BY DAVID PERRYMAN
He taught us a lot about a lot more than just agriculture. This week my oldest brother, Roy, and I were discussing that experience.
Roy recalled the time in his freshman Ag I class when Dad had just showed the group how to set up a heat lamp in a farrowing pen over a litter of pigs. As the new pigs scrambled toward the light and settled in a mound, Dad stepped back satisfied that the light was the proper height.
Dad asked the question, “Why are the pigs piling on top of each other?” and one of the boys responded, “To keep each other warm.” Dad smiled, shook his head and said, “Those pigs don’t care about each other. They are piling on each other to keep themselves warm.”
In math, we know about “absolute values,” in science we know about “absolute zero,” and in politics we know about “absolute majorities.” However, what my father taught a group of Oklahoma farm boys on that day in the winter of 1961 was an “absolute truth.”
The survival instinct and pure selfish interest of animals overrides any potential for feelings of compassion toward others and outright trumps the concept of community. It’s true. The Golden Rule was not written for animals.
However, as Oklahomans, it is imperative that we seek the common good of our state. When we become aware that Oklahoma lags behind all but one or two states in physical health and mental health, we should ask “why?”
When we learn that Oklahoma’s teen pregnancy rate, its prescription drug abuse rate and its divorce rate is among the highest in the country, we should actively seek the cause of these deplorable statistics.
Historically, we Oklahomans have had a deep-seated pride in our state. That pride comes from our heritage of surviving the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. It comes from winning sports teams, an abundance of natural resources and breathtaking panoramas of natural beauty.
Today, there are fewer and fewer of our citizens who experienced the 1930’s. While sports teams provide diversion, we realize that strings of subpar seasons undermine excitement and do little to improve our lot in life. Painfully we receive repeat lessons that hanging our hat on the price of oil is precarious.
The direction of our state’s future must be to enact legislation and policies that will lower incarceration rates for nonviolent crimes. Governmental policy must encourage a diverse economy that will provide living wages so that employees and their families can have access to quality health care and educational opportunities. To be business friendly, we must value education. We have to maintain and improve roads, bridges, water and sewer systems, and high speed Internet.
We didn’t get here overnight and neither party can wholly blame the other; however, the direction that we are headed now is down, and it will not get any better until Oklahomans engage as good citizens and take a stand to reverse the current decline in our quality of life.
We have the potential to care enough about others to reach out for the common good. That is what makes us different from a baby pig that piles up with the rest of the litter under a heat lamp to simply keep itself warm.
– David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives