This is a blog of populist and liberal information and ideas, advancing the cause of truth and justice while fighting the ugly tyranny of right-wing oppression in Oklahoma and its surrounding environs.

From Dublin: The Oklahoma Earthquake Rising?

Image of Daniel O’Connell monument

I sailed into Dublin on a beautiful Saturday afternoon aboard the Ulysses ferry and eventually made my way to the Temple Bar area fairly near O’Connell street.

The music, a lot of it on the street, was incredible and the pubs were packed. It was Gay Pride here, and the rainbow flags were hung throughout the city. I ended up singing harmony to John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” with a guy just a bit younger than me as we sang along with an Irish duo at The Temple Bar.

So I mentioned O’Connell Street, which is named after Daniel O’Connell, sometimes known as The Emancipator. In the nineteenth century, he agitated for the rights of Catholics and for Irish independence. His monument sits on the street, just next to the River Liffey.

I won’t go more into Irish history, which I deal with in the literature classes I teach because of authors such as Jonathan Swift, James Joyce, W.B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett and Seamus Haney. In a postmodern class, I’ve even taught Roddy Doyle’s A Star Called Henry, a beautifully written novel about Irish independence. Irish history, as all history, has its different interpretations, especially among the Irish. I wouldn’t presume to know all the nuances.

But, on this sunny morning here, with the temperature about 60 degrees, I can at least try to transition from Irish history, with its relatively recent arc of oppression, uprising and independence to the latest act of agitation in Oklahoma over earthquakes of all things.

Reading media accounts, I learned of the town hall last Thursday night in Edmond about earthquakes in which several citizens rose up to speak truth to power. One account is here. According to the article, at one point there was an “angry sounding rumble” from the crowd, and it should be that way, and we can only hope it gets louder.

I’ve been writing about the dramatic surge of earthquakes in Oklahoma for some three years now, especially since the 5.7 magnitude temblor struck near Prague in 2011, and I’ve been urging such agitation. The clear point is the scientists have linked the earthquakes to wastewater injection wells used in the hydraulic fracturing or fracking process. In the process, wastewater is injected by high pressure underground into rock layers. This, according to the latest scientific information, can cause instability along fault lines.

The oil and gas industry, supported for now by the state’s Republican-dominated government, continues to claim that it’s not conclusive what is causing the almost daily earthquakes in central Oklahoma. The government itself seems to take the position that living with earthquakes, and perhaps even the ensuing property damage and risk of bodily harm, is just the price we must pay for our precious fossil fuels. The fact billionaire and millionaire oil men are running the show for their own benefit isn’t even part of the state-sanctioned discussion, but that could be ending if the town hall is any indication.

So, as was suggested by one citizen at the meeting, why not simply declare a one-year moratorium on injection wells, and see what happens? I would prefer an unspecified time period until we know more abut the issue, but one year seems enough time for considering impacts and options. The industry would just have to do something else with the drilling wastewater. That might cost more, but it’s for the safety of Oklahomans and for the protection of their property.

The oppression inflicted on ordinary citizens by the rich and ruling classes is an old, old story, one inscribed in just about every nook in this beautiful city of Dublin. O’Connell sits amid the beauty and music, teaching us agitation and perseverance is a necessary component of the human experience.

Notes From London: Oklahoma Election Madness

Image of Kurt Hochenauer at the Darwin Centre in London

I’m in London noting the primary election results in Oklahoma Tuesday, and from my current European perspective there is specific reported material from two particular races that reeks plain madness.

England has its own political issues and problems, true, and I viewed part of a House of Commons session Wednesday that seemed no more participatory than a session of the U.S. House of Representatives. Most MPs, for example, didn’t even attend what seemed to me as a crucial debate over a housing bill, but the vote went on anyway. There was some lively shouting and satirical witty exchanges among the twenty or so members who did attend, a jolly good show, but the emptiness of the chamber struck me as the real story, a story of the perfunctory and apathetic. It’s the same in the U.S. Congress. The conservatives, in the end, won a vote that favors landlords over those who have subsidized housing.

So the class warfare goes on in England without a whimper as it does in the states and around the planet. There will be a turning point. Maybe not in this lost generation, but certainly in the next if there is no correction. Infinite growing wealth inequality is a distinct impossibility.

But I regress. My first declaration of what I perceive as Oklahoma election madness surely will be acknowledged by both Democrats and Republicans alike. It must be some form of madness—constructed upon hubris, stubbornness, intellectual conceit or the unknowable—that drives someone to loan their own campaign more than $1.2 million dollars to retain the position of Schools Superintendent in the state of Oklahoma.

Republicans and Democrats agreed on this crucial issue of ousting Janet Barresi from office, an issue that has now been accomplished. It was, by the way, representational politics at a pragmatic level. It also was an exquisite repudiation of Barresi diehard supporters Gov. Mary Fallin and the editorial board of The Oklahoman, who seem to despise public education. Barresi actually came in third in a Republican primary race won by Joy Hofmeister. In fact, Barresi, who I perceive as an advocate for the privatization of education, was soundly trounced in a message vote that couldn’t be clearer. If Hofmeister goes on to win, her mandate is simple: Do and act just the opposite of what Barresi did and acted. That goes, too, for the Democratic candidates, Freda Deskin and John Cox, who ended up in a runoff.

But this issue of “loaning” so much money to one’s own campaign for such a mundane and, really, provincial position in a minor state like Oklahoma seems the most remarkable in its sheer madness. Did Barresi think of her position as a launching pad for further political aspirations? On what basis? What specifically were those aspirations? Did she really believe in the right-wing message about the so-called failure of public education—this message has to include for its own logical argumentation the demeaning of teachers and the test performances of inner-city school children—that passionately, obsessively and why? Is she just so extremely rich—and why is she so rich?—that a million dollars means nothing to her? Why not simply retire and live in Paris? The Bricktown canal or the Seine?

A million dollars could also go a long way to help one particular school, or a particular group of students in Oklahoma.

Here’s a recorded Barresi quote now making its sensational rounds in The Media today in which she’s telling teachers the way they must enact the education of students:

Anybody that has any question what we’re doing, read Nehemiah. Open up your Bibles and read Nehemiah. I want you to put on your breast plate and I want you to fight off the enemy at the same time you’re rebuilding the wall. Because there’s a lot of people, a lot of enemies are going to try to creep up the back of your neck and say you can’t do it, it can’t be done. Do me a favor and tell ‘em to go to hell. We’ve got a wall to build. ‘Cause I’m gonna be in there with you, too. I’m going to take the hits. I don’t care, I don’t care. And then we will be, we will be an example to the rest of the country about how you produce a wonderful child that is educated and ready to take control of their life. Are there any questions?

I’m looking at the window occasionally in an apartment in the Bayswater area as I write this, and I’m noting the symmetry and beauty of the old buildings around me and the skyline on a beautiful sunny summer day. I’m just an easy tube ride away from the famous landmarks, such as Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, which I’ve seen before and now once again. The diversity of people on the streets here—all the different nationalities, languages, accents—is incredibly comforting to me and gives me a sense of belonging to something larger than my own self-absorptions and retread reflections. I don’t ever get that connection in Oklahoma.

What’s also not so comforting to me here in London and what also seems like madness to me as I write this is the political canonization in Oklahoma of James Lankford, another right-wing religious extremist. U.S. Rep. Lankford easily won his primary race for U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn’s seat. Coburn is retiring. Lankford is sure to win the general election unless there’s a scandal or some major political shift in Oklahoma between now and November. That’s probably not happening.

Let’s be clear: Lankford, as we can obviously conclude through his sanctimonious television advertisements and his former job indoctrinating young people with Christian dogma at the Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center in Davis, Oklahoma, is a radical Religious Extremist. He’s a living embodiment of someone who would not hesitate to end the separation of church and state in this country or force his narrow religious views on us all.

Yet the state’s largest newspaper, which supported Lankford for the position, in response to his predictable victory, proclaims Lankford “would be an outstanding member of the U.S. Senate” and speaks of his “phenomenal rise.”

I wrote about the interchangeable relationship between The Right-Wing Church and The Corporation in Oklahoma in my last post. It’s the partnership of immorality upon which all the state’s social problems and oppression is constructed and disseminated. Lankford is its personification. His laudatory status now made manifest by The Media’s pulpit goes beyond simple red-state religious oppression. It’s a madness that infects bodies with sickness and minds with its falsehoods that sanctify greed and human suffering. From London, away from its direct influence that breeds its own imprisoned complacency, this seems incredibly obvious.

On the tube in London yesterday after I watched part of a the House of Commons session I described earlier, the diversity of people scrunched together in my subway car delighted the senses, formed its own relaxing, inclusive philosophy of existence and depicted a reality rejected by so many people in Oklahoma where madness reaps its peculiar oppressive rewards.

From Paris: Everything Is Possible

photo 2

Speaking of the French perspective, one wonders if Oklahoma’s supposed rugged individualism, its empty spaces, its rather ugly expansionary history in the American story create a reductionist discourse that subsumes the reality of isolation, secrecy and en masse adherence to distorted religious codes.

What we might get at, first, is that in Paris, the close proximity of people (not to mention dogs, cats and pigeons) don’t necessarily create community but just IS the space in which cultural and personal identity remain situated. There is no similar space in Oklahoma. The Right-Wing Church in Oklahoma serves as the main point of reference, a center, but its hypocrisy and illogic render it useless in any universal sense outside our confines, and thus the center won’t hold.

In Oklahoma, nothing is spoken but much is conducted in silence or in the secret gestures of the breaking of taboos deployed by The Right-Wing Church. In Paris, one must search deeply for the taboo, and sometimes when it’s found it vanishes in its own reality. That taboo is no longer on the list of taboos, monsieur. Down the street, one might find more vanishing taboos until the last taboo is encountered behind the door marked “sortie.”

I’m thinking about these things as I finish my time in Paris and head to London. As I wrote in my “Letter From Paris” Monday, I know I open myself up to criticism for exchanging the pragmatic of the Republican election season in Oklahoma for philosophical indulgence. I don’t care. I don’t even know what to say about the complaint in the first place, especially when it comes from friends. To view and read the happenings in Oklahoma from Paris—and, of course, the internet captures the horrific scene these days—is to realize the state’s oppression and, frankly, madness, the terrible crimes, the massive child abuse, the lack of awareness about the importance of education and health care, the love of The Corporation, all inscribed by The Right-Wing Church. As I write this, is running a story lauding the fracking conducted by oil and gas companies in the state despite the connection between this particular drilling fossil-fuel process and the surge in earthquakes, which are probably destroying our homes bit by bit and threaten real bodily damage.

I sit writing, thinking these thoughts, occasionally looking out the windows of my Paris apartment down at the cafes and shops below, and I know the error or randomness of misplacement, both personally and culturally.

The Right-Wing Church and The Corporation. It was suggested to me once that I write a book about the connection in Oklahoma. It’s THE main immoral dilemma in our state, one that drives all the problems, from poverty to illness to crime. I suggest the two, for the most part, are interchangeable or at least symbiotic. What bores me the most in Oklahoma, however, are (and, yes, I’m a leftist) arguments about how the Left-Wing Church is closer to a god than the Right-Wing Church on moral grounds. No, the point I will make is this: the Left-Wing Church is in love with The Corporation as much as the Right-Wing Church. The manifestation and language is different, but the result is the same: suffering.

People suffer in Oklahoma, and someone declares some statistics and meaning about it, and then more people suffer in Oklahoma, and then someone else declares some statistics and meaning about it. The Right-Wing Church and The Corporation don’t care about suffering or statistics; the former wants perverted control of the human body and the numbing of intelligence; the latter wants Le Grand payouts for the new aristocrats, who lie to themselves of their superlative capabilities and to their souls about any worthy examination of their existence.

Those who speak publicly about the suffering through statistics, The Media, The Organizations, left or right, are controlled by the new aristocrats or, let’s just call them what they are, the new filthy rich, who make a misery of so many lives in the world so they can colonize and own the planet and exert power. The Media, The Organizations, only mimic and depict The Serious relationship between the Right-Wing Church and The Corporation, although some will express self-righteous indignation of this notion. The indignation is laughable and, more importantly, ineffective. From Paris, drunk on philosophy, stoned on artistic beauty, the indignation seems like a Beckett play or a scene from Joyce’s Ulysses. Surely, there’s a hidden meaning in the indignation, right? But, no, it’s only the petty narcissism one must stoically endure in any generation.

In Paris today, a group of school children played soccer in the streets outside my window as people walked through this important World Cup game. A couple, their arms intertwined and oblivious to all people, drank espresso in small blue cups at a sidewalk café nearby. Scooters darted down the street in quick zips, scattering pigeons. A young, beautiful woman, dressed in a fashionable skirt and hosiery, walked her small, scruffy dog on its leash. The surrounding buildings enclosed and framed the scene, a painting, really, for Paris is a painting, but I must now make seventeen points about Oklahoma. What madness in itself!

My eighth point, or perhaps it’s my fourteenth point, on my Paris trip is aimed at all my former and current students. On this trip, a street vendor told me that “everything is possible.” He was answering my question about whether I could get some cooked chicken on a particular type of bread. I then asked, “Everthing?” He said, “Everything.” I then said loudly, “Everything is possible!” Someone else yelled it as well. It echoed down a cobble-stoned street. A small crowd waiting in line around us cheered. A moment. A life.

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