The immense, mindless violence of a tornado hitting a small Oklahoma town, turning houses into splinters and crushing people under rubble, including children, has rightfully dominated the American airwaves for the past few days. Oklahoma is a great state, a state with profound history, a place of big plans where Native Americans play an outsized role in politics and the economy and hardworking descendants of cowboys and homesteaders build admirable lives in its cities and small towns.
Oklahoma voters need to get past the pathos, however, to reconsider the politicians they keep electing to office, who adopt policies that harm Oklahomans and directly contribute to such tragedies. Oklahoma has among the more corrupt and more despicable politics in the country, obsessed with hating gays and local Muslims (all three of them), with stingy and mean-spirited government, with controlling women, and with dirty oil and gas that is destroying our environment.
The sequestration, which your GOP politicians support, will cut funding for the National Weather Service, which performs little duties like… warning about tornadoes. Is that really what you want? If not, tell them so, and at the next polls, throw the bums out.
The hatred of government regulation (i.e. of good government) by Oklahoma’s political class impedes regulations like ensuring that there are shelters in all public schools. All they’d have to do is not give Big Oil $200 million in tax breaks a year, and they’d have the money to implement it.
Oklahoma’s senators, James Inhofe and Tom Coburn, voted against relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy in New York. You put them in office. They don’t care about people like you, living through the aftermath of a natural disaster. You should remember their position when they run for reelection.
Inhofe’s special pleading that Oklahoma’s disaster is ‘not like Sandy’ strikes the rest of the country as disgusting. This man is your public face, Oklahoma. Do you really want him there? You do understand that the rest of us have to support Federal relief aid for you in order for you to get it. We won’t hold you hostage to Inhofe’s small-mindedness, but we don’t appreciate your voting for him when you want our help.
And here’s the biggy. The tornado that so harmed you may not have been related to global warming. But it is indisputable that climate change will produce massive storms that will hit the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. By pumping out gas and oil you are dooming other small towns and big cities along the coasts to future destruction and loss of life, including childrens’ lives, of the sort you just suffered, except on a much bigger scale. You are not in any doubt that the climate can be dangerous. Please, please rethink your energy policies and turn in a big way to wind and solar (you have a lot of both) as quickly as possible. You’ve recently made a start with wind energy, but it is frankly a drop in the bucket compared with what you could do — indeed, you’re the state with perhaps the biggest wind power potential in the whole country. You need to build out your grid to supply the rest of us, and you need to put in turbines everywhere they make sense.
Your Senator Inhofe, in the back pocket of Big Oil, denies all this, and makes your state look buffoonish to the rest of the world.
Disasters require policy responses, to forestall them and to deal with the aftermath of the ones that can’t be prevented. Wise policy responses are crafted by caring, educated, wise politicians. You don’t seem to have many of those, and you need to pay more attention when you go to the ballot box. Otherwise, you are harming yourselves and the rest of us.