As we begin the New Year, I humbly offer this resolution: Laugh.
Especially when it comes to Oklahoma politics.
We are a state beset with serious public policy issues, yet our elected elite includes a squadron of wingnuts careening through an alternate universe.
Their agendas do not focus on tax fairness or criminal justice reform, improved schools or upgraded highways, expanded mental health care better child protective services.
They are preoccupied instead with conspiracies -- forever paranoid about black helicopters, anti-Christian tyranny, jackbooted government thugs, any sign of one-world government creep.
As the Legislature prepares for the flint day of session, let's consider two especially egregious examples:
Incoming House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, has created a States Rights Committee to help Oklahoma reassert its sovereignty and distance itself from Uncle Sam's oppression.
And Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, is preparing legislation aimed at thwarting a United Nations seizure of Oklahoma land.
Shannon's folly is at least somewhat understandable in the context of the 2013 Oklahoma House. He was elected speaker -- in part -- on the backs of a considerable number of wingnut votes.
He has thrown the dogs a bone, knowing the new committee will serve mostly as a platform for its pack to make asses of themselves.
They'll woof and growl and bay over the Tenth Amendment and approve all sorts of unconstitutional proposals that ultimately will be tossed out in court -- at no cost to them politically (because far too many Oklahoma voters embrace the anti-fed screed), but at great cost to Oklahoma taxpayers who'll foot the bill for such nonsense.
It may be sound intra-caucus politics, but it's bad news for Oklahoma -- not to mention full of irony.
As you may know, Shannon is the state's first African American House speaker. Yet he was author of the anti-affirmative action proposal that state voters approved last November.
And now, he creates a new committee focusing on "states rights" -- code words for Old South oppression. It's the equivalent of waving the Confederate flag and whistlin' Dixie at an NAACP meeting.
It may generate praise among the uber-right and the Fox News set, but it sends a terrible signal to rational Americans -- particularly business leaders -- about Oklahoma's priorities and its racial sensitivities (or lack thereof).
Shannon is going to learn the hard way what happens when you give the unhinged a bigger microphone. The opportunity for mischief -- and embarrassment -- increases exponentially.
If we're lucky -- real lucky -- this committee will fade into oblivion. If not, Oklahoma's reputation, both nationally and internationally, could end up paying a severe price for Shannon's folly.
There's another irony worth noting: The lights are on today in Oklahoma because of federal dollars. Yup, evil old Uncle Sugar's cash.
For every tax dollar that Oklahomans send to Washington, we receive $1.35 in return. Imagine our state without the incredible reservoirs (thank you, Sen. Robert S. Kerr). Imagine our state without job-creating federal installations like Tinker Air Force Base, Fort Sill (ironically in Shannon's hometown), the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Severe Storms laboratory -- just to name a few.
Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. Are we so dense as to buy the anti-fed clap-trap? Shannon and House Republicans evidently think so.
Then, there's Anderson's proposal. Unfortunately, it almost certainly will attract negative publicity, serving as fodder for late night comedians and critics who'll use it to besmirch Oklahoma as a backwater locked in a bygone era when the John Birch Society was at its zenith.
Anderson wants to block Oklahoma towns from aligning with groups connected to the United Nations' Agenda 21, an environmental-protection initiative developed more than two decades ago with considerable input from President George H.W. Bush's administration.
The uber-right is sounding the alarms, viewing it as the onset of one-world government, nothing less than an all-out assault on private property rights and national sovereignty.
The only silver lining -- if there is one -- is that we Okies aren't the only ones whose elected wingnuts pursuing such tomfoolery.
Take Montana, for example.
According to High Country News, Mont. Rep. Jerry O'Neill has asked the state to pay him in gold and silver coins, apparently because he fears the U.S. dollar is in free-fall.
Moreover, O'Neill insists the U.S. Constitution prohibits states from using "anything but gold and silver coin as tender in payment of debts."
Wackier still were the recent antics of a former Montana lawmaker and unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate, Joel Boniek, who interrupted a court proceeding by arguing the justice of the peace could not prove she is a public official.
Boniek was arrested last July on several charges -- including resisting arrest -- after he failed to stop at an emergency roadblock. He arrived for his day in court with "a throng of supporters eager to heckle jackbooted government officials."
Amidst the furor, the judge recessed the case for another day and left the courtroom.
"I'm in charge now," announced Boniek.
"No, you're not," an officer responded.
"I announce the case dismissed as the last man standing in the courtroom," Boniek declared.
Sad to say, but this is where Oklahoma is headed -- unless voters start paying attention to whom they're electing.
The people's serious business is getting lost in all the faux controversies generated by wingnuts. It's called majoring in the minors.
It's infuriating. It's embarrassing. It's unconscionable. It's enough to make you cry when you consider the children that aren't being adequately protected, the mentally ill desperate for help and the urban public schools teetering on collapse.
Remember our New Year's resolution? Laugh. Early. Often. Don't stroke out over the nonsense. Keep in good humor. But get to work. Demand the elected leadership in Oklahoma City quash the game playing and solve real problems, not contrived ones.
If they don't, this is just another New Year's resolution that won't be worth the paper it's printed on.
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