Why do I live here again?

November 23, 2010 at 21:16 (Freedoms, Law, Oklahoma, Responsibilities, Rights, Views and Opinions)

First of all, it saddens me to write this post.  Once upon a time (perhaps a time that held a more naive me, but still), I was very proud to live in and be considered a citizen of the state of Oklahoma.  These days, however, I’m questioning it more and more.

Granted, there have always been some things I didn’t like about Oklahoma.  We’re rather full of ourselves, to begin with.  Yes, we do have quite a bit of history to be proud of, but we also have quite a bit of history and current affairs to be ashamed of.  I can give specifics of each, but that really isn’t my point here.

My point in this: why am I continuing to live in a state that does not reflect my personal beliefs and views.  Wait, let me go a step further.  Why do I continue to live in a state that not only doesn’t reflect y personal beliefs and views, but also tends to almost demonize those in this state who have views that don’t follow the state’s “mainstream” ideas.

The recent election results are my first point.  The voters in Oklahoma have basically rejected international law.  In the guise of trying to “defend” Oklahoman’s against “Muslim radicalization”, they crafted a state question which prohibited the use of Sharia (or Islamic) law for consideration by Oklahoma judges.  The state question said, specifically  (State Question 755):

“This measure amends the State Constitution. It changes a section that deals with the courts of this state. It would amend Article 7, Section 1. It makes courts rely on federal and state law when deciding cases. It forbids courts from considering or using international law. It forbids courts from considering or using Sharia Law.

International law is also known as the law of nations. It deals with the conduct of international organizations and independent nations, such as countries, states and tribes. It deals with their relationship with each other.
It also deals with some of their relationships with persons.  The law of nations is formed by the general assent of civilized nations. Sources of international law also include international agreements, as well as treaties.

Sharia Law is Islamic law. It is based on two principal sources, the Koran and the teaching of Mohammed.”

Now, I’m going to try to leave the Islamic relations issue aside from this for a moment and focus on other, important issues of this question.  First of all, Oklahoma hosts dozens of sovereign nations with in its borders – Native American Tribes.  If our state courts can’t use “international agreements as well as treaties” to interact with these nations, is the state basically not saying “Hey, the Federal US Government says you’re your own thing – but, here, you’re not.  Sucks to be you!”  Goodbye tribal sovereignty!

Next, there is the issue of the origins of Oklahoma law to begin with.  While we are not considered a “common law” state, much of the law on the books originates in English common law.  Since the England I’m talking about here isn’t Gary, and is just the slightest bit…international…has the state almost not just said that they are invalidating the basis on which most of Oklahoma law was formed and designed?  Think about that…

Now, I’m no expert here – but I do have a little background in understanding of criminal law and criminal justice (you know, only a BA in the category).  And once upon a time, I was actually a state employee.  So I know just the slightest bit about the “oath of office” of any state employee.  It might interest someone to know that the “oath of office” for the Governor of the State of Oklahoma is the exact thing each and every state employee swears to when they are officially hired.  Now, I don’t remember it word-for-word, but I do recall it dealing with upholding the LAW OF THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA.

So, don’t get me wrong here…I disagree with this state question on MANY different areas, but WHY are we making a law to make our state officials follow Oklahoma law – WHEN WE’VE ALREADY MADE THEM PROMISE TO DO THAT TO BEGIN WITH!!?  I firmly believe that it is pretty damn pointless to make something illegal that is already ILLEGAL – and this seems to be another case in point.

Now, moving on to yet another state question, No. 751:

“This measure amends the State Constitution. It adds a new Article to the Constitution. That Article deals with the State’s official actions. It dictates the language to be used in taking official State action. It requires that official State actions be in English. Native American languages could also be used. When Federal law requires, other languages could also be used.

These language requirements apply to the State’s “official actions.” The term “official actions” is not defined.

The Legislature could pass laws determining the application of the language requirements. The Legislature would also pass laws implementing and enforcing the language requirements.

No lawsuit based on State law could be brought on the basis of a State agency’s failure to use a language other than English. Nor could such a lawsuit be brought against political subdivisions of the State.”

Let me be clear first of all, I don’t read, write, or speak Spanish.  I can read, write, and speak a little (VERY SMALL) bit of French, and I can occasionally mutter in Russian – but as far as foreign languages go, that’s it for me.  I get just as frustrated as the next guy when placing an order at McDonald’s to someone who doesn’t seem to have the slightest idea between the difference of the English words “small fry” and “big mac”.  I think that it is socially acceptable and expected to speak the language of whatever place your are living and working in, and that if you don’t, (and even if you are just visiting a place that doesn’t speak your native tongue), there will be annoyances and problems for you.

That does NOT mean I think that in Oklahoma or the United States, we should mandate one “official language”.

My reasons for this are varied.  First of all, English is in no way a true “native” tongue of this nation (or state).  Nor is French, Dutch, German, Spanish, or Russian.  America has no one original native language.  Instead, when the “civilized” countries reached its shores, they not only attempted to indoctrinate the land with their own language (and religion and other ideas), but the established “civilization” even made almost every effort to eradicate these “native languages” of America.  Quite frankly, the only reason we speak English here to begin with deals a lot more with the success of England to colonize the United States (which history has shown to have been more successful than France’s or Spain’s or other countries) than any real basis for English to be the “native” language of the United States.  It goes back to British Colonialism and the saying that the sun never set on the British Empire.

A large majority of Americans probably can’t even name a “native” language of America, and I’m sure that probably 90% of citizens most likely don’t even know ONE WORD of a “native” language of the United States.  How in the HECK, then, are we qualified to “establish” and “official” language here?!

Then there is the smallest, tiniest problem with a thing called the US Constitution (and US Code, and case law).  A combination of the 1st Amendment (which included such fundamental rights such as freedom of speech) and the 14th Amendment (which told the states they had to respect the rights set forth in the Constitution and Amendments and provide them to their people), followed by years of case law, pretty much said that the United States couldn’t establish an “official” language.  The main reason for doing this has a lot more to do with fundamental rights and freedoms that it does with getting your big mac minus pickles.

The United States realized pretty quickly that if there was no method of protecting the common citizen’s rights, then these rights would cease to exist.  While there are many important rights, one of these is due process of the law.  The Supreme Court has long seen the legal system as stacked against the common man, and thus has at least attempted to stop or prohibit the government from being unfairly targeted by its own juggernaut.  To cut to the chase, a person’s ability or inability to speak the common language of the land (aka English) has been targeted as an easy way to disenfranchise someone from the rights of the Constitution (which isn’t limited to citizens, by the way).  So the Court has said time and time again that if a person does not speak English, some accommodation must be made for the person so they are not disenfranchised from their rights because of proceedings they can not and do not understand because of a language barrier.

So that’s the history (albeit very abridged) behind the United State’s overall inability to establish an official language.  And the states are REQUIRED to follow this established practice, both by the 14th Amendment and other rules and case law.

But apparently, Oklahoma wants to be the exception to the rule.  By passing State Question 751, they essentially said “screw you” to the law of the US Government because they think that Oklahoma is better than they are.  OR DID THEY?

Did anyone notice the little sentence in the question wording that said “When Federal law requires, other languages could also be used.”  Doesn’t sound too significant, does it?  But IT IS.  Because FEDERAL LAW ALWAYS REQUIRES IT.  So, hats off to you, Oklahoma, for making yet another pointless, unenforceable, and time-wasting law.  Good job.  Way to make a statement with out either 1.) really understanding what the FRAK you are doing or 2.) that has absolutely no teeth but looks pretty on paper.

Sorry, everyone.  But if you really don’t want to deal with the issue of those who do not speak English, THEN DO NOT PATRONIZE THE BUSINESSES WHO HIRE SUCH EMPLOYEES.  If that means you don’t get your big mac, then sorry, but you probably don’t need it anyways.

Of course, Oklahoma doesn’t really want to stop there in their effort to disenfranchise the rights of the common man.  Let me introduce you to State Question 746:

“This measure amends statutes relating to voting requirements. It requires that each person appearing to vote present a document proving their identity. The document must meet the following requirements. It must have the name and photograph of the voter. It must have been issued by the federal, state or tribal government.  It must have an expiration date that is after the date of the election. No expiration date would be required on certain identity cards issued to persons 65 years of age or older.  In lieu of such a document, voters could present voter identification cards issued by the County Election Board.  A person who cannot or does not present the required identification may sign a sworn statement and cast a provisional ballot. Swearing to a false statement would be a felony.  These proof of identity requirements also apply to in-person absentee voting. If adopted by the people, the measure would become effective July 1, 2011.”

This is another sounds-good-on-the-surface-but-deep-down-is-really-bad law that Oklahoma keeps insisting on creating.  As you can probably see, the intent of this law is to require that, in order to vote and ensure that your vote is counted, you must have an unexpired photo ID.

Bare in mind that it is already illegal to cast a vote claiming to be someone that you are not.  In fact, it’s pretty established to be illegal to claim to be someone you are not in any capacity most of the time.  So, to some degree, Oklahoma is yet again dealing with a redundant law (making something illegal that is already illegal).

But this law tries to go further than that.  It all goes back to disenfranchisement of the rights of the common man.  Now, to most people, getting a photo ID isn’t a problem – although it can be a huge hassle, and a possible significant costs.  But, essentially, to exist as a person in the US, you not required to have a photo ID.  Granted, it’s pretty hard to get by with out one, but it’s also pretty hard to get by with out having a driver’s license.  And while a driver’s license is required to drive, there is not law that requires you TO drive.  It’s a privilege, not a right.

Voting, however, is generally assumed (with some limitations, albeit ones that I find to be questionable according to the Constitution) to be a RIGHT.  One person, one vote.  Much blood, sweat, and tears (and significant loss of life) has been expended in the US over our history to attain this right and protect it.  Equal effort has been spent, at various times, to keep that right out of the hands of those who society deems undeserving of that right (case in point, woman’s suffrage, the Civil Rights Movement, Jim Crow Laws, and other historical attempts).   And yet, at the end of the day, the US Government and the Supreme Court have pretty much said that it is illegal to take someone’s right to vote away because it disenfranchises them of that right and a host of others.

Now, current political thought would have one believe that making a photo ID a requirement of voting isn’t setting the bar too high for the citizens.  And they would be wrong.  As I mentioned before, while it can be a pain in the ass to get a photo ID, it isn’t too difficult for most people.

MOST PEOPLE, but not ALL people.  To get a photo ID, you need a few things.  First of all, you usually need your birth certificate and your social security card.  But to get those, you need something much more significant – MONEY.  You need money for transportation to the places you have to go to apply for these documents.  You often need money to even GET some of these documents (specifically your birth certificate).  Even if you apply to get these items by mail, you still have to have money for the stamp, for crissakes.  So how exactly are you supposed to get these items if you don’t have money?

Essentially, that is my main argument against this law.  There is far more of a chance that a poor person will be unable to afford to obtain a photo ID, and thus unable to vote, than there is a chance or threat that someone will vote illegally.  The risk (the disenfranchisement of a person’s vote) outweighs the alternative (people doing something ILLEGAL, for which they can be arrested and jailed for because it is ILLEGAL!).

While that is my main reason against this law, it isn’t my only reason.  The reality is there are circumstances that can arise that can make a legal US citizen completely unable to get the documents required to get an ID.  These include cases where disaster has destroyed the access to the documents states maintain to establish identity.  The most recent example of this is Hurricane Katrina, where many state agencies were rendered incapable of even being contacted, much less locating the requested documents.  Other examples include data loss due to fire, flood, theft, mismanagement, or other issues.  Simply put, there are a few unfortunate people who can’t get their documents for an ID because they no longer exist.

Which brings us again to the issue of MONEY.  In those cases, in order to basically get your identity back, you must get involved in the legal system.  This means not only the costs of the legal system, but often times a specialized (read EXPENSIVE) attorney to navigate you through the system.  So if you are poor, forgetaboutit.  It isn’t going to happen.

The end result is clear: disenfranchisement of an individual based solely on their personal economic situation.  This is not a new concept to the US Government, nor is it one which they do not have a well-documented stand on.  It has been found time and time again to be illegal to disenfranchise someone based on them being poor.  An example of this is that if you’re poor and accused of a crime, the state must provide you an attorney.

But now the State of Oklahoma wants to put the rights of one of the already most disenfranchised group of people in jeopardy again by requiring them to present a photo ID to vote.  As I have explained, this is wrong on so many levels, people must really think they are holier-than-thou simply to entertain the idea once they have really examined the concept and the surrounding issues.

It all comes down to this, for me.  I am living in a state that, while I have a deep (perhaps illogical, but still present) love for this state of my birth, my homeland state, I am increasingly becoming more and more disgusted with its ideals and practices.  These state questions are but the tip of the iceberg, unfortunately.  I can (and at a later time and date will) go on, but I’ve said all I can stand for today.

This state stands for the mainstream, the normal, the status quo.  Those that are different, that don’t fit the norm, that hold a conflicting opinion are not welcome.  Even worse, those who are brave enough to speak their contrary opinion of the state are not just unwelcome, but demonized and outcast.  This is not acceptable, not in Oklahoma and not in the United States.

Maybe I should move.  Maybe someday I will move.  Or maybe I’ll take the harder and more difficult road of staying where my roots are and fighting against the wrongs I see, to improve the state I love and preserve freedom, liberty, and the REAL good it is to be an Oklahoman for future people and generations to come.

I pray I have the strength to do that which is right rather than that which is easy.

Yours in service,

-MK

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6 Comments

  1. fuhrer_frunk a.k.a. candy said,

    man….i agree with you on so much…..i laugh at the “one language” thing. HAHAHA for reals????? did you know that because many are trying to enforce this “english only” rule that several tribal languages are dying out each year?? my own tribe, which is one of the biggest ones there is, only has around 600 speakers NATION WIDE!

    and on the subject of i.d.’s……a tribal i.d. that has my photo, name, birthday, ss #, and address IS NOT recognized by any federal organization. my sister tried to open up a bank account and they refused because “they don’t recognize tribal governments”. i got the same excuse from TSA’s at an airport in OKLAHOMA!!!! HELLO!!!! the whole frickin state is TRIBAL LAND!!!!! wtf????

    and now my main soap box issue: who are you, majority of america, to tell me who i can and can’t marry??? you know who else tried that, hitler! and on that note…..peeps…..being straight/gay/transgender/bi IS NOT A CHOICE!!!!! it’s how you are chemically made up while in your mother’s womb. for those right wing religious fanatics out there….IT’S HOW GOD CREATED YOU!

    lol…..sorry for the little soap box moment….couldn’t help myself.

    stay here in oklahoma….let’s start a revolution….. 🙂

    • mousekitty said,

      Babe, I completely agree with you.

      You touched on issues (like the marriage thing) that I will get to in time. I don’t have any problem with a religious organization saying hat it won’t marry me to my desired spouse for one reason or another – they are a private entity, and they can basically refuse service to anyone if they want. I mean, some churches won’t marry you to someone who is outside of that faith, and other churches can refuse to marry you if you aren’t a member (or active member) of their church. So I don’t have a problem with that.

      But when the state comes in and says they won’t marry you to another consenting adult, I have a problem with that. It isn’t the state’s place. I’m honestly in favor of taking the word “marriage” out of the state’s hands entirely, and making all state “marriages” civil unions, and leaving the “marrying” to the churches and other private groups. It’s all word juggling anyways. But restricting who I can have a union with (or essentially enter into a legally binding contract wit) reminds me of the days when black people couldn’t marry white people, and other archaic past stupid “marriage” ideas. It simply isn’t right.

      Like I said, though, that is an entirely different blog post altogether. But I’ll be making one soon. We are one the cusp of so many new civil rights issues, but from the activism standpoint, you almost wouldn’t know it. People are getting more passive or bored or disinterested, and that’s not right. In a way, that’s why I started this blog in the first place. I have a voice and I am going to use it. I’m also going to encourage others to use theirs, whatever their own goals maybe. Just because I may not agree with you doesn’t mean you don’t have a right to speak your mind – but if you don’t use that right, there stands a chance you might not have it very much longer…

      Here’s to the future!
      -MK

  2. fuhrer_frunk a.k.a. candy said,

    amen sister!!!! 🙂

  3. Traz-ak said,

    Damn liberal, and your crazy un-American ideas!!… Just kidding. I completely agree with you on every point. I suspect part of the problem here, though, is a general misunderstanding of what people are voting for. Many go into the polls, intent on voting for one thing or another or person that a group or affiliation has told them it is important to vote for or against for reasons they don’t entirely understand. And if that fact wasn’t already troubling enough, they’re then left with a list of other issues they have even less idea about, skim through, think it sounds good, and carelessly vote it into law… What a fun world we live in…

    • mousekitty said,

      What’s even worse (and this is NOT limited to Oklahoma), I think many legislaturer ALSO follow that same “method” of voting. They will vote based on what they hear they should like or dislike about a piece of legislation, and rarely take the time to actually READ what they are voting on.

      It seems that, all to often, we let legislatures get away with not doing their job as much (or perhaps even MORE) than we let cops get away with not doing THEIR jobs.

      Sad, sad world.
      -MK

  4. Traz-ak said,

    Yay! I’m having a political discussion. I feel smart! 😉 I’m very much looking forward to a blog on marriage, by the way! Do that one soon!

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