President Bush recently condemned South Korean researchers who developed a process for cloning human embryos: "I'm very concerned about cloning. I worry about a world in which cloning becomes accepted."
Sure. He's probably just jealous. After all, there's plenty of cloning going on in his own adoptive home state. Scientists at Texas A & M recently teamed up with the French to clone a horse (named "Paris Texas"), although you'd think the Aggies wouldn't have needed any Euro-help, as they had already cloned pigs, cows, a kitten, and a goat.
Texas has been getting awfully futuristic lately. Houston-based NanoSpectra Biosciences invented gold-plated nanoparticles that kill cancer cells. A few years ago, a sad-sack undercover cop in the Panhandle was forced to write his investigative notes on his arms and legs; now Panhandle police are using robots to conduct hostage negotiations.
Bush ally Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, while taking credit for all this techno-magic and more, lays out what it really means:
Texas has always benefited from the ingenuity of its people. From taming the Wild West frontier through landing on the moon, Texans have been in the forefront in breaking new ground.
If America is going to continue its economic prosperity in the new global marketplace, we must emphasize technology rather than manufacturing. If Texas is to continue to grow in the face of competition from other states and even other nations, it must be a center for innovation and research. The economic future of every Texan depends on us recognizing, encouraging and rewarding the pioneering work done by Texas scientists staking out the new frontier of knowledge and innovation.
The ideological content of a passage like this is nowadays virtually invisible. The eye glides right over it, sees it as little more than a bland piece of boilerplate rhetoric. But if you step back for a moment: what in the world does the conquest and expulsion of Native Americans have to do with cancer research -- or, more specifically, why does one somehow justify or authorize the other? The key is a neat metaphorical sleight of hand that sees medical and technological developments as advances along a conceptual "frontier," a word that draws its power for Americans from the myth of Indian-killing as the primal act of national (and state) origin (although white Texans are really more excited by stories about killing Mexicans).
Of course, frontiers require Indians, and Sen. Hutchison dutifully finds a candidate for the role: manufacturing. So the Texas techno-utopia expands and defines itself by displacing or destroying the "Indians" of the manufacturing sector. Like many of her Indian-fighting predecessors, Hutchinson would surely protest that she has no such intention; she merely wants to help workers in outmoded industries "transition" into more up-to-date jobs. In the nineteenth century, a slogan of reformers was "Kill the Indian, save the man." So, like assimilated Indians who lose all sovereignty and rights over tribal lands, former manufacturing workers (most of whom are in no position to join the high-tech elite) are forced into a low-wage, service-based economy with little or no union representation.
What's funny is that lazy frontier metaphors can create some conundrums, as is evident when you look again at Bush's remarks above. On the one hand, the Bushies are leveling barriers to innovation, converting factory Indians to the righteous gospel of globalization, and restricting protectionist unions to tiny reservations. On the other, they're obstructing progress on stem cells and global warming, trying to drive science (and gender relations) back to an inquisitorial dark age. Obviously this rhetorical contradiction (opening up new frontiers while putting blinders on the too-inquisitive eyes of science; simultaneously pushing and sealing the envelope) reflects a seam in the conservative movement, a seam that could burst apart at any moment.