I can’t remember when I’ve enjoyed a workshop setting and group of people more. I’m spending my days on an outdoor deck shaded by a tree looking out at the rocky outcropping of Quartz Mountain in perfect temperature and delicious air. Sitting in a circle with 18 lovely souls playing all sorts of music, sharing stories, laughing, dancing, singing (with masks off outdoors!). All of us blessed to be together in a temporary community that offers the “compassion, safety, equality, justice, mutual respect and appreciation, beauty and fun” that we all deserve and that drives my 80% lifelong commitment as noted in the last post.
I confess that I came to Oklahoma with some trepidation, knowing its conservative history and a bit anxious about encountering first-hand the things I’ve read in the news. And starting with the two delightful dance teachers who picked me up at the airport and told me of their wonderful work and continuing on through every moment of this retreat sponsored by the Oklahoma Arts Institute in a most beautiful setting, I was prepared to report that I had been duped by the news and that Oklahoma was the most delightful place filled with friendly, good-hearted and aware people. And based on my personal experience these past three days, I can faithfully report that good news.
But of course I know that teachers and artists are far from the whole picture and at breakfast today, found out about some of the 10% news that looms large in my awareness and deeply troubles my glad heart. Back in April, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed a bill granting immunity to drivers who “unintentionally” injure or kill protesters while attempting to flee. House Bill 1674 directly states the drivers cannot be held criminally or civilly liable for killing or injuring a protester if they are “fleeing from a riot” and there is “reasonable belief” that they are in danger. All those quotation marks means that it will be up to the white-run justice system as to whether the murder was indeed “fleeing from a riot” and had a “reasonable belief” that they were in danger and “unintentionally” ran over the protestors. You know how that's going to go.
Alongside the recent Texas law of penalties for any connection with an abortion (like happening to drive the taxi to the clinic) and the Georgia law punishing people who give food to people in line waiting 10 hours because of the change in voting procedure, this is a new low in our legal system, the last refuge of scoundrels who don’t even pretend to hide the evil of their actions and the hatred in their hearts. These are the wild vicious dogs purposefully unleashed in public places to do their damage with no consequence.
Oklahoma lawmakers (to be distinguished from all Oklahoma citizens) continued their campaign against hope and reconciliation and restorative justice with another law banning the teaching of anything related to “critical race theory,” an examination of how racism functions in our country. Teachers are afraid to discuss issues that bear discussion, because if one parent complains or one student feels uncomfortable, they could be fired. Similar bills are in place or pending in North Carolina, Tennessee, Idaho and Texas. And so purposefully perpetrated ignorance is becoming a legal requirement and an education that teaches actual history and tells the truth is now grounds for dismissal, fines or imprisonment.
None of this cancels the lovely interactions I’m having with the teachers here and in fact, inspires me to think more about how to support them. But to be brutally honest and real, I can only say, “This is some sad shit.”
Back to work.