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You’re doing fine, Oklahoma

I’ve always sort of admired Oklahoma for having a realistic self-image. Whereas Kansas deludes itself with a slogan like, “Land of Ahhs,” Oklahoma has always been honest, telling us simply that “Oklahoma is OK.” Not great, not bad, but OK. I’ve never been to Oklahoma and have no immediate or long-term plans to rectify that situation, but I’m guessing that’s a fair appraisal of the Sooner State.

I have, however, been to Kansas, and as I drove for what seemed like thousands of miles through the flat, featureless wheat fields, I did not utter a single “ah” that wasn’t immediately followed by a vigorous “choo!” Kansas doesn’t exactly inspire that sort of enthusiasm.

And while we’re on the subject, does anyone but me find it odd that a state would base its slogan on a movie wherein the best thing that happens to the main character is getting caught in a tornado that gets her the hell out of Kansas?

Sure, I know Dorothy ended the movie by saying, “There’s no place like home” and returning to Kansas, but you can’t tell me that a place that’s black and white and has tornados is better than a place that’s in color and has flying monkeys and talking lions. I’m just not buying that. Besides, there is a place like Kansas. It’s called Nebraska.

Anyway, back to Oklahoma, figuratively speaking. The Sooner State made news earlier this week when it was announced that a song by Oklahoma City band The Flaming Lips won an online poll to become the official state rock song. The song, “Do You Realize?”, beat out nine other nominees by garnering more than half of the whopping 21,000 votes.

Now, if you’re an old fart like me, you may remember The Flaming Lips from their breakout semi-hit “She Don’t Use Jelly,” which made it all the way to No. 55 on the U.S. charts in 1993. That song, still the most successful of the Lips’ career, featured the plaintive refrain, “She uses Vaseline,” ostensibly about a girl’s choice of toppings for her toast. However, since we all know that petroleum jelly is not a fitting substitute for real jelly, one can only wonder what she actually used Vaseline for.

Given that little bit of sexual innuendo from their most famous recording, it’s not surprising that the adoption of a Flaming Lips song would spark some controversy in a conservative state like Oklahoma. The controversy that flared up, however, had nothing to do with the Lips’ racy subject matter or the fact that their name comes from either a porn movie, a drug reference or a dream guitarist Wayne Coyne had in which he sucked face with the Virgin Mary.

No, instead what drew the ire of a handful of Republican state representatives was the fact that bass player Michael Ivins wore a T-shirt with a hammer and sickle on it during a visit to the state offices last month. So, despite the fact that the state Senate approved the song by a 46-0 vote in March, it was rejected by the state House of Representatives.

Coyne’s response to the upset representatives couldn’t have been more on the mark.

“It’s really just a couple of these small-minded guys,” he said, “who are the most popular guys in their church and their small little towns.”

Fortunately for Oklahomans everywhere, Gov. Brad Henry vetoed the House ruling and signed an executive order on Wednesday making “Do You Realize?” the official state rock song.

So what is “Do You Realize?” all about? Well, let’s take a look at the lyrics. The main idea seems to be “do you realize that everyone you know someday will die?”

OK, so it’s not the most uplifting sentiment, but it’s certainly true, which would be right in line with Oklahoma’s realistic self-image.

I do have to question the governor’s comments at the signing ceremony, though, when he called it “a song that describes the people and the spirit of Oklahoma.” Really? Is someday dying all that the people of Oklahoma have to look forward to? (Answer: Possibly. Like I said, I’ve never been there, so I wouldn’t know.)

But don’t settle for that defeatist attitude, Oklahoma. Never forget that you’re OK. And I, for one, think you have plenty to look forward to, like college football and not experiencing another Dust Bowl and … uh … well … um … did I mention college football?

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Todd Hartley

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05 2009

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