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

February 26, 2010

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?