Who needs fiction when you have the Oklahoma Legislature?
Or maybe I should say science fiction.
There have been some other-worldly, parallel-universe moments within the marbled halls of the state Capitol over the years, but surely nothing could top this:
First-term Sen. Ralph Shortey has introduced legislation that would ban the use of aborted human fetuses in food.
Cannibalism? In Oklahoma?
It's so preposterous that Shortey has rightly become the target of lampooners everywhere.
Unfortunately, so has Oklahoma -- shamed yet again by the nonsensical utterances of an elected official who makes us all look like knuckle-dragging Neanderthals.
This is actually getting quite serious. Sure, other states have their share of buffoons that embarrass them. But Oklahoma's increasing penchant for electing reality-challenged lawmakers from the political fringe is damaging the state's hopes for a brighter future.
Look at all Oklahoma has to recommend to the world: Natural beauty and wide-open spaces. Economical land and housing. Low taxes and bountiful water. A cutting-edge CareerTech system and friendly, engaging people.
All that is lost when the wingnuts command the spotlight, spewing ignorance and intolerance more befitting the Dark Ages than the 21st century.
Can't you just see corporate executives and top researchers punching the "ignore" buttons on their cell phones when it's an Oklahoma business recruiter calling?
This isn't the first time, of course, that Shortey has demonstrated he's a bubble off plumb. Or that we've wondered what the hell his working-class, south Oklahoma City constituents were thinking when they elected him in 2010.
In his first session last year, Shortey introduced measures that would have allowed police to confiscate homes and cars belonging to illegal immigrants and denied citizenship to Oklahoma-born children of illegal immigrants.
Even worse, he's apparently a card-carrying Birther -- suspicious that President Obama wasn't really born in the good-ol'-U.S. of A.
So Shortey filed a bill that would have required presidential candidates to provide proof of citizenship before they could appear on the Oklahoma ballot.
This is the actual wording of Shortey's Fetus Follies, aka Senate Bill 1418: No person or entity shall manufacture or knowingly sell food or any other product intended for human consumption which contains aborted human fetuses in the ingredients or which used aborted human fetuses in the research or development of any of the ingredients.
Where did he get the idea? There are two possible explanations: Either he missed his calling and should be pursuing a full-time career in science fiction or he's been surfing the web, boning up on the latest conspiracy theories and nonsense.
Want to guess which? Yup, you can thank that bastion of accuracy known as the Internet for this crusade. It turns out Shortey read an article about an anti-abortion group's boycott of companies that allegedly use embryonic stem cells for the research and development of artificial sweeteners.
"As a pro-life advocate," he recently told the Oklahoman, "it kind of disturbed me that we would use aborted embryos or aborted human fetuses to extract stem cells and use them for research to basically make things taste better."
The boycott apparently stemmed from claims that Pepsi had contracted with San Diego-based Senomyx to develop a new low-calorie sweetener, allegedly using human embryonic stem cells in the testing process.
In an April 2011 email to the Florida-based anti-abortion group Children of God For Life, Pepsi spokesperson Margaret Corsi denied the company was using fetal tissue in its research.
"Unfortunately," she wrote, "there is some misinformation being circulated related to research techniques that have been used for decades by universities, hospitals, government agencies, and private companies around the world. These claims are meant to suggest that human fetal tissue is somehow used in our research.
"That is both inaccurate and something we would never do or even consider. It also is inaccurate to suggest that tissue or cells somehow are being used as product ingredients. That's dangerous, unethical and against the law. Every ingredient in every one of our products is reviewed and approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration."
The FDA also told the Associated Press it is "not aware of this particular concern."
The Internet is a glorious technology, but it's also full of malarkey like this. That's the reason there are web sites like Snopes.com and UrbanLegends.com that are devoted full-time to investigating the accuracy of online claims.
Here's what's especially disconcerting about Shortey's proposal: It's one thing for Aunt Sally to believe the spurious contents of a chain email sent by one of her dearest lifelong friends. I know them -- they wouldn't lie to me or mislead me.
It's something else entirely for an elected public official -- one who's hired by the taxpayers to be educated on the issues and to accurately inform his constituency -- to embrace this sort of paranoiac, conspiratorial nonsense.
You can come to no other conclusion than that Shortey has somehow been conditioned -- far-out church teachings, perhaps? -- to swallow this kind of bunk.
Why? Because the fundamentalist fringe is anti-science and anti-intellectual. They actually fear the human mind, afraid it will thwart their efforts to usher-in an American Christian theocracy -- their version of heaven on earth.
I don't know whether to pity Shortey or to be afraid of him and his unhinged worldview.
Either way, it's clear that he represents an alternative universe around us, one that if we're not careful could do serious damage to our state, nation and way of life.
--Arnold Hamilton is editor of The Oklahoma Observer; www.okobserver.net
Share this article: