Friday, October 18, 2013
New Era for Alamo Image | Casey's Last Word
Remember the Alamo? Of course you do. But after this weekend you may remember it differently.
For scores of years the Daughters of the Republic of Texas - an army of women with a public face fiercer than Davy Crockett's and far more humorless - has preserved the Alamo not as a museum, not as a tourist trap, but as a shrine.
It is hallowed ground not just because it drank the blood of martyrs. More than that, it is the wellspring of Texas' creation myth.
So one of the tasks the Daughters set for themselves was to keep the world from despoiling the shrine.
They absolutely forbade the use of the Alamo for commercials or for causes.
Demonstrators who wanted to associate themselves with the Alamo had to content themselves with the modest island in the middle of Alamo Plaza, just west of the formal Alamo grounds.
But the Daughters no longer rule the Alamo.
By an act of the Legislature, they administer it under a contract with the Texas Land Commission.
It is ruled by Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson.
And Commissioner Patterson has decreed that a group of gun advocates may stage a demonstration on the grounds of the Alamo.
More than a thousand people are expected to bring their rifles, shotguns and assault rifles to protest a couple of incidents in which people were arrested for openly carrying such guns in public places.
One Baptist pastor from Huntsville told the New York Times he wouldn't be bringing a rifle but, "My wife is. She'll be bringing an AR-15 Bushmaster .223."
I asked Patterson if it was appropriate to use the Alamo for a political rally.
"It's not a political rally," he said.
I pointed out that the group was using the rally to demonstrate their position on a hotly debated matter of public policy.
He said he’d define a political rally as one that supported a candidate, not a cause.
Patterson said the pro-gun group was the first to ask, and that the Land Office needs to come up with written guidelines that excluded using the Alamo grounds for profit or politics.
"The Daughters' policy was just no, I think," he said. "We need a written policy. If you're on public property and not breaking the law on what basis do you tell them to leave?"
I suggested that one other fact could easily cause people to consider this weekend's gathering to be a political event.
"What's that?" he asked.
I said the fact that a candidate for lieutenant governor would be giving a speech.
He said he would not be there as a candidate for lieutenant governor.
He would be there as land commissioner, and as the former senator who authored the state's concealed handgun law.
"I think it would be a political event if I had planned it and orchestrated it," he said. "But I was asked, and I'm the appropriate person to ask."
Now Jerry Patterson is one of the most likable politicians I know.
But he is in a tough contest against three formidable candidates for lieutenant governor.
It is a race to the right in the Republican primary, and he is about to get enormous publicity for standing in front of the Alamo being cheered by a gun-toting crowd for defending their right to walk around with any weapon this side of a rocket launcher.
How is that not a political rally?
I say if it walks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, it's a duck.
So shoot it.
I have a clarification to make.
In last week's Last Word I said that Houston lawyer Steve Mostyn had reportedly offered to give Republican comptroller candidate Debora Medina substantial financial backing if she ran for governor as an independent.
This week, Mostyn issued a statement saying this is not true.