I’ve never considered myself particularly brave. I’ve never been in a situation where heroic action was required. Granted, I might be braver than those who are younger and larger and appear to be stronger than I am who are too frightened to venture into the public arena without packing heat.
Having failed to recall the last (or first) brave thing I had done, I turned my attention to the last time I was actually scared – really scared, not just startled to my own mortality by one of the thunderbolts that have been chasing me for 40 years.
(You don’t get used to it. But, if Indra or Zeus have a message for me, I’d prefer sky-writing.)
Seven or eight years ago or so, I was driving with a pal, heading south on I-25 between Casper and Douglas, Wyoming. Cruise control set at 80.
Suddenly an aging land yacht with tinted windows took up residence about two inches off my back bumper. Long, lonesome prairie hills, scant traffic in late autumn and someone playing chicken – maybe an inch of my bumper for five…ten…15 minutes.
One can become concerned. I suggested taking one of the rare exits; my pal argued otherwise.
Just then my dogged pursuer pulled out to pass me. The driver was a tiny, elderly woman, looking to be about 4’8” and 85 – years and pounds. The guy beside her looked about the same.
So, when Supt. of Schools Ryan Walters says organized teachers terrorize him, I have a small point of reference to apprehensive trepidation.
Oklahomans overwhelmingly elected this foe of public education to oversee their schools. He has numerical superiority compared to the number of teachers in this state – especially with him and his goobernator puppet-master driving so many teachers across state lines.
So, why does Walters fear teachers?
Because they teach.
They teach facts. Not the White (anti-) Christian (anti-) Nationalist propaganda that Walters endorses from Hillsdale College.
They teach the American creed of diversity, equality and inclusiveness instead of white supremacy, subservience and a racial caste system.
Benefiting from an electorate indifferent or ignorant enough to elect him, Walters’s goal is to produce future voters as susceptible and gullible as their elders.
He and Gov. Kevin Stitt cannot tolerate the possibility that teachers might acknowledge the true diverse nature of society.
President Jimmy Carter said it best: “We become not a melting pot, but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams.”
Scary stuff – to fascists demanding conformity.
I was clearing grass out of my flower beds recently, working west to east on the long bed, east to west on the smaller one. I was inching along, the cushion of an outdoor seat offering some protection to my unreliable knees.
Sometimes, I pulled the grass out. Other times, to make sure I got all of the roots, I used my little trowel, which often found itself behind me. Invariably, when I reached back for it, I noticed unplucked grass tucked beneath the leaves of the flowers. I had missed those sprigs during my single-focused advance.
Thus, the power of different perspectives, different viewpoints. The chance for true success when dealing with the knotty problems of government and just getting along increases the more brain power we can train on our troubles.
If Walters, Stitt and their ilk were to acknowledge the diversity beyond their narrow little minds, they must grant those “others” – all of them – the same rights they claim for themselves.
And, if people with diverse perspectives exist (they do), and that existence grants them equal standing in society (it does), the obvious, logical conclusion is that they should be included in the community – and not demonized.
So, Walters and Stitt, our scaredy-cats-afraid-of-facts, are demanding that all schools within their control submit any courses, lesson plans or hints that they might be teaching diversity, equality and inclusion for the examination of party purity by their commissars – and an estimate of how much such programs cost. If they don’t provide the information, they could lose funding. If they provide evidence of actually educating their students, they could lose funding.
Walters has called DEI “Marxist at its core,” demonstrating again that the far right and far left meet at the bottom of the political circle with their respective states dictating every action of every individual.
The “fear” that Walters and others following the GOP bigotry game plan profess is that DEI programs will teach students about the less savory actions of our ancestors, that White students might feel ashamed or have their feelings hurt if they are taught about the horrors of slavery our kinfolk inflicted upon other human beings.
Recently, Sen. Markwayne Mullins made us proud by inadvertently blurting out the Oklahoma Substandard: “I don’t want reality.”
It’s just this refusal to acknowledge the situation that has resulted in the systemic racism that pervades society today. But, this system works just fine for right-wingers. They like professing ignorance or denying facts.
Here’s a fact. My first Edmondson ancestor hit colonial Maryland as an indentured servant, a Quaker escaping religious persecution in England. He died a wealthy man.
But, he did not quite pull himself up by his own bootstraps. His will included the allocation of 16 slaves among family members. Sixteen human beings in servitude. Obviously, his inner light was not shining as bright as it should have.
Can I be proud of that? He knew better. His religion taught him better. And he acted worse. If we insist upon being a country of ancestor worshipers, we will continue to promulgate their failings – as we have.
In April, Nuria Martinez-Keel of The Oklahoman reported, “Walters said these (DEI) concepts are vehicles to teach ‘harmful ideologies’ under the guise of promoting tolerance.”
Well, no one has ever accused fascists of being tolerant.
Her story cites former school administrator and current State Rep. Melissa Provenzano explaining: “Why our State Superintendent would display his lack of understanding of these basic workforce needs is hard to fathom. These words are not scary. When applied, they help us work productively and professionally with people that may be different from us in some way. That’s it.”
The GOP party line is not a party line. It is an intercom: only one voice is permitted – an authoritarian demand for conformity.
(Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party.)