Please, Science Is For New Yorkers, Not Oklahomans
As predicted, the Oklahoma creationist movement is back this year in the state legislature.
Anti-evolution bills attacking the scientific method, the foundation of modern medicine, have a fair to decent chance of passing because the legislature is dominated by neoconservatives, whose bills are most often based on ideology or cultural wedge issues.
Want better health care and wages? Want to make sure your children have decent jobs here? Don’t ask a Republican. All you’re going to get from the Oklahoma GOP (and even some supposed Democrats) these days is pathetic, religious-driven legislation that makes the state one of the biggest laughingstocks in the nation. Yeah, right, it always helps to be known as a place of ignorance and intolerance when you’re trying to create economic development.
We can only hope this neoconservative strategy of activating the conservative, uneducated masses through cultural wedges has almost run its course here in Oklahoma. People are now waking up throughout the country. But will it happen here?
According to the Oklahoma Evolution List Serve, state Sen. Owen Laughlin (R-Woodward), pictured above, has introduced a bill that would allow state school boards to use 20 percent of their state textbook money to buy books that are not state approved.
“This proposed change is seen as a back-door way that creationist materials can be added to public schools at taxpayer expense,” wrote Dr. Victor Hutchinson, a prominent zoology professor at the University of Oklahoma and the listserv’s creator.
This is probably one of a few creationism efforts the state will see this year. Watch for more legislation supporting the bogus Intelligent Design theory, which argues the world is so complicated that a designer (or, wink, wink, the right-wing’s Christian God) had to create it. Evolution actually makes no claim about how the world started. Its simple premise, one based on irrefutable evidence, is that species and plant life have changed over time.
Hutchinson urges citizens to contact their elected representatives to stop this anti-education bill. Taxpayers should not be in the business of funding religious views. Hutchinson has pointed out before that when such measures come up for a full vote, most Democrats vote with the religious zealots and hypocrites in the GOP.
As songwriter James McMurtry sings about this area of the country: “We live in the middle where the center is the right.”
The legendary Frosty Troy points out in The Oklahoma Observer the Oklahoma Constitution prohibits the state from funding religious activities
Troy cites this passage:
“No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion, or for the use, benefit or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such.”
Will Abortion Be Illegal In Oklahoma?
It’s probably a safe bet that abortion will be essentially outlawed in Oklahoma soon.
More bills restricting women’s reproductive rights have been introduced in the legislature. All will be passed by Republican and Democratic majorities if they make it to a floor vote. State Rep. Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City) and state Sen. Brian Crain (R-Tulsa) have filed bills that could limit women’s reproductive rights. More ant-abortion bills will probably be filed.
Kern’s bill could limit the number of doctors who could perform the procedures in Oklahoma. Her bill would require doctors to have hospital privileges near the offices or clinics where the procedures are performed. This could prevent out-of-state doctors from coming to Oklahoma to perform abortions, something increasingly common in states dominated by religious fundamentalists.
Crain offers two bills. One would prohibit insurance companies from paying for abortion procedures for state employees. The other changes the legal definition of abortion to supposedly ensure doctors do not use different language to describe the procedure.
Will Gov. Brad Henry veto the more draconian bills this session, and still allow Oklahoma women the right to choose?
Giving women and men easier access to birth control and providing real sexual education in schools would really reduce the abortion rate, but few Oklahoma politicians—Republicans or Democrats—seem interested in reality these days when it comes to reproductive issues.
“We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.”— Martin Luther King, Jr.'s ”Letter From Birmingham Jail”
Although the ice storm has rescheduled Martin Luther King Day events, Oklahomans can celebrate the civil rights leader today by reading some of his most important speeches and work online.
As Americans experience the continued violation of basic civil liberties under the militaristic Bush administration and a compliant Congress, which has abdicated its constitutional role to provide checks and balances, we are in desperate need of King’s peaceful vision of social change and civil disobedience.
King’s vision also gives us hope that democracy and freedom will eventually triumph over those who use war and America’s huge military machine for personal political power and to enrich those who contribute to their campaigns.
As King once wrote, “We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and for justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.” (“Conscience and the Vietnam War" in The Trumpet of Conscience, 1968)
As events unfolded this past week over President George Bush’s escalation of the Iraq occupation, one was left wondering if the United States is now a military dictatorship or is fast becoming one.
Here we sit, some four years into a botched, unpopular occupation of another country, with a parade of revolving, sycophantic generals on our television screens, with more reports of continued U.S. torturing of so-called enemy combatants, and, now, with a tyrant’s open-ended commitment to continue the Iraq debacle for at least another two years and probably more.
All of this is done against the will of the American people who spoke clearly in November by electing a majority of representatives and senators who want an end to the Iraq occupation. Reliable, nonpartisan polls show 70 percent of Americans do no support the “dictator’s” plan to add 21,000 more troops to an already failed adventure.
Some will argue the military dictatorship designation is hyperbole or extremism.
But consider this:
If your child was thirteen when the Iraq occupation began, she or he will be nineteen or probably even older when the war is finally over. By then, if the Bush administration has its way, we will be involved in other wars, probably against Iran and Syria.
We are indoctrinating an entire generation of children in violence and war and torture.
Our children live under the nightmarish background of thousands upon thousands of dead American soldiers and dead innocent Iraqis. They live under the violent rhetoric of a president who wants the ill-defined, always changing, enemy to “bring it on” and retired generals who are actually paid to point out the killing power of the latest weaponry on the cable news shows.
They have seen images of Americans torturing prisoners in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib Prison, images of naked men, bleeding, covered in feces, men cowering in front of attack dogs and their sadistic captors. They have seen a video of Nick Berg’s decapitation. They had seen charred bodies hanging from a bridge in Fallujah. They have watched Bush’s barbaric lynching of Saddam Hussein on YouTube.
Everywhere they go, sporting events, their schools, churches, our children are forced by authority figures to worship the symbols and culture of the United States military, to worship violence and death over peaceful resolution.
This is what today’s American children know.
Most importantly, our children have grown up watching one man, George W. Bush, manipulate the American military for political power and to enrich his friends and, by extension, his political party, through war profiteering. He has fired generals (General Eric Shinseki, for example) who were right about strategy and did not lick his boots, and he has promoted those generals who sacrifice their honor and country for careerism. (Is this not the very definition of a military dictatorship?) And our children have been told by the country's mainstream media this is normal.
Think of other world military dictators, frightening despots with delusional and radical ideas, gesturing widely in military uniforms before groups of adoring, nationalistic people, and then remember Bush on that aircraft carrier, dressed in his flight suit, pandering to the cameras, remember Bush speaking at all those military institutions to scripted applause.
Meanwhile, our country’s opposition party has done nothing to stop the country’s descent into what increasingly seems to be a military dictatorship.
Some will argue that elections in two years will change things, but will they? Will Republican political operatives and warmongers allow fair elections? Has Republican election-district gerrymandering and our country’s constitutional but unfair allocation of United States Senators create a dangerous dynamic in which the overwhelming will of the people can be thwarted by warmongering dictators?
Will the Democrats finally step up and restore our Democratic structures? Who will lead this effort? Does it seem plausible at any level that people like Hillary Clinton or Barak Obama can get past their own media-created hubris, their own cravings for personal power? I do not think so. I do not have anything against these two politicians, but I do not think so.
Yet I do believe that today Americans eagerly await leaders who will restore and rejuvenate the democratic structures in this country.
But when will it become too late?
The clock is clicking on our fragile democracy.