. But what would that mean for people who are born with these “undesirable traits”? 

Human life is a miracle from God. The desire to alter this miracle makes it seem like we are ungrateful for it. Trying to create a more perfect human is a completely fallacious idea; there is no such thing as a perfect human, and there never will be. Focusing too much on this impossible idea distracts from the beauty of humanity in its natural forms.

Microbiology is particularly fascinating because its study allows us to see the intricacy of God’s intelligent design for life. I don’t see anything wrong with exploring and looking for answers to life’s big questions, because it only increases our appreciation for God’s design of the world. However, I think that the problems begin when humans think they know better and they try to make improvements to the basics of creation. We have to wonder when this ambition has ever yielded a truly good moral outcome. Adam and Eve desired to be like God and possess special knowledge, and now the rest of humanity suffers the consequences of death for their actions. In the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11, people try to overcome creation by reaching closer to heaven, and they were dispersed all over the Earth. Clearly, things will only end with suffering when humans try to play God. Humans are limited, and things go wrong when we try to be unlimited.

Bible stories aren’t the only example. In one case, a scientist in the Netherlands was able to mutate a strain of avian flu so that it was capable of airborne transmission between ferrets, which respond to influenza similarly to humans. At the same time, another scientist in Wisconsin performed the same study and made the same findings. There was significant pushback from the scientific community, urging the researchers not to publish their discoveries. The concern was that if the studies were published, the information could fall into the wrong hands. Because the mutations were so few and simple to perform, it would be very easy for bioterrorists to create a virus against which humans have no defense, capable of creating a pandemic like that seen in 1918, an event which killed about 16% of the world’s population.

In our search for knowledge and our need to improve, humans are creating our own downfall. In most cases, we carry out research with the best of intentions. Scientists generally don’t seek ways to bring harm to humanity. In the case of the flu, the researchers were aiming to learn more about how the virus functions with the goal of bringing us closer to a cure. However, it clearly went too far, and it could have meant the end of life as we know it for many people. Even if humanity is doing what it thinks is right, it could inadvertently be bringing about its own demise by trying to push its own limits.

CRISPR’s current capabilities don’t pose much of an immediate problem. The possibilities of curing genetic diseases and improving farming are tempting. Nonetheless, CRISPR seems to reduce human life to a math problem or some throwaway scientific experiment rather than a miracle from a good God with a design and a plan for humanity. The eagerness to edit this design is evidence of a world moving further from God. We are not quite at that point yet, but I fear that that we will unwisely attempt to push our own limits and fall into consequences we should have foreseen.

Too Much Hot Air at Trinity’s Climate Teach-In

Climate change is likely the most prominent global issue today, and Trinity University tried to play its part by participating in the Global Climate Strike on Friday. In what was meant to be a walkout from classes, students and faculty gathered in the Coates Student Center for a two-hour “teach-in” about the state of the climate. Professors and students presented their perspectives on the issue through lectures, poems, songs, visual art, and yelling.

The event began with physics professor Niescja Turner, who spoke about the greenhouse effect. She emphasized that this effect is a good thing, but the recent introduction of too much CO2 into the atmosphere creates too much of this good thing. The climate takes a long time to change, but the amount of CO2 is increasing too rapidly. Next, geosciences professor Glenn Kroeger spoke on the historical levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. It has been fluctuating for as long as measurement tools can take us, but it has never been above 400 ppm (0.04% of the atmosphere) as it is now. His thesis was similar to Dr Turner’s: we should be wary of how we are treating the atmosphere. 

These professors provided sound, reasonable and convincing evidence for the warming earth. They both condemned climate fear-mongering and extreme solutions. It would be hard for anyone to disagree with their data-based points. But, of course, there are two sides to every issue. In this case, there are those who make arguments that are valid and sound, and they strive for genuine conversation for the other side.

Then, there are the unreasonables, whose yelling only serves to preach to the choir and confirm their insanity to their opponents. These unreasonables proposed no solutions other than sorrow and anger for their situation.

A recent Trinity graduate and representative from the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) followed the science professors. This speaker diverged as far from science as possible, screaming about how climate change was tightly linked to capitalism and other institutions such as racism, sexism, ableism, and “speciesism.” In a perfect caricature moment, she told us in curse-laced language how she was “angry all the time,” then inviting us to feel angry and upset and anxious along with her–because, if you feel okay, you’re part of the problem. She directly called for an end to capitalism, which led to an unsettling swell of cheers throughout the room.

Crowd gathered at the Climate Teach-In in Coates Student Center.

The complete lack of awareness shown by most participants was the sharpest bit of irony at the event. The building was well-lit and air-conditioned. Every person present was handed a freshly printed sheet of paper with the lyrics to a song we sang. After the teach-in, many attendees planned on driving several cars less than three miles downtown for a citywide strike, where they likely generated loads of garbage in discarded signs. They want to limit every aspect of life, yet they refuse to change some of the most basic elements of their lives for their own cause.

Anger isn’t going to solve any problems. If everyone who spoke about climate change would do so with the same tone and reason as the science professors, perhaps more people could get on board with practical steps toward compromise. Sadly, it seems most students believe that the best solution is to become upset about everything and hope someone notices. It is simply not possible to get things done for the climate if you believe the issue of climate change must be solved in conjunction with every other so-called issue that exists.

Kroeger illustrated how seemingly utopian ideas can be impractical. Proponents of the Green New Deal, for example, plan to replace all fossil fuel-burning cars in ten years. He explained that the most fuel-efficient vehicle you could drive is a bicycle, with the second-most fuel efficient being the vehicle you drive now. While electric cars are more fuel efficient once they’re on the road, their production still generates lots of carbon, meaning it would take a long, long time to break even with regular fossil fuel models. On top of that, the earth does not even hold enough of the minerals needed to produce these electric cars.

The left has made climate change too polarizing. The more we hear about how the government plans on limiting the amount of beef we can eat and how much we can water our grass, the more regular people will stubbornly oppose any change. It is not unreasonable to fear the removal of basic rights. During this teach-in, we were told that “fashion kills,” and that as part of curbing climate change, we should never buy new clothes again. We were also told not to have kids, and that “reproductive justice has to be a part of climate justice.” It sounds like people on the left are willing to take away whatever they need in order to solve a problem many cannot even properly define.

As long as we speak practically, we will uncover more middle ground than we think. So many people cannot see past their own noses, refusing to see better ideas before them. People are so rushed to “solve” the climate crisis, but the science professors made it pretty clear that we need to take our time on these things. The idea that the world will end in twelve years is simply untrue—as it has been every decade since alarmists first started spouting it. All reason and sense has gone out the window in favor of outrage and complete absurdity. From the supporting cheers that the speakers received, it seems clear that climate extremism is no longer a strictly far-left issue, and that young people have blindly bought into environmentalist propaganda. It is truly upsetting that Trinity has legitimized this sort of nonsense.

All images by Samantha Farnsworth.

Californian Refugee

When I first told my mom that I wanted to go to school in Texas, she was shocked. Of course she was happy for me, but she was understandably confused. I had grown up in Southern California my whole life, as had both my parents. Most of my family lived very close to me, and I felt that everything I would ever need or want was right there. We don’t know anyone in Texas, or anywhere near Texas for that matter. We are a California people, after all. Despite all this, I felt some draw to the great state of Texas and I left for school in the fall of 2017.

I have been labeled a “Californian refugee” by my peers who maintain a particular distaste for my home state, and I am tempted to agree with them. I suppose this term means that I was driven out of my coastal home by negative experiences, and I was led to settle somewhere much better for me. I found this term insulting at first, as I still felt some ties or obligations towards California. Since then I have learned that I can only life a full, fruitful life if I move on from my past, even while appreciating where I come from.

It took me a while to accept my love for Texas. I felt like a foreigner in a completely different country. There are so many cultural oddities here that I haven’t seen anywhere else and that I wasn’t at all expecting. The first time I went to a large event, the crowd said the pledge of allegiance to the American flag. Afterwards, I was totally befuddled when everyone went straight into a pledge to the Texas flag. The concept of Texas Independence Day was completely foreign to me. I’ve seen hotel waffle makers that pop out Texas-shaped breakfast. 

I am told this is all totally normal, but I was certain I was being punk’d for a long time. The culture shock was real and the change was quite abrupt. Something about it intrigued me and I was left feeling somewhat unsure of where I belonged. 

I found it refreshing in comparison to the Californian attitude. Way out on the west coast, everything is busy and cramped. There’s tremendous pressure to do every activity available, because God forbid you waste a minute not appreciating that you live in California. There’s a lot to love about California and the variety and beauty it has to offer. However, I never felt like the state’s culture was something I understood or fully appreciated. I love going to the beach, but unlike my peers, I never felt it was a part of my personality. I could never see myself fully accepting the language or the politics that are a part of everyday life there.

Even though I couldn’t identify with the Californian attitude, I still didn’t want to love Texas at first. I told myself that I wouldn’t; I insisted that I would always return home to California. Finally, after a year of resisting, I gave into loving my new state. However, I am stuck between two ideals. I don’t feel like I can ever be a true Texan, as I spent no part of my formative childhood years here, and I feel that no native Texan would take me seriously as one of them. Yet I also don’t feel like a Californian, because that culture never sat quite right with me. 

So, I am a refugee. I come from somewhere far away, and I left my home feeling relatively aimless. But I found a new home and a new place to belong. I will never be a native of Texas, and I know I need to accept the exclusion I will inevitably feel for that. I can appreciate where I came from and how much my home has done for me, but there is also tremendous life and opportunity to be found elsewhere.

Image by Samantha Farnsworth.