The Oklahoma Legislature Blues, in the Key of D Minus

I am from Oklahoma. I love being from Oklahoma. I love its people. I love its grand land. I love its Oklahoman-ness.

But boy howdy, the state doesn’t make it easy on me.

Now, I normally don’t comment on the comings and goings of the worst thing about the state of Oklahoma, its Legislature, because it’s an exercise in futility. The state Capitol is a psycho ward whose only redeeming quality is its ability to self-sabotage, thwarting its own ambitions with astounding pettiness, hubris and disregard for, well, laws. What more is there to possibly say?

Well not this time. This time they’ve gone and cooked up a flamebroiled triple-patty dungburger smothered in awful sauce. This time they’ve messed with the nerds. This week, a legislative committee, comprised of honest-to-god elected officials, decided that those darned intellectuals were at it again. The House Common Education Committee, presumably chaired by one of the Smothers Brothers, voted to ban Advanced Placement U.S. history classes because, and I’m paraphrasing here, it’s of the devil and President Barack Obama, who to most of the Legislature are the same entity.

Their stated reasons for doing this offer insight into a worldview so dystopic and warped it would make M.C. Escher toss his cookies. First, and this should be no surprise for a conversation that included the esteemed Rep. Sally Kern, these fine servants of the state have conflated Common Core with AP curriculum, which I guess is as easy to do as confusing a democratically elected head of state with the overlord of eternal torment. (My favorite part of this is where Sally Kern says nonrequired, privately created AP curriculum is “similar” to mandatory educational framework Common Core, and thus null and void in a state that repealed the latter. Similar! They are alike! They involve books!)

(By the way, Oklahoma legislators hate Common Core not because of any of its actual failings, but because it is a standardized national curriculum. We do not want our pure heartland spawn learning the same thing as yankees.)

(I apologize for the excessive parenthetical thoughts.)

The other objection offered to allowing our students access to rigorous courses that prepare them and advance them on the path to secondary education? It makes America look bad. Criminitly, Trigger! You people aren’t going to be happy until you’ve got a flag lapel pin the size of a silver-dollar pancake, are you?

Quick fact check: The lib’ral academics behind AP curriculum (from free-wheeling, hippy-dippy institutions like Florida State University) didn’t make America look bad. America has been more than capable of doing that on its own through the years. Just like every other country on this planet. It’s history. If it were all sunshine and kitten kisses, we wouldn’t be teaching it. We’d all be frolicking naked in fields of tulips celebrating another consecutive year without the CNN breaking news ticker.

It’s probably important to note here that the patriot who deployed this “emergency” bill to cut off the head of the essay-test Hydra, Rep. Dan Fisher, is a member of an organization called the Black Robe Regiment, which has the distinguished honor of holding the website that disturbs me the most of all the things that are things. And which I won’t link to here because it scares me, but Google and you will find nuggets like this:

“The time has come that we must now arise and awaken to the danger of this hyper-progressive agenda that so permeates every aspect of our political, legal, and educational systems.”

Look, I went to one of the pretty good school systems in Oklahoma and still wound up with an uninterested assistant football coach teaching high-school AP government (U.S. and world). So let’s stop pretending the College Board has infiltrated America’s education system and installed pagan foreign Communist jihadi wood elves in positions of power. Not even rebel forces want to work for the pittance Oklahoma legislators deem appropriate pay for teachers.

I managed to have to read Hatchet three times in the course of three grades because of the stellar system we’ve concocted. And if I hadn’t switched to AP English in eighth grade? Who knows, maybe I could have slogged through Robinson Crusoe Lite once more. If a rebel alliance has assumed the role of propagandists for Oklahoma’s youth, good for them. I bet their system’s more efficient and less repetitive. They’d probably only make you do one project on their anti-America flag-burning manual.

But, of course, I did switch to AP English, and then managed to partake in a veritable buffet of AP courses, collecting them like badges on a Girl Scout vest. Because I was fortunate. I was fortunate to attend large schools with ample opportunities to earn college credit, the idea being I could then increase my efficiency at the university level, and maybe — just maybe — expedite the journey to a nice, fat taxable income.

I’m told efficiency and profit are big among the conservative community in my cherry-red home state. Isn’t it amazing that it took a bunch of pinko educational oligarchs to make it happen?

I never thought I’d pine the for those halcyon days of last week when everyone was talking about Jack White’s guacamole.

Donate, cry, pray, then read

Do you know what it takes to be an Oklahoman? You probably don’t because to be an Oklahoman is to be nuts, balls-to-the-wall crazy, off-the-charts insane. You have to be.

In Oklahoma, when you pop out of your mama, the doctors give you the once over. They check your eyes, because they know you’re going to have to stare down EF4 tornadoes and not flinch. They check the gravel in your guts, because true grit’s making a living from hard, dry land — molding a life from red clay. And they check your heart, because to be an Oklahoman is to be the smack-dab center of the Heartland.

Then you grow up in Oklahoma with your “Yes, ma’ams” and “No, sirs” and “Ranch, pleases,” and you learn how to drive in a place where you reserve one hand for waving to the neighbors you know and the neighbors you don’t know just quite yet. Your sentences are peppered with words like “hook echo,” “vortex,” “Pushmataha,” “biscuitsngravy” and “might could.”

You go to school and you learn the history of your state, from the Trail of Tears to the land run to the Dust Bowl to the Tulsa Race Riot to April 19, 1995 to May 3, 1999. You understand that you come from misfits and mistakes and pain. A lot of pain. You realize you come from underdog stock. You listen to a lot of Woody Guthrie, and you really get what it means.

At some point, life punches you in the gut for the first time. You watch the hand of God come down, and an entire town disappears off the map.

You fall to your knees and you cry and you spit and you cuss the day and night. And then you get up.

You don’t waste your time asking the heavens why. There’s work to be done.

You see someone else shaking their fists at the sky, so you reach your hand down. And then they get up.

That’s what being an Oklahoman is. Being so goddamned resilient and perseverant that ain’t nothing or nobody can keep you down. I’ve been a lot of places, lived in a few of them, and met many great people. Without minimizing anyone else, Oklahomans are a different breed. When you’re a little guy used to getting kicked, you not only learn to pop back up but you become the first one to reach out to others.

Oklahoma isn’t a place. It’s something in your blood. It’s something that you do. It’s the shirt off your back and a tear in your eye and the giddyup in your soul.

As we watched the wreckage from this latest prizefight with nature, several people asked me if I had people there — in Moore, in Shawnee. The answer is unequivocally yes. Every ever-loving, bless-your-heart mumbler in that grand land is My People. And God help us, My People don’t give up and don’t give in.

I love you, Oklahoma, and I thank my lucky stars that I’m one of yours. And if you don’t start installing storm shelters in every public building, I’m fixin’ to raise some hell.