by Rod D. Martin
March 12, 2004
“I am beseiged. The enemy has demanded surrender at discretion…I call on you in the name of liberty, of patriotism, and everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid…If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due his honor and that of his country.”
These are the words of William B. Travis, who commanded the Alamo when Texas rebelled against Mexico’s despot, el Presidente General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.
March 6 was the 168th anniversary of the Alamo’s fall, which cost Travis his life, along with almost 180 others who went down fighting on freedom’s behalf.
That, at least, is how America once viewed the Texas Revolution, which ultimately led to Texas winning its independence from Mexico.
In recent decades, this explanation has been challenged by another revolution. Starting in the late 1960s, a “counterculture” emerged from the fever swamps of the hard Left and began its long march through our civilization, leaving nothing untouched.
Not even the Alamo.
Next month, a new movie about the Alamo will likely reach a theater near you. If it embraces the counterculture’s critique, watch out: Travis, Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and their other heroic friends may well be tarred and feathered with crackpot revisionism.
The Left’s critique goes something like this:
The Texas Revolution was a devious scheme hatched by Washington to snatch the future Lone Star State from the Mexicans. Moreover, critics claim, even if it weren’t, it couldn’t possibly have been about freedom, since Texans were for slavery. According to this view, the Revolution was a racist struggle by whites who chafed under Mexican authority.
This critique is wrong on all counts.
Travis’ famous words were indeed a plea for help from America. But that help never came. As the whole world watched, neither Congress nor President Andrew Jackson lifted a finger. As for the Texans, though they declared independence later, they initially fought only for their rights under Mexico’s U.S.-style constitution of 1824, a constitution which the dictator Santa Anna had shredded.
As for alleged racism as a motive, why were so many of the Alamo’s defenders themselves native-born Mexicans? And why did Mexican pro-democracy author, publisher, diplomat and politician Lorenzo de Zavala join the Texan cause as its first Vice President, leaving behind a lifelong career in Mexico and Spain?
As for slavery, even raising the argument misses the point. Slavery remained legal at the time across most of the world, including the United States itself, both North and South. Moreover, despite the unique evil of race-based slavery in the Americas, throughout time slavery cut across all racial lines. Just this week, the Washington Times reported on a new study from Ohio State University describing African Muslim slave raids into Europe down almost to the time of the Alamo, capturing at least a million white Europeans and denuding coastal towns as far north as Iceland. It is no marvel that 1836-era Texans – or Mexicans, or Algerians, or Ibo – owned slaves: the shock remains that, by the end of that century, slavery had been largely eradicated from the Earth.
In this same vein, the revisionists ignore how many of the Alamo defenders hailed from other states and even other nations. Why would they join Travis in the first place? To defend slavery? Hardly.
No, the Texas Volunteers — whatever their human flaws — fought for freedom. They fought against a wanton, authoritarian regime far richer and far more powerful than they. And their wisdom speaks for itself: one hardly need travel to Mexico to see the disaster the century and a half of socialism and one-party rule since Santa Anna has wrought upon that resource-rich land and its proud, hard-working people. One need only witness the endless stream of Mexicans coming to gleaming modern Texas to grasp the point that liberty matters, that freedom works.
Gripped by their loathing of our civilization, academia’s tenured radicals can’t bear this truth. By “debunking” past heroism, they hope to cut off our culture from what inspires and sustains it. By rewriting the past, they hope to hijack the future — and remake America.
The new Alamo movie’s director is John Lee Hancock (Ron Howard was first tapped, then passed). Let’s hope that in the making of the movie, this son of Texas hasn’t surrendered to his heritage’s harshest foes.
Let’s hope he remembers the Alamo — the real story, of one of the most pivotal moments in all history.