At the Alamo I forget where I am and ask one of the "Alamo Rangers"—essentially a glorified security guard—why he has a handgun. He's perplexed by the question. In California, a gun generally means you can arrest me or write me a ticket. Not in Texas. In Texas, a gun means you went to the store and bought one (or someone went out and bought one for you). Sitting outside the Alamo as it closes and all the visitors file out, I realize that a significant number of shoulder bags and bulging pockets carry machines made for effectively killing a person.
Gun culture runs deep, and people here tend to glorify it. Texas celebrates its outlaws and extrajudicial heritage like no place I know of. Every museum has an exhibit on the lawmen and outlaws of the old west, and often there are exhibits on men with little or no connection to Texas, like Billy the Kid. In the Buckhorn Saloon and Museum, among the Texas history wax sculptures, are sculptures of tens of Texas killers, with labels that read:
John Wesley Hardin
Killed more than 40 men
Billy the Kid
aka Henry Antrim
Killed 21 men
California has an outlaw past as well, with bandits like Black Bart and Joaquin Murrieta, but we tend not to celebrate it. The outlaws are a sidebar in the 4th grade history book; they are not glorious reminders of the good old days, and they are not, even Murrieta, heroes.
Inside the walls of the Alamo, I am struck by how pointless the whole battle of the Alamo was. While San Antonio de Bexar was certainly a strategic location, and the Texian rebels were going to engage Santa Anna at some point, the siege and battle at the Alamo didn't serve any strategic purpose. There were about 200 Texians at the Alamo; Santa Anna had 6,000 Mexicans. Instead, the Alamo defenders—called "heroes" everywhere at the site—died at the Alamo for no reason except their own stubbornness, a stubbornness to prove themselves, to prove that they were men unafraid of death, a stubbornness that shows to what extent they value a life, any life, including their own.