One of the joys of being an Oklahoman is that I live in the real world, not a world of concrete and neon signs but one of dirt and trees, of rivers and hills, of native grass and native people; a place of good values and good men. This is a land of common sense and sense that is common, a place of boom and bust, wind and dust, duty, honor, truth and trust.
Oklahomans, in general, have a strong libertarian streak. We are passionate about liberty. We believe in personal freedom, responsibility and culpability. We’d like to think we don’t get too distracted by the comings and goings of other folks.
Those of you in Washington, D.C., have your ways, and we have ours. We understand tolerance quite well, and, frankly, we practice it and don’t just preach it. Our attitude, overall, is that of Thomas Jefferson: “if it neither picks our pocket nor breaks our leg, it does us no injury.” In other words, do what you want but leave us be and leave us alone.
Now let’s be clear. This doesn’t mean that we suffer fools silently or that the “dogs go unnoticed when they persist in returning to their vomit” (hat-tip to Solomon for that one). Yes, we do see the “pigs running back, time and again, to wallow in their own mire” (ibid). Swine, after all, have a peculiar habit of proving themselves by their habitual folly.
But the bottom line for us in Oklahoma is that we are a people of hard work and hard truths. We try our best to model both of these virtues in thought, word and deed as we go about our daily lives.
One of the lessons quickly learned from living on the land rather than in the office is that hardship is good. No pain. No gain. The hard life has taught us that crisis often has a liberating effect. Running into the storm brings freedom. Running away from it inevitably makes it your master.
Some age-old Oklahoma axioms prove stunningly prescient for the challenges we currently face. The wisdom that comes from having dirt on your hands and dust in your face seems to be tested by time and proven by experience. COVID, or no COVID, there are some prescriptive proverbs that those in our nation’s halls of power, as well as all the rest of us who are feeling increasingly powerless, would do well to remember.
Rules for living such as,
• Most of the stuff people worry about ain’t never gonna happen, anyway.
• Social distancing means keeping as far away from “skunks” as possible.
• Always drink upstream from the herd.
• It don’t take a very big person to abuse a little bit of power.
• If ya’ get to thinkin’ you’re a person of some influence, try orderin’ somebody else’s dog around.
• The best sermons are lived, not preached.
• Arrogance don’t jes’ happen overnight.
• Do not corner somethin’ that you know is meaner than you.
• If ya’ wanna find a snake, listen for the rattle.
• If you ain’t rattlin, you ain’t the snake.
• If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin’.
• Sometimes you get, and sometimes you get got.
• When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty.
• Forgive your enemies. It messes up their heads.
• Don’t interfere with somethin’ that ain’t botherin’ you none.
• Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.
• Good judgment comes from experience and a lotta that comes from bad judgment.
• Lettin’ the cat outta’ the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin’ it back in.
• Remember that no answer is sometimes the best answer.
• Everyone believes in God, either the one ya’ see in the mirror or the one ya’ see in the Bible.
• Seek justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly.
Solomon once said, “How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver!” (Proverbs 16:16) The Okie wisdom above is pure gold. You can take it to the bank. It’s a lot better than any CDC protocols or government bailouts.
A final note — Prayer is another thing we hold dear here in Oklahoma. I close with Reinhold Niebuhr: “God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change; the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference; living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as we would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if we surrender to His Will. Amen.”
• Everett Piper, former president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, is a columnist for The Washington Times and author of “Not A Day Care: The Devastating Consequences of Abandoning Truth” (Regnery 2017).