Without our realizing it fully, Oklahoma has been losing its concept of “public” institutions and spaces.
- Public schools have been under attack as no other time before in state history by our state superintendent and our governor as they serve the investor class who want to take over public schools with their private, corporate charter schools.
- Public hospitals were attacked some time ago and mostly dismantled as state institutions, except the ones that were not seen as profiting anyone if they became private.
- Publicly owned prisons are being replaced by privately owned prisons that benefit from increasing the prison population, of course from among the poor. Their lobbyists get more laws passed that target our society’s powerless to rake in more tax dollars as they are sent away to private prisons.
- Public libraries have been attacked in waves over the last ten years as being a waste of taxpayer dollars and promoting supposedly subversive and non-Christian philosophies. Open learning is not permitted by some who want complete control even of our thoughts.
- It has taken the Republican dominated state government years to finally agree on fixing the state Capitol building as raw sewage leaked out into the basement stinking up the building and as visitors were greeted by yellow barriers that kept them from being hit by falling pieces of masonry.
- And just this week, State Impact’s Logan Layden did a story on the closing of yet another state park when there is now only about 5% of Oklahoma set aside as public land.
This shows a persistent contempt the rich have for anything that is owned and controlled by the public in a way that benefits people outside of their own race and social circles. They control the particular group of Republicans who are now in office promoting these actions or deliberate in-actions.
If It’s Not About Them…
While there are a few outliers, as a group, the rich did not get where they are by being “sharing” sorts of people. They got there by leveraging every relationship and every dollar that they had to make more dollars and gain more power so that they could then continue to influence a wider circle of people and gain more power. That’s how it works. Philanthropy for the majority of them is a smoke screen or a salve for what they have done to the rest of us.
If the rich cannot control something, they see no use for it. So, a truly democratic government that represents all Oklahomans and protects them from financial and political abuse is held in contempt. And the symbols of that, such as the Capitol building, are held in contempt as well.
You just cannot tell me that having a crumbling Capitol building was of any real concern to most of the ruling party in our government until we got close to another election cycle.
It is not news that over the last 20 years the income and wealth gap has grown wider and wider. It continues to widen today. That has not happened by accident or by an act of God. It has been a deliberate process fueled by well-funded think tanks and political machines with a 50 year plan for a corporate takeover of the U.S.
Oklahoma has not been exempt. How do we see that playing out here?
Arsonists in Control of the Fire Department
In Oklahoma, the massive Republican takeover of our state’s government has given power to some who profess to hate that same government that they campaigned to enter. Some have promised to try to destroy as much of it as they can. That is similar to about 1/3 of the firemen in a fire department bragging about being arsonists.
Many of those smaller-government arsonists are not that imaginative and seem to have a hard time speaking outside of the talking points that we hear from the rest of the Republican collective. Many of them are not influencers of any sort before they enter office. Yet, they are never for want of campaign money. They get whatever it takes to win.
Where does that money come from? The same place it always does — the rich, who want to get institutions owned and controlled by the rest of us out of their way or cashed out to their benefit.
In those campaigns from the far right we hear the word “freedom” used a lot, but not “justice”. There’s no reason to be surprised. The rich always want a wide open environment that they can control without government regulation.
Most importantly, a program of constantly lowering taxes for the top most tiers in Oklahoma marches on, while the subservient commercial media tout tax breaks as though we all benefit equally. We don’t.
The public lands and institutions paid for by past taxpayers have been looted for the private gain of those who fund campaigns. They buy more advertising in the big corporate media when they need to spin a particular story. They buy legislators and governors when they want more.
It’s time to reverse that. But how?
1. Insist that anyone asking for your vote explain how they would be better than their real opponent, not some imaginary one. Remind them that Barack Obama is not running for any office in Oklahoma.
2. Demand that candidates for any and all public offices explain how our government can protect us from those who would abuse us financially. If they argue that they would protect us from government, then you know who is giving them orders. They want to clear the way for their rich friends to steal from us even further. Period.
3. Argue against any attempt to “privatize” anything that currently belongs to all of us. Translate “privatize” as steal from the rest of us. Once it was hospitals, then prisons, now it is schools that they want to privatize as “public charters” where we pay the taxes for their unaccountable corporate profit.
4. Promote those who are running for office who vow to represent all of us and protect us from the true predators in our society – the tiny minority of the very powerful rich.
Our State’s Government Can Be Great and For All of Us!
This state can be great. Together we can do great things.
When some of us like Governor Fallin and others in the legislature say that, they mean together a few rich guys can do great things for themselves.
But what that should mean is that the big WE can do great things. All of us. Any of us. It doesn’t matter what we make or what our last name might be.
Oklahoma belongs to all of us. We can do better than this.
Woody Guthrie became the voice of those who were at the very bottom tier of society during that time. Many of the lyrics that he wrote can easily apply to our situation today. Here is one of his best known songs, but I’ll bet you haven’t seen or heard the whole thing. Pay close attention to the last three verses that are often left out:
This Land Is Your Land
This land is your land This land is my land
As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I’ve roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
As I went walking I saw a sign there
In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
Nobody living can ever stop me,
Please visit the WoodyGuthrie.org website and support the continued influence of one of Oklahoma’s greatest sons.