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Revisiting Texas Exceptionalism After A Disastrous Weather Week

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

It has been a long week for Texans. The winter freeze that has left many without power, water or heat has been on full display for the rest of the country. And it's left some Texans to question the decisions of certain state politicians, like Republican Senator Ted Cruz, who took a family getaway to Cancun, or former Governor Rick Perry, another Republican who claimed Texans wouldn't mind going without power for a few days in order to keep the electrical grid independent from federal regulation. Karen Attiah wrote about all of this for The Washington Post. Her latest piece is titled "It's Time To Bury The Myth Of Texas Exceptionalism." Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

KAREN ATTIAH: Thanks, Ailsa, for having me.

CHANG: Well, I understand that you recently moved back to the Dallas area where you did grow up. Can you just talk about, how are you doing personally? Like, how has this week been for you?

ATTIAH: I will say I never really thought that coming back to Texas, I would be worrying about food supply, electricity supply and running water. This was not in my 2021 bingo card. That said, yes, I grew up in Dallas. And I - you know, as I said in my piece, I admit that I grew up with this idea of Texas being exceptional, that we were once our own country for a decade. And specifically, one thing that was definitely drilled into our heads, no pun intended, was that Texas had its own power grid, that we were independent of the rest of the country when it came to our power supply. And fast-forward to 2021, and that very same independent power grid has clearly caused the entire state a lot of misery, as we're seeing right now.

CHANG: Yeah. You have this line in your piece where you write, quote, "our culture of rugged individualism puts the burden on vulnerable Texans to survive together." And I want to talk about that. Explain how individualism can be inequitable in some ways.

ATTIAH: Absolutely. I mean, we were already hit hard by COVID. Evictions were already a worry. I saw tweets and angry messages from people who had newborns and were without power, without heat. You're going to tell them that they are - they should suffer just so that you can make some sort of ideological point that big government is bad? I think that that is absolutely twisted. I think the whole world saw that partisan scapegoating and gaslighting and, frankly, complete failures in leadership is what is holding this state back from being so great.

CHANG: So, I mean, after living through this week, what do you think is the lesson in all of this for you?

ATTIAH: We were not hit by a blizzard. there was maybe a couple of inches of snow on the ground. What we were hit by was a lack of preparedness and with a lack of communication to people to be able to even prepare for what was coming their way. This is not just a power crisis. This is also a potential water crisis. Millions of people are under boil water advisories. This is also a potential food supply crisis. So what this is teaching not just Texans, but frankly, the rest of America and the rest of the world is that when climate shocks do happen and you're not prepared for it, it is a systemic, interconnected crisis that you will be faced with. And I hope that that's the dire lesson.

I think things could have been so much worse. We are lucky here in Texas that the sun is coming out. And at least in Dallas, the forecast is looking really nice. Over the next couple of days, we will thaw out. There's so much about Texas that is beautiful. And I just hope and pray that we learn the right lessons this time.

CHANG: Karen Attiah is the global opinions editor for The Washington Post. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us today, Karen.

ATTIAH: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.