BY DAVID PERRYMAN
Summer nights in rural Oklahoma were the best. Neighbors would come to our house or we would go to theirs for our parents to play “cards.” Cards meant a game called Pitch. The deck contained a Big Joker and a Little Joker. Players bid to “Shoot the Moon” and hoped to catch “High, Low, Jack and the Game.”
The kids played outside until long after dark, kicking balls, catching lightning bugs and eating parched peanuts. There was absolutely nothing more fun than catching lightning bugs and no better smell or taste than freshly parched peanuts in the shell straight from the oven.
During the summer week or two that I was allowed to stay in town with my grandmother I had a different experience. The country had nothing like the fog truck that the city would run up and down the alleys spewing a thick cloud of smoke that blanketed everything, including us. Some kids would chase the truck for blocks but we just let the opaque fog of unnamed insecticide envelope us as we played in the backyard at dusk.
Was that a proper function of government? Considering the encephalitis dangers of that era and a number of outbreaks involving the transmission between some horses and humans and some birds and humans, I believe that it was very important that the government involved itself in mosquito control even though that was decades before we had heard of viruses like West Nile virus or Zika.
Today, the government is working on developing genetically engineered mosquitos with a goal of eradication of the current Zika threat. Is that a function of government? Some would say no.
However, in the 1950s, the federal government undertook a similar challenge and ended up eradicating screwworms in livestock by releasing irradiated sterile screwworm flies. Success was realized when the last case of screwworms in the United States was reported in 1982, saving the farmers and ranchers literally hundreds of millions of dollars. Was that a function of government? The agriculture industry believes that it was.
Some people would say that there are only one or two true functions of government. Everyone considers our military to fit into that category. Most would include roads, bridges and highways.
According to Oklahoma State Department of Health statistics, 22.4% of all Oklahomans suffer from some form of mental health disorder, third highest in the country, and 11.9% of all Oklahomans are substance abusers, second highest in the country.
Oklahomans affected by mental health and substance abuse are at catastrophic levels and the debilitating impact on Oklahoma is likely greater that the risk of those affected by mosquito-born diseases.
Oklahoma would not think twice about encouraging federal funds to be used to help protect us from insects and the dangers presented by them, but refuses to accept federal funding available for the treatment of issues that make individual Oklahomans dysfunctional and non-productive. As a result, our citizens go untreated and Oklahoma prisons remain overcrowded.
In the 1960’s the fog controlled mosquitos and killed ladybugs at the same time. Thank goodness the federal government has a program to release ladybugs to control the aphid population … and the list goes on.
– David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House