Oh, Oklahoma

Jul. 16, 2010
The former Managing Editor of Bookforum, Nicole has written on books, comics, art, and whatnot for a number of ...

My husband is from Oklahoma. Much of his family—including his Democrat, vegetarian, locavore, bicycle-riding sister—reside there. Many of my friends in New York are from Oklahoma. The Flaming Lips are from Oklahoma—and live there still. In short, there are many reasons (for me, at least) to love the smallest of the panhandle states. Sadly, though, there are many reasons to steer clear of this corner of the Bible Belt. Oklahoma’s legislators frequently display an incredible knack for reactionary conservatism and obscene silliness. The same people who regularly criticize the Obama administration for wanting to tell people what to do, want to tell people what to do. Leading the charge are the state’s Republican senators, Tom Coburn and James Inhofe. The latter, for instance, stated that the birther movement, which questions the authenticity of Obama’s birth certificate, “has a point.” This sampling of outlandish claims is inspired by the first in the list, which appeared in The Economist just last week.

This fall, Oklahomans will vote on the “Save Our State” constitutional amendment that will ban courts from considering sharia in their judgments (as, for instance, the UK does). The author of the measure is state representative Rex Duncan, who, Okahoma’s tiny Muslim population (some 30,000) notwithstanding, fears the imaginary slippery slope: “This is a war for the survival of America.”

James Inhofe has many interesting things to say about global warming (not least perhaps because of his reliance on novelist Michael Crichton’s “scientific” claims). His most lasting comment: It is “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.”

This gem from Tom Coburn speaks for itself: “Lesbianism is so rampant in some of the schools in southeast Oklahoma that they’ll only let one girl go to the bathroom. Now think about it. Think about that issue. How is it that that’s happened to us?”

Coburn’s chief of staff and longtime conservative activist Michael Schwartz spoke last year as part of a conference session titled “The New Masculinity.” According to Schwartz, pornography has the power to make young people gay. Schwartz claims a gay man, his friend, who was dying of AIDS, remarked that “all pornography is homosexual pornography, because all pornography turns your sexual drive inwards.” Schwartz approves. “Do you think [an 11-year-old boy is] going to want to get a copy of Playboy? I’m pretty sure he’ll lose interest. That’s the last thing he wants!”

Coburn again. His warning to seniors about Obama’s health-care reform bill: “You’re gonna die sooner.”

Last year, the Flaming Lips’ “Do You Realize??” was nominated to be Oklahoma’s state song. Despite landslide approval, a small number of legislators voted against it. Among them, state representative (Republican) Corey Holland, who was put off by Michael Ivins’s hammer-and-sickle T-shirt, which the bassist wore to the capitol building. Quoth Holland: “The great thing about this country is he has the right to make whatever statement he wants to make. I have the right to be offended by that.”

Inhofe again: “There has never been a documented case of torture at Guantanamo.” TC mark

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Nicole Rudick

Nicole Rudick

The former Managing Editor of Bookforum, Nicole has written on books, comics, art, and whatnot for a number of …

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