BY DAVID PERRYMAN
Some would say that Ernest Hemingway’s 1940 novel deals with the loss of innocence in war. Some would point to the value of human life. Others consider the power of romantic love to bring fulfillment to life even in the direst of circumstances as the book’s main theme.
However, the message that Hemingway may have most wanted to convey is the one reflected in the title he chose for the story. The story centers on an American college instructor whose feeling of brotherhood with an oppressed people was so intense that his fervor led him to Spain to fight Fascism during its civil war.
“For Whom the Bell Tolls” is a phrase taken from a meditation by the 17th Century English poet John Donne that states in substance: No man is an island, complete in oneself. Every man is a piece of the continent, part of the mainland. If a single clod is washed away by the sea, the continent becomes smaller, like it would if a neighbor’s farm or even your own farm were lost. Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, so, do not send anyone to ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for you.
Ernest Hemingway’s message of community and fulfillment is a message of hope. John Donne’s message of community and awareness is a message of responsibility and vigilance. Both messages transcend the ages.
Oklahoma’s leaders appear to believe that our state is immune from these messages.
Supplemental payments to the aged, blind and disabled were arbitrarily cut by 25% in fiscal year 2016. Child care credits and essential subsidies for child care facilities were eliminated for new enrollees.
The earned income tax credit amounting to $20 per month for most poor working Oklahomans was eliminated. They pay the highest percentage of their wages on state and local taxes and a higher percentage of their wages on food. They are food insecure and often pay 40% or more of their income housing which is not safe nor secure. The poverty of any man diminishes me.
Those same working Oklahomans have little or no access to health care and no ability to get it. They must choose between losing their job or working sick. Their condition worsens until they must go to an emergency room. Hospitals risk closure because they provide care with no hope of being paid. The poor health of any man diminishes me.
Public education funding is lower than 90% of other states. Teachers are leaving the classroom because they cannot afford to house, feed and clothe their own families. Education suffers and poor Oklahomans no longer have quality educational opportunities to better their lives. Uneducated children diminish me.
As these and other critical resources are taken away from our most impoverished neighbors, the condition of a vast number of Oklahomans diminishes you and me and our state.
No man is an island. Oklahoma, the bell tolls for you.
– David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House