To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Monday, November 23, 2020

New Observercast

Dead Canary Nation

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BY MARK DAVIES

In Oklahoma we know what happens when an economy becomes overly dependent on fossil fuels, when it becomes anathema to ever raise taxes; when corporations [especially fossil fuel companies] are given massive tax breaks; when unions are marginalized; when science is ignored because of corporate interests, and when an atmosphere of hostility is created in relation to persons who are Latin@, African American, LGBTQ, and Muslim.

We in Oklahoma live with the resulting poor public education caused by the worst cuts in education spending in the country since 2008, high poverty rates, second highest incarceration rate in the country and highest female incarceration rate of all states, inadequate healthcare and a crisis in mental healthcare resources, deep cuts in basic public services, a crumbling infrastructure, fossil fuel industry-induced earthquakes with private citizens forced to pay for the damage, corporations resistant to relocate to our state because of a social climate that is hostile to many of their employees, and massive budget shortfalls.

Oklahoma should be viewed by the rest of the country as an example of what not to do, a Dead Canary State that warns people to get out of the toxic rightwing mine of regressive tax systems, privatization of public services, discrimination, and deregulation. In May of 2016, I wrote in more detail about Oklahoma’s Dead Canary State status, which you may read here.

Unfortunately, the United States [thanks to our Electoral College system] just elected a president who says, “To hell with the dead canaries, we are all going into the mine.”

Trump’s pick for Secretary for Education Betsy Devos wants to create more privatization of public education, which will lessen equality of opportunity among our citizenry. Trump’s picks for National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and director of the CIA Mike Pompeo reflect an Islamophobia that threatens the religious freedom of our Muslim sisters and brothers and represents a serious threat to their equal protection under the law. The people on Trump’s short list for Secretary of Interior [Gov. Mary Fallin of Dead Canary State Oklahoma is high on the list], Secretary of Energy [Oklahoma Billionaire Oilman Harold Hamm is a leading candidate], and director of the Environmental Protection Agency [Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt] all point to a likely withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, rejection of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, and a growing dependence on fossil fuel.

[UPDATE: On Dec. 7, Pruitt was named as Trump’s selection for EPA director.]

Trump’s choice of Jeffrey Sessions for United States Attorney General and his selection of Stephen Bannon as chief strategist represent a rejection of a broadly inclusive society and point to a lack of respect for our Latin@, African American, and LGBTQ sisters and brothers. His selection of Mike Pence as vice president does not bode well for women’s rights and LGBTQ rights.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the dangerous appointments being brought forth.

Appointment after appointment, policy announcement after policy announcement, and tweet after tweet all point to President-elect Trump following Oklahoma’s path of adopting systems that fail the most vulnerable persons in the human community and threaten the overall well being of our ecological community. The direction in which President-elect Trump is pulling the country will lead to worsening international relations; creative people no longer wanting come to the United States and many who are already here wanting to leave; an eviscerated public education system with a more poorly educated citizenry; threats to religious freedom; and a less inclusive, just, peaceful, participatory and sustainable society.

As Oklahoma has seen itself sink to the bottom of list of states when it comes to education, healthcare, and quality of life for its most vulnerable citizens, so too will the United States fall behind much of the rest of the world.

Oklahoma is a Dead Canary State that is a warning to the country. Under a President Trump, we are on the path to making the United States become a Dead Canary Nation that will be a warning to the world.

Mark Davies is the Wimberly Professor of Social and Ecological Ethics and director of the World House Institute for Social and Ecological Responsibility at Oklahoma City University. Click here for more of his essays.