Is it too early to celebrate Thanksgiving?
Whether Republican or Democrat, Libertarian or independent, Cowboy or Sooner, Oklahomans already have plenty of reasons count their blessings these days.
Let us thank God for ...
Missouri. GOP U.S. Senate nominee Todd Akin's "legitimate" rape lunacy surely will help America forget Oklahoma state Sen. Ralph Shortey's very public fear of fetus-filled foods.
Kansas. U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder's skinny-dipping in the water on which Jesus walked surely will help America forget Oklahoma state Rep. Sally Kern's wacky assertion that homosexuals are a greater threat than terrorists.
Texas. Lubbock County Judge Tom Head's warning that President Obama's re-election could ignite civil war and a United Nations invasion surely will help America forget that Oklahomans voted en masse to ban Sharia Law -- even though it's never been an issue in U.S. courts.
Shouldn't we all be giving thanks that -- for once -- our grand state isn't leading the crackpot parade, red-faced because of the inane utterances of goofball officeholders or candidates?
Isn't it wonderful not to be ambushed by out-of-state friends or relatives about the latest Kernism or Shorteyism?
Or to see our state ridiculed as an ignorant backwater on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart or Late Night With David Letterman?
The truth, of course, is that Oklahoma's growing wingnut brigade -- now approaching three dozen in the state Legislature -- is but a nanosecond away from shaming us all once again.
And though it might be tempting to slap our knees and guffaw over the utter stupidity of Akin, Yoder and Head, it is worth pausing to reflect on what happens when extremist elements grab power.
When will our elected leaders learn that extremists aren't rational? That they can't be negotiated with? That if you give them an inch they take a mile?
In the Oklahoma Legislature, corporatist Republicans control both houses, but leadership has tossed the noisy fringe more than a few bones (usually involving abortion) in an attempt to keep the GOP caucus somewhat unified.
The magnanimity is never reciprocated, of course. The wingnuts want it their way -- period. They worked overtime to create headaches for those in charge, mucking up the legislative machinery whenever possible and scheming to sabotage some of leadership's most prized goals.
They believe they are on a mission from God or some other cosmic power (yes, many of them reside in an alternate universe -- though it's not clear which one).
Worse, the fringers mounted challenges against key legislative incumbents in last June's primary, working to depict them as RINOs -- Republicans In Name Only. It turned out the rabid rightwing dogs had more bark than bite -- at least not enough to overcome the power of incumbency (read: big money support).
But as we've discussed before, the real problem was that fear of Tea Party challenges in low-turnout GOP primaries prompted some normally reasonable Republican lawmakers to pander to the extremists.
Remember Sen. Brian Crain's Personhood debacle? It didn't help Crain. He was rewarded with a Tea Party opponent who made a real race of it.
Republican legislative incumbents aren't the only ones who've made this mistake. More than a few Democrats think President Obama made a serious mistake by attempting to negotiate with congressional Republicans -- who made clear their No. 1 goal was that the president would be a one-term wonder.
Both Republicans and Democrats relish the spectacle of the other party's extremes grabbing the spotlight.
Can't you just imagine embattled Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill lifting her eyes to the heavens and offering thanks for Akin's manna-like tomfoolery?
But it's time the adults in both parties realize the Tea Partiers are like the proverbial schoolyard bullies: One day they extort your lunch money, the next day they demand your Toms.
The only thing that works is to punch back hard, early and often, knocking them to the nutball fringe where those with zero credibility preach to the Tin-Foil-Hat choir.
Has the GOP's state legislative leadership learned this lesson? Has Obama?
The national GOP leadership reacted like Olympian Usain Bolt, sprinting away from Akin and his crazy views on sexual assault.
A permanent change in their approach to fringe elements like Akin? Or political expediency?
Maybe we're the ones who need to learn this lesson first. Maybe we're the ones who must no longer remain silent in otherwise polite company when someone spreads the gospel of extremism. Maybe we need to be the ones to set the tone, to help give our elected officials some backbone.
If we do, maybe we can reduce the likelihood our state again will find itself the target of national scorn and ridicule.
Yeah ... probably not.
No sooner had Akin, Yoder and Head (sounds like a law firm, doesn't it?) provided a treasure trove of material to the late night jokesters and the chattering class, Oklahoma got back in the game.
It wasn't one of our elected leaders or candidates this time, however. It was the public school powers-that-be in Prague, withholding the diploma of this year's Valedictorian because she dared include the world "hell" in her graduation speech.
All Kaitlin Nootbaar did was quote a line from the movie Twilight -- something to which she and her graduating seniors could relate -- "They ask us now what we want to be, and we say who the hell knows."
Oh, the humanity! Ever heard the word hell in church? On TV? I am no prude or religious zealot. And I am careful about when and where I (infrequently) use vulgarities.
But there is such a thing as common sense -- or should be. Nootbaar didn't drop the F-bomb. She didn't utter a racial epithet. She didn't attack the school administration.
Even the old sitcom Happy Days about 1950s Americana oft invoked the phrase "h-e-double-hockey-stick."
Look, I am not oblivious to the fact that schools have the authority to monitor and control what is said to captive audiences.
I also am all too well aware that power-tripping like this ends up not only damaging the reputation of Prague and its public schools, but also the entire state.
Give the young lady her diploma. And get the hell off the stage, Mr. Principal and Mr. Superintendent and whoever else is girding your inane approach to discipline.
Thank goodness for Missouri, Kansas and Texas. Or Oklahoma would be a laughingstock yet again.
Share this article: