BY KENNY BELFORD
While I wasn’t actually born in Oklahoma, I’ve lived here all my life except for the first year. I’ve always considered myself an “Okie” in a proud sense.
During portions of my career I traveled to media centers across America. Part of my marketing pitch always centered on the extraordinary aspects of our state. Now, after over six decades it’s hard for me to recognize my state. I’m totally out of sync with our prevailing mindset. I haven’t changed, but rather failed to make the trek my neighbors took.
While I own a gun, I’ve never experienced the fear that drives my neighbors to feel they need to be armed when they leave their homes. I don’t have a concealed carry permit and doubt if that’s ever something I’d seriously consider. I don’t want to go on a shopping excursion or out to a restaurant and be surrounded by people openly carrying a weapon. If that measure becomes law, and I encounter some fearful person “packing heat,” I intend to find a manager and inform them of my departure from their establishment and find another place to shop or dine. That’s just me exercising my Constitutional right to limit my exposure to the fearful folks feeling the need to display a deadly weapon.
Unlike the prevailing attitude in my state, I have no animosity directed at immigrants, legal or not. I never had the urge or need to bus restaurant tables, make beds at a motel, become a day laborer, or perform any of the myriad jobs they seem willing to accept at substandard wages.
I don’t blame them for coming here to accept jobs I never wanted. If there is a culprit, it’s the employers who benefit from cheap labor. It baffles me why those that consider this such a grave issue never direct comments or legislation towards Oklahomans creating the problem, and profiting by it, by knowingly and willingly hiring undocumented immigrants.
I find it astounding that we’ve accepted and embrace our new status at or near the bottom of all measurements of quality of life. Our Legislature seems oblivious to the connection between gutting our tax base and building a growth future in our state.
Education and virtually every other social program is in dire need of funds, yet the attention of our legislature is focused on gays, guns, Ten Commandment monuments, intrusion into private lives, and filing lawsuits against the federal government, which has zero chance of success, to stop health care for our citizens.
We even have legislators publicly supporting the ridiculous concept of creating of an armed militia to stop the federal government.
When these loony comments are expressed, instead of becoming the subject of ridicule and laughter, it elevates their status, and they’re cheered. Astounding!
Personally, I have no problem with a person of color holding the highest office in America. Boy, does that make me out of step with my fellow Oklahomans. He’s my president, just as Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, even George W. Bush was. I may disagree with policies of a president, but it’s a policy I find objectionable, not someone’s race.
I’ll concede I do find it refreshing to have intellect make a return to the White House. I’ve seen a copy of his Certificate of Life Birth, and read the assertions made by officals from his birth state, and would never consider embarrassing myself by making the claims I frequently hear from my fellow Okies.
There was an extended period of time when Oklahoma produced great leadership, from both political parties. It brought us the Arkansas navigation system, our lakes, the FAA Center, and more. It made us a unique and stimulating place to live and raise a family. That’s gone.
We now have leadership that caters to the simplest mindset, endorsing their simplistic views and in return seeking their endorsement for election support. One of our congressional members, that may well become our next governor, recently stood on a balcony of Congress waving a “Don’t Tread On Me Flag”, cheering on Tea Party members as they spit on black congressmen and yelled out “n—-r” as they attempted to enter the Capitol.
We’re on a race to the bottom, and we’re winning.
– Kenny Belford lives in Tulsa, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer