To those of us in Texas, the shitstorm kicked up by Rick Perry’s “we’d treat him pretty ugly” advisement to Fed chairman Ben Bernanke largely missed the point. Perry wasn’t threatening a literal lynching; he was talking the way he has throughout his undefeated political career, which gets at a far more essential fact of his fledgling presidential candidacy. As you may have already noticed — what with Perry’s constant claims to having authored a “Texas Economic Miracle,” or the footage of him leading thousands in prayer at the Houston Texans’ football stadium, or the wire photos of him waving a pistol over his head at a NASCAR event in Fort Worth in April — Rick Perry is from Texas.
"Treat him pretty ugly” is, in fact, the way we talk down here. We’re prone to violent imagery, typically without the intent to actually hurt anyone. Ann Richards’s Republican opponent when she first ran for governor, Clayton Williams, actually survived a campaign-trail rape joke. (She didn’t pass him in the polls until he refused to shake her hand after a debate.) What’s more, we use terms like “shitstorm” in public as naturally as “y’all.” Though Perry has avoided that specific bit of profanity with the press, he was once caught on-camera mocking a reporter at the close of an interview by saying, “Adios, mofo.” He’s also shown an inclination to our trademark Big Talk, as evidenced by his willingness to consider secession at an Austin tax day event in 2009. When people say everything’s bigger in Texas, they don’t mean to exclude the rhetoric.
Saturday, August 20, 2011
The Cowboy Talk
John Spong of The Texas Monthly translates Perry for New York Magazine: