Tuesday, September 30, 2008


So I've been in Oklahoma for a few days. The original plan was to fly into town and take my precocious niece to a concert featuring popular country music boy band The Rascal Flatts. Coincidentally, my father required some minor surgery, so I extended my trip a couple of days to stick around and read all the magazines in the hospital waiting room. And in between these two big events, I played with the kids, chatted with the folks, read the local paper and tried to ignore the Fox News Channel that seems to be broadcast to every TV in the state at all times.

I have a complicated relationship with Oklahoma, and especially my hometown. I always say that the best thing about visiting my hometown is leaving my hometown. But it's where my family insists upon living, so it's like they live on Main Street in Hell and I have to go there a couple of times a year. My tiny hometown was dying when I was a kid, done in by the disappearing oil industry and the insidious Wal-Mart takeover. Tired of seeing my hometown turn into a new dust bowl, I gathered some civic-minded kids together in high school and we asked the Chamber of Commerce if we could plant flowers and trees on main street, to help beautify the town. We offered to raise the money, plant the flowers and take care of them. The Chamber of Commerce said no. So I gave up. Giving up is all there is to do there.

If my hometown was dying in the 80s, now it's a moldering corpse of a place, full of junk stores and houses rotting into the ground right where they stand. It is depressing. My niece just loves it and never wants to leave. She has a horse, after all. I have long believed the whole town should be bulldozed and paved over, or ritualistically burned to the ground. But that's just me.

The Rascal Flatts put on a pretty good show at the new BOK Center in Tulsa. And it was kind of funny to hear them tell the crowd they'd just been in Los Angeles and to hear the crowd actually boo. I recalled a few times I'd heard performers tell crowds in Los Angeles they'd just come from Oklahoma or Texas, and the crowd just laughed. Anyway, the Rascals played up to the crowd quite a bit, assuring them that Tulsa had the best parties, the prettiest women and the most sensible, down-to-earth, yet fun-at-parties group of people in the world. The crowd believed them, never dreaming they probably tell every town that. And I suddenly had a major realization. Like, major.

I suddenly realized that people like to be talked down to. Enjoy being patronized. Love being condescended to. People want "aw shucks" celebrities and politicians to tell them what they want to hear, instead of the truth. It's bizarre, but I suddenly understood a lot more about human nature than I did before. People are comforted by familiarity, lies and country music philosophy. Anything more complex is viewed with suspicion. People not only want to be ignorant, they want their leaders and idols to just presume they're ignorant. We live in a world where there's no hope for truth or rational thought.

Aw shucks.

P.S. Sorry this was so depressing. I'm always like this after a trip to Oklahoma. It'll wear off in a couple of days.


Anonymous said...

"Life is like a grindstone: Whether it grinds you down or polishes you up depends on what you're made of." or what you make of yourself.
Is it the whole world, or just Oklahomans or just Nowatans who are all wallowing in our ignorance?

from one of the unwashed, ignorant Okie rednecks.

Shelby said...

I saw Rascal Flatts here in Atlanta, they actually did put on quite a good show. Glad you had a good trip.