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Religious Extremism: The Depressing Ministry of Oklahoma Politics

Image of James Lankford and Paul Ryan

I make it a matter of my political-writing routine to regularly check out the web sites of Oklahoma’s right-wing congressional delegation, sites reflecting deeply unsettling extremist views that, let’s face it, pander to an overwhelming majority of Oklahoma voters.

It’s depressing. Don’t tell me it isn’t. U.S. Senators Jim Inhofe and James Lankford, for example, are religious extremists, who consistently try to undermine the clear distinction of the separation between church and state outlined in the U.S. Constitution, and this is reflected on their government-sponsored sites on a regular basis.

I want to dissect one of Lankford’s latest religious screeds on his site later in this post. But, first, let’s review the First Amendment. Here it is:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

My concern here is with the language concerning religion. Note this is the “First Amendment” so we know our slave-owning “founding fathers”—great moralists, right?— thought the matter of religious plurality an important issue. But I believe in the fluidity of the Constitution in the sense that it was intentionally written for future generations to interpret. Our “founding fathers” (yes, I hate that term so I’m giving it ironic quote marks throughout this post) were exactly right on that issue.

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Got $100 Million? No? Get Out Now

The latest news that the right-wing extremists in charge at the state Capitol have found what appears to be an extra $100 million or so in state revenues after major budget cuts shows not only have they broken Oklahoma with reckless fiscal policies but they also are entirely incompetent in basic financial management.

Can the extremists here count numbers using their fingers? Can they do basic math with a pencil and eraser, you know, by using the eraser in case they make a mistake? Have they ever used an Excel sheet? Do they know how to operate a basic calculator? Maybe that’s hyperbole, but this year, frankly, it doesn’t seem out of some realm of possibility that the conservatives’ lack of basic intellectualism and their narrow-minded, ugly inhumane ideology have merged into a new dimension of ignorance.

Three state officials created the immediate ongoing fiscal debacle. I’ll rank them in my personal order of mediocrity. First and foremost is Gov. Mary Fallin, who supports ideologue Preston Doerflinger as her main financial officer. Second is Doerflinger himself, of course, a seemingly proud archconservative who I believe because of his actions could care less about education and health services for people—public and private—in the state. The Doerflinger philosophy, in my estimation: Let them remain stupid! Let the sick suffer and die! We have a failed ideology to prove! Third is Oklahoma Treasurer Ken Miller, a handsome, smooth business professor/operator who apparently can’t count either and who seems only concerned with furthering his political career with good looks and free public announcement commercials. Take a class with him, students, and learn how to appear in a great commercial with great-looking kids that he’ll never really help. Wink. Wink. See, the point is NOT to help kids if you’re a great conservative leader like Miller.

Then, of course there are the conservative legislators over the last decade or so, who, no sarcasm intended, really want to destroy the Oklahoma government on a financial level as a badge of honor they will wear proudly their entire lives. They want to be able to tell their grandchildren about how they ended a viable public educational system here and, most of all, ended “welfare,” but I bet the grandkids will be long gone from this cesspool of stupidity and intolerance the granddaddies created in glee long before that happens. Get out while you can, young people. No sarcasm intended on this one. Get. Out. Of. Oklahoma.

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London 2016: 'We must love one another or die'

Image of The British Museum in London, England

All I have is a voice/To undo the folded lie—W.H. Auden

This will be my final post from London this particular academic trip, and I thought I might remark briefly on how three seemingly disparate moments here this week created one larger narrative for me of the present relationship between the United States and England.

The first moment was my presentation in which I discussed and heavily criticized the historical British empire in relationship to Ireland. Although I did discuss the colonization of India and other countries in Africa by the British and so many other western countries, my overall focus was mostly on pre-World War II England and it’s relationship to Ireland.

I won’t bore everyone with too much academic jargon related to issue, but my presentation did include this general sentence about colonization:

. . . once someone is exposed to the brutalities inflicted by the British, Spanish, Belgians, Portuguese, French, the Dutch (the list goes on) upon the native people of their colonies and territories or in their exploitive adventures during and beyond the Age of Discovery, it consumes interpretations under the rubric of postcolonial theory.

The key word here for the point I’m going to try to make is “brutalities.” This sentence was read at the University of London to a group of academics that included British citizens, and not only did no one even dispute the conclusion, most everyone probably agreed with it entirely, just like I do, as just common knowledge. But does the casual acceptance of the point breed a complacency that is dangerous? I wonder.

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