BY DAVID PERRYMAN
Deep in the vaults of Warner Bros. there is a series of Merrie Melodies cartoons featuring Sam the Sheepdog and Ralph E. Wolf. It has been years since I have seen the animation; however, the tan sheepdog with the unruly mop of auburn hair and the thin brown wolf that bears an uncanny resemblance to Wile E. Coyote [except for Ralph’s red nose and Wile’s yellow eyes] are readily recalled.
The gist of the series was that each morning, Sam and Ralph would arrive at the sheep pasture, punch in at precisely 8 a.m. on a tree-mounted time clock. As they arrived, they would cordially greet each other with the familiar, “Morning, Ralph” and “Morning, Sam” and when the whistle blew, assume their respective positions as predator and protector of the sheep.
All day long, each and every day, Ralph would pursue sheep and Sam would always foil Ralph’s best laid plans to nab one. The natural rivals were relentless, admirably performing the job that nature had assigned to them. Often, when the noon whistle blew, the two adversaries would eat lunch together and then after the break, resume battle for an afternoon of exhaustive combat.
Without fail, at exactly 5 p.m. the whistle would sound and the two gladiators would gather their empty lunch pails, and as they exited the meadow, both would clock out. As they departed, with all the civility of a couple of fishing buddies who had spent a day of recreation together, they said, “Goodnight, Ralph” and “Goodnight, Sam.”
The innate humor of the sedate, if not affection, off-duty relationship between these two personified natural enemies has wound itself into American pop culture. “G’night Ralph … G’night Sam” gives us pause because it presents us with a dichotomy that is both unusual and unexpected.
Because we are relational creatures, we are comfortable with relationships that we understand and we are wary of those we do not. We perceive that dogs do not like cats, and consequently when we see a family’s feline sunning on top of the family canine, we react with a chuckle or with wonder.
It is therefore natural when we see, for instance, a domestically raised tiger cub socialize and play with actual domestic animals, to wonder how long that tenuous relationship will last. In other words, what event or series of events will snap that scenario back into what we perceive as “reality.”
In the political realm, incivility in the United States House of Representatives and Washington, DC gridlock in general appear to indicate that Ralph and Sam are at odds around the clock in our nation’s Capital. To the extent that Oklahoma’s two senators and five representatives contribute to the gridlock, voters this year in the Sooner State have the rare opportunity to communicate to both Senators and a U.S. Representative that they prefer civility over gridlock.
Closer to home, there are bright spots. I have been pleased seeing bipartisan relationships established and grow not only among freshmen, but also seasoned rural legislators who have shown the importance of leadership across party lines to protect counties like those in my district.
Yes, there are times that serious and genuine debate is held, but with the exception of eight or nine legislators, when the final vote is taken, we are able to go on to the next bill and address it without allowing any lingering ill will to interfere.
While I have only experienced two speakers in my first term as legislator, I can honestly say that Speaker Jeff Hickman is a fair and forthright legislator who manages the affairs of the Oklahoma House of Representatives with honesty, integrity and statesmanship. Speaker Hickman assessed leadership positions when he became Speaker of the House and made some necessary changes to eliminate areas of gridlock and partisanship.
I was very honored when Speaker Hickman placed me on the Economic Development and Financial Services Committee of the House within the first few days after he assumed leadership. Since then he has also added me to the Government Modernization Committee. I continue to serve on all of my original committees: the General Government Committee, the Tourism and International Relations Committee and the Higher Education Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee.
While Washington, DC is the epitome of dysfunction, I believe that by and large, the Oklahoma House of Representatives is seeking bipartisan solutions. Now, it is time for that bipartisanship to promote educational funding and measures that have real meaning.
Last week, over 25,000 educators, parents and students came to the Capitol in an exciting demonstration to vocalize concerns about the state’s lack of funding for our public schools. What will be the response of government?
In 1990, Republican Gov. Henry Bellmon was not only instrumental in the passage of HB1017 education reform, but also the catalyst. Gov. Bellmon showed courage and leadership.
Oklahomans are looking for the next bipartisan leader of courage. Where will they find it?
G’night Ralph … G’night Sam …
– David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives