"I don't care how little your country is, you got a right to run it like you want to. When the big nations quit meddling then the world will have peace."--Will Rogers.
Oklahoma's history is filled with independence and diversity. The state's rich history includes both Will Rogers and Woody Guthrie, two Oklahoma populists who consistently spoke out for ordinary people. At one point, the state was even a hotbed for socialist ideas. The state once symbolized hope, opportunity, and eternal optimism for regular people trying to make a living and raise a family.
So I prefer to view the last twenty-five years or so in our history as an aberration. It has been a time period in which the state's trusting and honest citizens were taken for rubes and dummies by a conservative juggernaut many wrongly still see as populist. This has caused a majority of Oklahomans to now vote against their financial and personal interests. As the Oklahoma Gaylords and their ilk became richer during this time frame, salaries declined in proportion to the national average, health and health insurance costs rose astronomically, and good jobs became scarce for Okies. Teachers, for example, have been leaving the state in droves.
This truthful view of our state history, of course, is marginalized by the state's corporate media, including The Daily Oklahoman, yet the facts are readily available through census figures and income rate studies. The state is losing population relative to the rest of the nation, and we make some of the lowest incomes in the country. We don't provide decent health care for many of our children, yet we jail people at the highest levels in the nation.
Can you imagine what it was like when Oklahoma was actually viewed as a place where someone's dreams could come true? Can you imagine what it was like here when people packed up their trucks to come to Oklahoma, not leave Oklahoma? Can you imagine a time when educated and innovative people were trying to get to Oklahoma as soon as possible, not escape it at the first conceivable moment?
Oklahoma has now become a place in which a small, ruling elite, a new ruling class really, dictate how ordinary people will live virtually every aspect of their lives. By constantly marginalizing any dissent or alternative ideas through propaganda and local control of the media, the power structure remains firmly entrenched. In this regard, Oklahoma is a microcosm of George Bush's vision of America, a vision imbued with the attributes of fascism that emerged in the middle of the twentieth century in Europe. These attributes include secret government, the abolishment of due process for its citizens, misinformation campaigns, and the use of torture against a widening circle of "enemy combatants."
Okies fought against fascism in World War II. Will they recognize it again in their own state, in their own country, even if it is falsely called "patriotism"? I think so. Rooted in Oklahoma's history is an open distaste for political power mongers, sympathy for the underdog, and an admiration for straight talk and common sense. As Will Rogers once said, "This country is not where it is today on account of any one man. It is here on account of the real common sense of the Big Normal Majority."
What we need now is a new populist movement in Oklahoma, a movement that will sweep out the new dregs of disguised fascism and restore true democracy and equality to our state. Our first goal is to vote George Bush out of office and restore sanity to our national government. Our next goal will be to make Oklahoma a place of opportunity again by working to improve conditions for all its citizens, not just the extremely wealthy.
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