The Oklahoma Attitude

Most thinking Oklahomans cringe at the public image created by the likes of Sally Kern and Randy Terrill, whose public expressions seem filled with fear, bigotry, and intolerance. If their rantings are our face to the world, then we could be considered, justifiably, to be classed with Arkansas and Mississippi as ignorant country hicks, tradition-bound and fearful of change.

I have found that the truth is much different. Oklahomans still retain the traditions of the Old West – a chivalric code that recognizes tolerance for diversity and an admiration for achievement, both physical and intellectual. Even in the smallest towns people are generally friendly and courteous, and if some local farmer's daughter never seems to get married and has a female roommate, well, that's ok because she's really a nice person. The local welder may speak with a drawl, but he may also have read Herodotus and Gibbon.

The other ray of sunshine is that, underlying and supporting the idea of Oklahoma as the Frontier is a firm, basic defiance of authority embedded in the Oklahoma psyche. The Sooners, after all, whom every respectable Oklahoman admires and uses as a model for admirable behavior, were the cheaters who defied the laws, rules and authorities to get here before the gun went off and stake their claim and build a homestead on the treeless prairie we love.

There are times when the pronouncements of our politicians make me fear for my species, but these Oklahoma traditions of courtesy, admiration for achievement, and a healthy defiance of authority give me hope for a renaissance in our time.