Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Okla-hope-ma


So here I am in Oklahoma and I remember precisely the last time I came here. It was the day after Obama got elected. I was picked up at the airport and driven three hours to the workshop site by a woman and her 6-year old son who was talking about how bad Obama was because his grandfather said so.  At that time in 2008, Oklahoma was the only state in which not a single county went for Obama.

But I entered the teaching of my 3-day course in good humor, to say the least and ended up having a fine time with all the participants. I discovered that many got to teach music to their kids in public schools five times a week while politically left San Francisco had denied music to their kids for some 30 years at that point! We had a good-natured respectful time together (and truth be told, I suspect many of them were of a liberal mindset).

Coming here again on the heels of the Kavanaugh Circus of Shame, it was a different feeling. Again, I was picked up by someone who drove me three hours through the remarkably flat and empty landscape. By the end of the drive, I was in love with Oklahoma! Here’s why:

• I saw a billboard that read: THE GOVERNMENT TAKES FROM THE NEEDY AND GIVES TO THE GREEDY.

• My driver was part of the teacher’s strike mentioned in Michael Moore’s recent movie, one of thousands of pissed-off teachers who banded together and said “We ain’t gonna take it” and stormed the Capitol. At the end, they got a long-overdue raise.

• Many people’s eyes were opened to how the corrupt good-ole-boys system works and there were lines around the corner changing party affiliation from Republican to Democrat.

• A few decided to actually run again candidates— and beat them! Mostly from massive grass-roots door-knocking.

• My driver described herself as part of a “mixed marriage.” She’s Democrat, he’s Republican. Her sons are twins and also split down party lines. But still they all talk to each other!

• Before coming here, I looked up information about the Tulsa Riot, a horrific murdering and destroying property of relatively affluent black folks in 1921. (Look it up and read the whole thing.) But what impressed me was that after years of keeping it out of the history books, a Race Riot Commision was formed in 2001 and unlike the current shabby FBI “investigation,” their thorough work confirmed the details of what had happened. The State of Oklahoma later passed legislation establishing scholarships for descendants of the survivors, funded some economic development of the Greenwood neighborhood where it took place and established a Memorial Park in the city. In short, the kind of reparations and apologies on a local level that our country has never done on a national level. Go Oklahoma!

All of this gives me hope. The above apology, the determined door-knocking and getting out to vote, the banding together, the sense that people of all previous political allegiances are finally realizing that this Emperor has no clothes and the sight ain’t pretty. In nearby Texas, there’s a groundswell of energy for Beto to beat Ted. Maybe people are getting as tired as I am of hearing about Red States and Blue States. The real State to be concerned about it is the State of Mind willing to judge on character and record rather than party allegiance, the State of our Union’s moral health, the State of our Public Discourse.

We stopped at Applebee’s to eat and I saw convivial people who returned my smile and greeting, parents with kids, young people waiting tables with intelligence shining in their eyes. It doesn’t make for good television to show these folks. Better to find some beefy guy with guns in his pick-up to accent the divide further, but hey, you can find them in San Francisco too. Not that red and blue as shown in voting aren’t true, but they’re not the whole truth and why not accent the hope of clear-thinking and good-hearted people who can be found everywhere? So this my little contribution to letting folks now that for the moment, I am uplifted by my first five hours in the state of Oklahoma. 

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