Politics & Society

Why can’t we work together to build a coordinated progressive community in Oklahoma?

Tonight I found out about yet another campaign of critical interest to progressive Oklahomans that is taking place all this month culminating this week with special events, and Friday at the state Capitol — and it’s Midnight of that Friday as I discover the info (rather accidentally) and write this.

Earlier this week, a health care rally on the Capitol steps sparsely attended because few knew about it. Amazingly, the Oklahoman actually covered it, and printed a picture of three or four people. Imagine if a couple of hundred supporters of health care reform had been there and THAT picture had been printed. It would not have changed the vote of any Oklahoma elected official, but the psychological effect on other supporters, and possibly on the public might have been priceless.

Not that I personally should be singled out for notification, that’s not what I’m getting at. (Though no doubt part of my frustration at the moment lies in the fact that, in addition to this blog, I have been operating what seeks to be a central Oklahoma progressive events calendar, for 5 years or so, and have tried and tried to get it read and recognized by the community as a tool they might find useful for their own work. It remains obscure and I pick up news of events to add to it wherever I happen to come across them, missing many, finding many too late. I also sometimes despair of its point and don’t bother updating it.)

No, this is about community, or the lack of it, in what I somewhat facetiously call the “Oklahoma progressive community.” I know it’s larger than many outside it suspect, but how can you fault them for being unaware, we never are seen together, are we?

We are in the middle of arguably the most conservative, politically closed state in the country. It’s understood that with rare exceptions, we cannot count on the corporate media in this area to do one bit of this communication for us; quite the opposite — we almost hope to be ignored by that media, rather than have our mission, our words, our efforts, sarcastically demeaned in public.

We have to find or create other means, if we want to find a way to support our activities, expand the reach of our voices, engage in making real social change, rather than just bemoaning our fate amongst ourselves.

A number of organizations have their internal email lists and phone banks, which operate at varying levels of efficiency and effectiveness, depending on volunteer activity that ebbs and flows. Sometimes the best to hope for is getting that small list alerted so some event or action.

In the last year, quite a few Okie progressives have found Facebook to be a way to build some worthwhile connections, using tools there for forming groups, posting events and the like. But many, including some of the most informed, either don’t want anything to do with online networking, or if they do, use it sparingly, or just don’t have the time to add it to their already packed agendas.

But why can’t we do better? Why can’t we find a way to communicate with one another? Then, having this community awareness, supporting one another’s actions and events, projects and campaigns.

I believe that finding ways to communicate better would expand our numbers as well as the enthusiasm for participating, volunteering and working for change.

If we did have the tools and commitment to engage in such communication, what would it look like? What do we need to build to make that happen? How do we build it? Once such an infrastructure is build, how do we nurture and promote it to keep it thriving?

Is this a pipe dream in Oklahoma? Are we just fated to be permanently alienated, in our small disconnected cliques, griping about how ineffectual it all is?

Or am I just having a bad week?


  1. thoughts (for what they’re worth)

    – My frustration with some organizations is that I know they’re out there, they have events, provide essential information and services but I don’t know what they’re trying to achieve, what victories we can obtain. Do progressive organizations have well planned campaigns that can spur membership and public attention?

    I was personally very frustrated when established members of the gay community (and some established progressives) sought to boycott a local restaurant as a main tactic for opposing the OKC school board.

    I get tired of ‘us vs. them’. It’s easy in Oklahoma to get stuck in that because there are so many wingnuts, but I just don’t want to waste that much energy on calling them out when better tactics and strategies are available.

    I understand your frustration, but at the same time there are campaigns that organizations could be running that attract more people, achieve real/quantitative change, and create some positive momentum for Oklahoma progressives. I think some coalitions could be built around campaigns that would help build networks, etc…but at the same time if organizations are running campaigns, getting victories, and creating positive change for Oklahomans, how networked do we need to be?

  2. I think the problem is that people in Oklahoma are apathetic by nature. I’ve witnessed this for years in the punk rock scene. People will go to things that they know and I think that is just how people are here.

  3. We be common folk untainted by Nu Yawk fantasies. We love God, family, city, county and sometimes we even vote for a progressive…sometimes in rare moves of sympathy for those not able to think for themselves.

    Most Okies know that Progressivism is a code word for Collectivism using other peoples money for grandiose schemes that please the rich and academic folk. God bless their little egg heads.

    1. Jim, you seem to not know the history of the state you claim to personify with your stereotypes and cynicism, nor credit the many progressive Oklahomans who make the whole state proud (while perhaps choosing to ignore their favoring progress and pluralism over stagnation and elitism), like Woody Guthrie, Will Rogers, Walter Cronkite, Wilma Mankiller. Lest you think all progressive Okies are dead, Bill Moyers, Cornell West and Elizabeth Warren are all from Oklahoma. Read anything about Kristin Chenoweth’s antics on Broadway lately? How about Brad Pitt, Megan Mullally and Ron Howard?

      Also obviously, base on what you think you “know,” you have adopted the distortions from such propaganda organs as Fox News (based in Oh. My. God. New York City! or, if you like to feign hillbilly chic: Nu Yawk) about what progressivism is.

      You also failed to notice, perhaps in your haste to condemn and belittle that which you fear, that the post’s question was clearly aimed at those who who do self-identify as progressives (“we”). So if I wasn’t talking to you, why are you so interested?

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