The horribly bigoted and intolerant, anti-Muslim comments made by Oklahoma house representative John Bennett are not unusual in Oklahoma. And when you consider that he expressed a desire to treat American Muslims as a “cancer in our nation that needs to be cut out,” I immediately think about American Indians who suffered horribly under the same kind of mentality. Fortunately, their culture survived despite attempts to destroy everything “Indian.”
And for such intolerant speech that violates the US Constitution, I get the sense that many Republican Okies couldn’t care less about his breech of decency. I can’t help but hear the loud echoes of outrage coming from conservatives when some politician is believed to have breached his or her sworn oath. But when it comes to the violation of the freedom of non-Christian religions, the silence from the political evangelical right is deafening. I think Jesus referred to these people as “hypocrites.”
The culture of the Oklahoma GOP can hardly be separated from the culture of the Southern Baptist Convention. Ironically, the GOP was organized to end slavery in America, and the Southern Baptist Convention was organized to defend it. I think the Baptists won. And after almost 20 years of activism in the Oklahoma GOP, I can say with conviction that I feel ashamed to be associated with what it has become. While I cherish the friendships that have emerged over the years, the toxic nature of rampant authoritarianism has just gotten out of hand.
Whether we are discussing marriage equality, religious freedom, free trade, crony capitalism, tax reform, property rights, or just treating people with human dignity, the Oklahoma GOP seems to always be on the wrong side of history. While it is my desire to see Oklahoma become a great state, advance the ideals of liberty, the current GOP leadership sows the seeds of ignorance, intolerance, and anti-intellectualism while at the same time destroying its brand in profound ways.
And while youthful Oklahomans are overwhelmingly rejecting that message, we’ll get another round of intolerant bigots that will rise up, thump their unread bibles, and lecture the rest of us about their piety while speaking of Jesus and advocating the murder of people they don’t like. That’s their brand of “faith, family and freedom.” It’s a sick and twisted world out there.