Go Big Red

People like to refer to places like San Francisco, Austin, Ann Arbor, Madison and Berkeley, etc., et al, as leftist bubbles … Ann Arbor is often described as something like ‘50 square miles surrounded by reality,’ or some such nonsense.

Sometimes, it appears there might just be something behind it, I must admit. Case in point tonight: Berkeley:

‘Residents of this left-leaning city will have a chance to vote in November on whether they think prostitution should be a crime. An advocacy group announced Wednesday it had gathered nearly 3,200 signatures, about 1,000 more than needed to get the initiative on the ballot. … Beyond its symbolic value, the ballot initiative would order the police department to give the “lowest priority” to enforcing anti-prostitution laws.’

Okay, fine. Many in the rest of Amurrica might say these people are out of touch with reality.

But right-wing fascist middle Amurrica is hardly immune to living-in-a-bubble syndrome itself. Case in point: My ancestral hometown, Duncan, OK, which just finished a week of celebrating the 80th anniversary of the founding of Halliburton, that behemoth much in the news these days.

And the articles in my former employer’s rag, The Duncan Banner, are perfect examples of bubble-ism themselves: they praise the company to the hilt while never once mentioning Dick Cheney or any other nefarious goings-on. A quote from an article entitled, ‘Big Red Flies High’ about a banquet in the company’s honor:

‘State Sen. Daisy Lawler and Rep. Jari Askins, U.S. Congressman Tom Cole and Duncan Vice Mayor Carl Bowers read proclamations issued by their respective levels of government naming June 19 as Halliburton Day in both the city and the state. Askins also read a similar proclamation by Gov. Brad Henry. Cole said he was especially impressed and touched by Halliburton’s many contributions when the Murrah Building was bombed in Oklahoma City in 1995. He talked about Halliburton’s key role in raising the funds for the memorial that now stands at the site.
’“When that tragedy happened for our state and we wanted to memorialize it, do something about it, Governor Keating went down and saw Dick Cheney, when he was the CEO of Halliburton, and said, ‘I’d like for you and your people to lead the fund-raising effort for us.’” Cole noted. “When you go to that memorial and that magnificent tribute to the darkest hour of the country and state’s history, Halliburton helped make it happen.” He also pointed out Halliburton was instrumental in the drive to put a dome on the state capitol building. The company contributed $1 million.
‘Cole added, “I think what I really appreciate the most about Halliburton, as an American and not just as an Oklahoman, is when I was in Iraq last October, and I saw the extraordinary services that you provided to our men and women—food service, supplies, logistics, whatever was necessary, at enormous personal risk and enormous personal sacrifice.”
‘Cole presented Halliburton officials with a certificate of Special Congressional Recognition for its support of the United States military, especially during the recent Iraq war.’

Well, my goodness. Halliburton, savior of Amurrica. There’s not a whiff of real reporting here, and not a whiff of balance. I don’t doubt that Halliburton has done many good things in the last 80 years for many people, myself included. For 20 years, it fed me, clothed me, housed me and paid for my undergrad education; even then, however, it was all through my father’s very hard work in the sheet metal shop of the main manufacturing center.

But I guess I’ve just forgotten over the last 14 years since I was a small town print reporter just how much raw boosterism there is in that job. The reporter would probably have been threatened with tarring and feathering had she brought up Dick Cheney’s millions and the gas price gouging and the ripping off of the taxpayers and the no-bid contracts and the treatment of employees and the breaking of the unions in 1974 and destruction of striking workers and so on.

I know those people around Duncan; they threatened me within an inch of my life (and with literal tarring and feathering) after I wrote an editorial column that had the unmitigated audacity to advocate that Oklahoma schools should concentrate on academics over athletics. I got nasty phone calls, death threats, the works. I was told to never show my face again in a small rural school district; I made a point to attend the very next school board meeting. Nothing happened; I stared them in the face and they melted away like the typical fascist cowards they are. But I digress.

My original point still stands: Most communities are bubbles, no matter how big or small, no matter where they are geographically. It’s a myth perpetuated by the fascists that only left-wing enclaves are bubbles; it’s a way to isolate and marginalize them.

But I guess if we’re all going to live in bubbles, I’d prefer a progressive-to-left one than one so divorced from reality and the wider world and consideration for the common good.

I love Duncan in many ways, on many levels. I wish it didn’t have an inferiority complex and sell itself so cheaply to major corporations like Halliburton, Family Dollar and Wal-Mart. I wish it was able to retain the wonderful small town character and charm and grace evident in its downtown, as opposed to the abomination that is north US 81, jammed with strip malls and big boxes and ugliness with no charm, no grace, no character. It’s been a wonderful place; it could be better.

But it’s still a bubble, every bit as much as Berkeley.