May 2017

A Wall of Separation: The Ten Commandments (Part One)

Ten Commandments MonumentOklahoma is one of several states which simply cannot get over the desire of an influential minority to have a monument of the Ten Commandments placed at the Capital. The stumbling point is constitutionality, and Supreme Court rulings on this issue appear a bit murky at first glance. Is it constitutional to post the Ten Commandments on public grounds? Is it constitutional to prevent it, if someone else wants to put them there? The short answer to both questions is… Yes. Sort of. But not really. So, no. Well… maybe.

Boomers & Sooners, Part Three (Sooner Born & Sooner Bred)

Far & AwayEven before the census codified it, the sense that the nation was filling up and land was running out was hardly news to Boomers and others chasing those last few opportunities in the west. The future state of Oklahoma, once so disparaged that they put the Indians there so white guys could have the GOOD land, was looking better and better as other options fell away. 

Necessity, it seems, was the mother of invasion.

Boomers & Sooners, Part Two (An Editorial, A Payne, and Some Booming)

David L. PayneLike many who make history, David L. Payne had the unwavering conviction that he was right. A hunter, scout, politician, and businessman, he was certainly never at a loss for things to do. Then again, he rarely stayed in the same place for more than a few years at a time… so there’s that. He had a common-law wife and a son who was, by definition, “out-of-wedlock.” He volunteered to fight for the Union as soon as the war broke out, then stayed in the army to help “civilize” the Great Plains after. He fought under Custer and befriended Kit Carson and Wild Bill Hickok – suggesting he must have been something of a character himself, just to keep up.

Why all the background? Because for all practical purposes, if you're an Okie, he’s your Daddy.

Boomers & Sooners, Part One (The Unassigned Lands)

Boomer Marching GuyMost of you are at least generally aware that both “Boomer” and “Sooner” refer to some sort of law-breaking, rule-bending, cheating, stealing, land-grabbing behavior on the part of the state’s earliest settlers. A broader view, however, suggests that cheating and stealing land are actually way down the list of atrocities involved in the birthing and developing of our 46th State. Compared to Indian Removal, the Dawes and Curtis Acts, lynching, the Tulsa Race Riots, fracking, and the current state legislature, a little hiding in the grass seems rather tame.

Defining Moments

Holmes Sexy"The ejaculation had been drawn from my companion by the fact that our door had been suddenly dashed open, and that a huge man had framed himself in the aperture. His costume was a peculiar mixture of the professional and of the agricultural, having a black top-hat, a long frock-coat, and a pair of high gaiters, with a hunting-crop swinging in his hand…" 

So Holmes’ tastes seem to have run a bit Village People or Steam Punk. Fair enough.

Joan of Awkward (Addressing the Supernatural In History)

Joan of Arc - Burning At The StakeSomewhere around age 13, Joan begin having visions and hearing voices from Saint Michael, Saint Margaret, and Saint Catherine – telling her that she must be a good girl and stay faithful, and that she had a destiny and purpose far beyond her upbringing. By itself, these voices are a curiosity. What harm, though, in a child believing God wants her to go to church and behave herself?

It's when they tell you to start interfering in political affairs and leading armies that things get serious – and way more interesting.

Land Ownership and the Foundations of Democracy, Part Four (Maybe Radio...)

Tom Joad

The Great Depression and its sidekick, Dust Bowl, were game-changers for the nation and the world. Once taking on the role of helper and fixer, the federal government would never again be much limited by all that silly federalism stuff. Any number of programs and laws cobbled together in desperation would long outlive those they served, and economic theory would require several decades of refiguring and rewriting.

Something else was going on as well, though – an abrupt shift in land ownership and what it meant.

Land Ownership and the Foundations of Democracy, Part Three (Necessity Is A Mother)

We The White Male Landowners

If land ownership is essential to establish investment and credibility, and thus essential for the growth and smooth functioning of a presumed republic, then that republic must ensure that land is available on practical terms to anyone desiring to participate. Fortunately, this radically idealistic new nation just happened to have come into existence on the far eastern shore of a rather extensive continent – one uninhabited by anyone… “civilized.” Land wouldn’t be a problem for many, many centuries, surely. 

They were a bit off on that particular estimation.

Land Ownership and the Foundations of Democracy, Part Two (Infallible Maxims and Chosen People)

Jefferson GreenWe’ve looked last time at the role of land in relation to democracy, at least in the minds of the Founders. It turns out that while this new government was certainly trying to take “consent of the governed” way past anything tried before, there remained some concern about how, exactly, to decide who was and wasn’t qualified to “consent” on behalf of this baby nation. The general opinion seemed to be that land ownership was a good sign of minimal competence. If a man could make decent decisions and work hard enough to take care of himself and his immediate family, he clearly wasn’t a complete moron. 

They put it fancier than that, of course.

Land Ownership and the Foundations of Democracy, Part One (What Made This Particular Destiny So Manifest?)

American ProgressThe rallying cry had been “No taxation without representation!” The phrase has survived, but over the years we’ve lost sight of something rather obvious in these words, and inherent to our founding ideology. If paying taxes means you deserve to have a voice in your government, then it’s not unreasonable to suggest that having a voice in your government is contingent on your willingness and ability to pay taxes. In other words, you have to own something valuable enough to be taxed. Like, say… land.