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Study Shows Oklahoma Has Low Two-Parent Home Rate

Image of Oklahoma State Capitol and church

A new study showing southern states, including Oklahoma, have low rates of two-parent homes when compared to northern states should come as no surprise.

Oklahoma has one of the highest divorce rates in the country, and people here marry at younger ages than much of the country. The state also has non-existent to weak or watered down sexual education in public schools. It’s the same story we’ve been dealing with for years here.

Much attention has been focused recently on data showing that boys raised in homes with two biological parents become more successful economically than children raised in single-parent homes, even in those homes in which a parent has a partner. Teenage girls raised in two-parent homes, studies have also shown, have lower rates of pregnancy, according to the article.

But another larger issue is the hypocrisy. Conservative red-state politicians extol family and religious values yet the rhetoric doesn’t match the reality of their constituents or states. Strict fundamentalist religious beliefs, in a general sense, appear to lead to a lack of knowledge and, in some cases, the maturity needed for healthier marriages.

The new study, which was outlined in The New York Times, showed only 39 percent of children in Oklahoma live in two-parent homes. Overall, that makes the state fifth behind Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Alabama. In all, five other states ranked at 39 percent as well. Northern states, such as Utah at 57 percent, Minnesota at 56 percent and Nebraska at 55 percent, had the highest percent of children living in two-parent homes.

Oklahoma, which launched the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative (OMI) in 1999 to lower the number of divorces, still remains a state with a high divorce rate. In 2011, it even led the nation in the percentage of divorces. It has consistently ranked in the top five states for divorce. Meanwhile, OMI has spent millions of federal dollars through the Oklahoma Department of Human Services to lower the rate, but has apparently given up on its loftier goal to reduce the divorce rate by one-third.

So, although some might argue otherwise, Oklahoma hasn’t really moved much forward from 1999. Conservative, southern state so-called family values, stressed by religious fundamentalists here, and the new Republican majority in state government, haven’t even begun to solve the state's numerous social problems. In fact, one could make the argument that the religious fundamentalists, emboldened by the state’s Republican majority, continue to be the problem, not the answer.

In the end, what constitutes a “family unit” is more fluid than ever before, and I’m always left feeling studies like this one don’t tell the entire story. Overall, the dry data, for example, doesn’t tell the success stories of children who grow up in single-parent homes or are raised by two fathers or two mothers or by parents and stepparents. Perhaps, more emphasis on a national level should be placed on helping blended families and non-traditional families. In other words, the focus shouldn’t necessarily focus on lowering divorce rates of biological parents as it should be on improving the lives of children in economic and educational terms despite the relationship status of their parents.

Still, divorce rates remain high here as do teenage pregnancies.

The solutions have always been obvious: The state needs to invest more overall in its educational systems, and it should offer comprehensive sex education classes, which would then explain different methods of contraception. (The contraception issue, in particular, would surely ignite protests from the religious right.) Overall, the religious right and school counselors and parents should discourage people from marrying so young here. Leaders here need to help younger people de-romanticize marriage and especially wedding preparations and celebrations. A wedding and a honeymoon don’t create a long-term, healthy marriage.

The Pope Is A Believer

General Audience with Pope Francis by Catholic Church England and Wales on Flickr The Commons

The pope’s moral argument on global warming seems lost on Oklahoma’s U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, who has spent much of his political career denying the negative ramifications of mankind’s pollution of the planet’s atmosphere.

The main message given in Pope Francis’s recent encyclical is not the concept of global warming itself or the huge, mounting evidence of how carbon emissions have accelerated it. The pope, along with most rational people, takes that for granted because of scientific evidence.

What the pope, from his religious perspective, is saying is that global warming can be blamed on “collective selfishness.” The pope’s encyclical states this about earth and how humans treat it:

We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her [earth] at will.

The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life.

The pope, of course, frames the issue on religious and moral terms, whether one agrees with the approach or not. He’s not a scientist, but he can read and understand the scientific record. Inhofe, who is widely known for calling the science underlying the impact of global warming a “hoax,” isn’t a scientist either, but he also doesn’t seem to get the pope’s message.

In response to the encyclical, Inhofe, chairperson of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, trotted out his usual arguments:

I am concerned that his [Pope Francis] encyclical will be used by global warming alarmists to advocate for policies that will equate to the largest, most regressive tax increase in our nation’s history.

It’s the poor that spend the largest portion of their expendable income to heat their homes, and they will be the ones to carry the heaviest burden of such onerous policies.

The statement contains two of Inhofe’s favorite global warming fallacies: (1) Those “alarmists” will want some type of tax on carbon emissions, and (2) the poor will have to pay up. But those alarmists include highly educated scientists relying on a vast amount of scientific evidence, and there’s no reason in the world that poor people should have to pay more in taxes to reduce carbon emissions. (The pope would obviously be against hurting impoverished people.) These are the Inhofe conjectural myths we’ve endured for years now, but they miss the pope’s larger moral message.

Pope to Inhofe: Polluting the planet is morally wrong and selfish.

Inhofe to Pope: Taxes, poor people.

To argue that there’s a disconnect here is an understatement. Obviously, Inhofe wants to repeat his tired talking points to support the oil and gas industry, which has contributed more than $1.7 million to his campaigns in his political career. The pope intentionally wants to frame the issue on a larger level of morality, which Inhofe can’t or won’t address directly.

Those of us concerned about the environment and global warming can hope the pope’s message resonates and moves people to action, but as long as Inhofe and his fellow Republicans remain in power nothing much is going to happen.

Inhofe, Lankford, Mullin: The Feds Are Here To Help!

Uncle Sam by Terry Johnson, on Flickr’s The Commons

Oklahoma’s two U.S. Senators Jim Inhofe and James Lankford, along with U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, are providing information to state citizens about federal disaster assistance ahead of expected flooding caused by what’s left of Tropical Storm Bill.

The heavy rain was expected to begin today here in Oklahoma. Previous heavy rainfall, combined with the new rain, could cause widespread flood damage. Oklahoma has suffered severe infrastructure damage to roads and bridges because of recent flooding caused by record-breaking rainfall some scientists connect to global warming.

It's interesting to note that all three of the Republican politicians have been elected on platforms that pretty much claim the federal government has, to use conservative parlance, “overreached,” whatever that might mean to them or to any conservative. We do know conservatives use this word disparagingly. Overreach to them is something extremely bad. We must end it immediately.

Of course, we don’t hear much about federal overreach when it comes to all the assistance provided to the state by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) when the tornadoes hit or the floods wash away bridges and damage homes. In fact, Oklahoma is consistently a state with a high number of federal disaster declarations. Without the extra federal help, what would Oklahoma even be like right now? Would it even be viable?

I’ve made this point for years. Texas, another conservative state, presents us the same contradiction. It, too, relies on massive federal assistance while sending anti-federal government politicians to Washington. Pointing this out doesn’t matter, however. What would matter is if the federal government WASN’T there to bail out Oklahoma and Texas.

Then there’s the issue of global warming. Inhofe is widely known, if not exclusively known, as the major politician who essentially calls the science underlying global warming a “hoax” and a giant conspiracy among leftists plotting the demise of the oil and gas industry. Scientists argue the recent record rainfall was exacerbated by global warming and have predicted such weather events for years.

So let’s see if we can sort through this. Here are three Oklahoma conservative politicians urging their constituents to turn to the federal government for help even as they, in general, bash the federal government and President Barack Obama for that dreaded “overreach.” The constituents may need the assistance at least partially because of global warming, but one of their elected officials has led a tenacious, years-long campaign to refute scientific evidence on the issue.

That’s how the hypocrisy and contradictions roll these days in Oklahoma. It has even become the primary political campaign strategy here.

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