During the Presidential election of 1960, then-Senator John F. Kennedy while campaigning in Texas, made a brief visit to the Alamo. His speech, given in front of the historic mission yielded an iconic photo. Having completed his remarks and pressed for time, JFK reportedly asked San Antonio attorney Maury Maverick, Jr. if there was an exit in the back of the Alamo, to which Maverick replied, “there is no back door, that’s why they were all heroes.”
And so it is, that the Alamo and its remarkable history have been seared into the consciousness of our national character. It is the 19th century’s version of the Spartan 300, who stood defiantly against an overwhelming Persian army. The Alamo story is, in essence, our American Thermopylae, and the lodestar and standard of courage to which our fighting men and women aspire to till this day.
From John Wayne playing Davy Crockett with his coonskin cap, to William Barret Travis’s mythical line in the sand, the Alamo and its iconic story have not been forgotten.
In 2001 following the attacks of 9/11 a team of Green Berets who took part in the battle to take and secure Kandahar airfield in Afghanistan, dubbed their mud-hut fallback position “The Alamo.”
We as Americans, for nearly 200 years since it fell, have done exactly what General Sam Houston admonished his troops to do before the battle of San Jacinto.
We have in fact, Remembered the Alamo.
So why is it, that George P. Bush and the General Land Office of Texas are now asking us to “Reimagine the Alamo”?
And what does a Reimagined Alamo look like?
For starters, the project that carries a price tag in the hundreds of millions of dollars is also the harbinger of banishment for the Cenotaph monument. Commissioned in 1936, and placed in front of the Alamo, the Cenotaph bears the names of those who fought and died defending the mission and is a sacred Veterans’ memorial, but under this plan, it will be reimagined somewhere off site.
Instead of using the original native limestone, the perimeter walls will be recreated using 10-foot-high imported German glass.
All the historic 80-year-old trees in the Alamo plaza will be removed, but strangely, the west side of the plaza will be lined with new trees, along with tables, chairs, and canopies, creating a tourist-friendly setting.
Millions will be spent renovating adjacent buildings to house a multicultural museum, as well as rooftop observation decks and restaurants.
And as a bonus, tourists will also be treated to a “free speech” area, just in case your visit wouldn’t be complete without the nonsensical ravings of a pilled-up 38-year-old grad student, who still lives with his parents, spewing revisionist history.
There is a great deal more, and much of it sounds like the fever dream of a Cultural Studies major, who doesn’t truly grasp where money comes from.
Speaking of money, according to their own estimates, “Reimaging” the Alamo would cost upwards of $450,000,000!
Given the fact that my wife and I have personally helped feed and assist homeless veterans within walking distance of the Alamo, this is a staggering and obscene misappropriation of funds.
Even after adjusting for inflation, $450,000,000 would almost be enough to transact Jefferson’s 1803 Louisiana Purchase twice! And would go as far as completing nearly 1/7th of the Trump border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
However, in an era of fake news, I implore the reader to visit the official website of this proposed plan and see for themselves, although it appears that a substantial amount of information has been deleted and the video links disabled. www.reimaginethealamo.org
An online search to define the word boondoggle returned the following: “work or activity that is wasteful or pointless but gives the appearance of having value—waste of money or time on unnecessary or questionable projects.”
Reading the Reimagine plan in conjunction with the above definition is enough to make a cat laugh.
What has now become the Second Battle of the Alamo is unfolding, and the battlefield is an ideological one.
The centrifugal forces of multiculturalism, globalism, political correctness, and identity politics are all bearing down on this most sacred of monuments, and the stakes are high.
So goes the Alamo, so goes America.
An article retweeted from George P. Bush’s official twitter account, claims Reimagining the Alamo, and taking the focus off of the 1836 battle, would help “promote unity and not division in our society.”
This is Orwellian nonsense.
For it is the “one moment in time” that master planner George Skarmeas of the Pennsylvania firm tasked to Reimagine the Alamo cannot “single out,” that is one of the greatest stories of unity in American history.
In the opening days of March 1836, the fortified mission known as the Alamo was surrounded and being nightly bombarded by cannon, courtesy of the Mexican army. Over 2,000 Mexican soldiers commanded by the brutal despot, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, anxiously awaited the order to attack.
Waving ominously in the breeze, in a church steeple above the town of San Antonio, flew the blood-red flag of no quarter. This flag, hoisted by Mexican infantry at the opening of the siege, was a clear message to the defenders of the Alamo.
There would be no escape, no surrender, and no mercy.
Inside the walls, the 26-year-old commander of the Alamo, Lieutenant Colonel William Barret Travis, penned his final letter to friend David Ayers. The young commander must have sensed his impending fate, as he pledged his final stand to future generations. "Take care of my little boy . . . he will have nothing but the proud recollection that he is the son of a man who died for his country."
Some 200 Texan defenders of Scottish, Irish, English, Tejano, and African descent, from a vast array of economic backgrounds, courageously stood on death’s ground.
In the end, at least 189 defenders would lose their lives in the ensuing battle, but not without creating over 600 casualties for Santa Anna’s army.
Following the Alamo’s downfall, a separate prong of Mexican troops marched on Goliad and, following the nearby battle, executed an estimated 375 prisoners. Colonel James Fannin asked only not to be shot in the face, and to be given a Christian burial. His request was cold-bloodedly denied on both counts.
The future of Texas being ruled by a dictator who usurped the Mexican Constitution of 1824 hung in the balance.
And so it came to pass that, on the 21st of April, 1836, Sam Houston, mirroring Washington and Wellington, delivered to Santa Anna, the self-proclaimed “Napoleon of the West,” his own Waterloo at the battle of San Jacinto.
Unity in the face of despotic tyranny is as American as apple pie, and that is the narrative that should bind us as a people for all time.
“History,” wrote Mark Twain, “doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes,” and so it is not without irony that the Alamo once again finds itself at the crossroads of destiny.
Following the “Big Reveal” of the Reimagine the Alamo plan in April 2017, retired school teacher and firefighter Rick Range, frustrated by a seemingly mainstream media blackout, launched www.savethealamo.us in an attempt to educate the public of this impending debacle.
So far the push back from the Save the Alamo campaign and others, including former Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who seek to keep the historical integrity of the Alamo intact, as well as to keep the 1836 battle as the main focus, have led to some progress.
On September 23, 2017, the Texas Republican Executive Committee voted 57-1 to rebuke Commissioner Bush’s stewardship of the Alamo restoration project, including his concealment of the associated financial transactions. The Committee Resolutions call for Bush to ensure that the 1836 battle be the main focus of the project, and that all financial records be fully disclosed.
However, Mr. Range believes that the only way to be absolutely sure the plan is thrown onto the ash heap of history, will be to retire George P. Bush to civilian life. “The primary vote will be on March 6th 2018, the anniversary of the battle, and if we don’t replace George P. Bush as Land Commissioner, this plan will move forward, and the Alamo will fall twice,” says Range.
But as this is an Alamo story, and history does in fact rhyme, calls for reinforcements in the form of a candidate to oppose Mr. Bush have as yet gone unanswered.
But if in fact a viable opponent emerges, and Commissioner Bush is indeed repudiated at the polls, it may very well be akin to what Mr. Bush’s father, Jeb, said regarding illegal immigration—an “act of love.”
For if Mr. Bush continues with this plan, the ominous counsel his uncle, President George W. Bush, received from Colin Powell regarding Iraq, will play out once again, “You break it, you own it.”
And the Land Commissioner’s lament will resemble the words of the poet Shelley, about a warning etched into a toppled monument by a ruler long forgotten, “Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Tony Arterburn, Jr.
San Antonio, Texas
- Tony E. Arterburn, Jr. is a former U.S. Army Paratrooper, veteran of three foreign wars, radio host, published columnist, and world champion powerlifter. He lives with his wife Melissa, son Houston, and chocolate lab Layla in San Antonio, Texas. Find him on twitter @tonyarterburn .