Sooners

Bruce Prescott, leader of the Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists, recently spoke at an immigration rally on the steps of Oklahoma’s state capitol, where he argued that “Immigrants Shouldn’t Need ‘Any Stinking Papers.’”

The rally opposed Arizona-style anti-immigration legislation proposed in the state’s legislature:

[Republican Rep. Randy] Terrill wants Oklahoma to adopt stricter anti-immigration laws similar to measures passed a year ago in Arizona. An anti-immigration bill is progressing through the legislative process, but it’s gone through a special panel approved by [Republican House Speaker Kris] Steele and the measure’s provisions are weaker than those sought by Terrill.

Steele’s reluctance to push for more draconian anti-immigrant measures has made him the focus of some vitriolic push-back from the far-right wing of his party. At a meeting with constituents earlier this month:

Steele, an associate pastor at Wesleyan United Methodist Church in Shawnee, was asked whether Satanists, communists and atheists were on his church board and he was falsely accused of trying to help get a pardon for a child serial rapist.

(Always with the Satanists. They really are addicted to that stuff.)

What’s remarkable to me about all of this is that it’s going on in Oklahoma — in “The Sooner State.”

That shouldn’t be allowed. It is laughable and should be met with only laughter — the sort of loud, derisive laughter that clearly indicates “We are not laughing with you, we are laughing at you.”

Sooners are not permitted to brag about being Sooners and then to complain about others crossing borders illegally. Sooners are not permitted to brag about being Sooners and then to complain about migrants unable to produce the proper paperwork.

Sooners are not permitted to brag about being Sooners and then to pretend that they don’t know what that word means or where it comes from.

Some helpful background from Wikipedia:

Sooners is the name given to settlers  in the midwest of the United States who entered the Unassigned Lands in what is now the state of Oklahoma before President Grover Cleveland officially proclaimed them open to settlement on March 2, 1889 with the Indian Appropriations Act of 1889. The name derived from the “sooner clause” of the Act, which stated that anyone who entered and occupied the land prior to the opening time would be denied the right to claim land. …

Some Sooners crossed into the territory illegally at night, and were originally called “moonshiners” because they entered “by the light of the moon.” These Sooners would hide in ditches at night and suddenly appear to stake their claim after the land run started, hours ahead of legal settlers. …

Those who actually observed the official start of the land run and began the race for free land often found choice sections of land already occupied by Sooners or, in some cases, by Boomers. Problems with Sooners continued with each successive land run; in an 1895 land run as much as half of the available land was taken by Sooners. Litigation between legitimate land-run participants and Sooners continued well into the 20th century, and eventually the United States Department of the Interior was given ultimate authority to settle the disputes.

In 1908, the University of Oklahoma adopted “Sooners” as the nickname of their football team, after having first tried “Rough Riders” and “Boomers”. Eventually, Oklahoma became known as “The Sooner State.”

“Sooner” refers to an act of immigrating illegally. A Sooner is an illegal immigrant. Oklahoma is the Illegal Immigrant State.

And since those terms are more or less interchangeable, I think I’ll just stick with “Sooners” from now on. It’s shorter and has a longer American pedigree of popular usage. And just maybe it can also serve as a reminder of the double-standard we apply that reviles others as rule-breaking intruders while celebrating ourselves a go-getting renegades who don’t let the rules slow us down.

  • http://mousehole-mouse.blogspot.com/?zx=58ed6a0d2b47d813 Mouse

    Just so you know, it’s times like these that make me ashamed to be an Okie.

  • hf

    Sooner!

  • Lori

    Of course people fail to understand this. The Sooners were white. They were white and they were taking land that had belonged to brown people. According to those on the far Right this is as God intended. However, brown people taking from white folks is wrong, wrong, wrong and could obviously only be the result of some plot on the part of those nasty Satanists, communists and atheists.

  • Carrie

    Hypocrisy is only hypocritical if somebody else is doing it. It’s a lot like illegal immigration that way, right?

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, pointing this out is only going to make them madder and yell louder, “how dare you confuse me with the facts!” Again, as far as they’re concerned the Sooners where White, and because they were White it was Okay and Totally Different when they crossed borders illegally. You can’t get through to people like this. All they have is that they are different and therefore better than the Other. They may be poor or on the verge of tumbling out of the increasingly endangered middle class but they’re white damnit. They were born in this country. And when that’s how you define your self worth, not on your accomplishments but your supposed differences that make you better than the Other you’re not going to let measly things like facts or reality or history get in the way.

  • Anonymous

    soon I will be invincible

  • Anonymous

    Yes. Everyone is so afraid to call a duck a duck, or a racist a racist. A large part of this hypocrisy is just pure racism. But now we live in a society where it’s more offensive to call someone a bigot than to actually be a bigot, and these racist people get to pretend that they’re not racist so long as they aren’t wearing white sheets or setting up death camps for genocides.

  • http://brgulker.wordpress.com/ brgulker

    What an excellent example of how Americans have completely forgotten their own immigrant history.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Blotzphoto Louis Doench

    @banancat, I’ve come to the conclusion that in the near future it will be deemed quite reasonable for a public figure to say ” I just think straight white x-tian people are better than black/hispanic/gay people. Now does that make me bigoted? Really?”

  • Conscience

    Fred, I think you should put the effort in and call them Illegal Immigrants instead of Sooners: they won’t get the point otherwise.

  • Lori

    What an excellent example of how Americans have completely forgotten their own immigrant history.

    It’s right up there with my personal favorite—life long West Virginians driving around with Confederate battle flags in the back window of their pick up trucks. Um folks, did you sleep through your West Virginia state history class every single year or what?

  • Anonymous

    How much free time do they imagine us atheists have, that we have nothing better to do than hang out on church boards for religions that we don’t believe in. I’m actually quite offended. We do have lives, you know.

  • Rikalous

    There’s an old editorial cartoon I’ve seen in a couple history textbooks about this. It shows some well-dressed men try to block an immigrant from entering, while their shadows form their poor immigrant ancestors.

    I wonder how many of those people asking if Steele has atheists on his church board have ancestry stretching back to those subhuman, invading Irish, Germans, or Italians.

  • Rikalous

    Oh, and I note from that third link that the voters are concerned about making Sharia law illegal. Because the First Amendment doesn’t already forbid us from making religious law official.

  • Lori

    Oh, and I note from that third link that the voters are concerned about making Sharia law illegal. Because the First Amendment doesn’t already forbid us from making religious law official.

    The First Amendment offers no comfort to those who believe that separation of church & state is not in fact in the Constitution, but is instead a Liberal Plot.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    How much free time do they imagine us atheists have, that we have nothing better to do than hang out on church boards for religions that we don’t believe in. I’m actually quite offended. We do have lives, you know.

    I know, right? Speaking as a committed Fifth Level Satanic Priest of the Arklatexahoma Synod, I’ve also got much better things to do. There are virgins to sacrifice, gay orgies to organize, baby sandwiches to make, and black robes to mend.

    Also, Burn Notice is about to restart. And Mythbusters is back. That’s, like, two more hours that I just don’t have to vote down at the church house…

  • Anonymous

    I’m actually crestfallen that these people have figured out the evil plan of us Satanists, communists, and atheists (depending on your definitions, I’d possibly fall under all three). All these years of serving on the church boards of Republican lawmakers’ churches in order to make vicious immigration bills slightly less vicious is now wasted. It was such a good, subtle plan, too. We’d have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for those meddling social conservatives.

  • Anonymous

    Well all I have to say is that none of you are invited to my next satanic orgy to push immigration amnesty through unless you remember to put a doily under the black candles, wax is a pain in the ass to get off furniture I’ll have you know.

  • Anonymous

    These are the same folks who think Obama is a Marxist, so their definition of “communist” likely includes you, me, my goldfish, and anyone to the left of Jesse Helms. By those standards, there probably really are thousands of “communists” serving on church boards all over the country. O tempora o mores!

    The Joseph Keppler cartoon Rikalous mentioned is a classic, and very much still applicable today. You can view it here.

  • VJBinCT

    Fred–that is an extremely astute catch. The hypocrisy is championship material. Thanks. Makes me want to help start a Native American ‘Back to Europe’ movement. Native-ists, indeed.

  • VJBinCT

    Fred–that is an extremely astute catch. The hypocrisy is championship material. Thanks. Makes me want to help start a Native American ‘Back to Europe’ movement. Native-ists, indeed.

  • Anonymous

    Rikalous: “I wonder how many of those people asking if Steele has atheists on his church board have ancestry stretching back to those subhuman, invading Irish, Germans, or Italians.”

    People who do have an immigrant family history and yet are visciously anti-immigration will take pains to tell you that the difference between their ancestors and the ones they are protesting against is that theirs were white…I mean, that theirs “came in legally through Ellis island.” Two things conveniently escape their notice:

    1.) It was a lot easier to come in if you were poor or uneducated in the past than it is today. Now, “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…” should read “give me your well-off, your professionals, your socially acceptable…”

    2.) Social ideas of who is “the Other” change. To individuals with a limited understanding of history “the Other” has always meant “non-white,” which is what it means to them. The idea that the Irish, Germans or Italians were each “the Other” of their time periods is incomprehensible.

    Of course, the facts aren’t nearly as useful as fantasy for fueling righteous indignation and ingroup/outgroup ideologies.

  • Anonymous

    On a positive note that Baptist minister’s speech was fantastic, I printed it out for my To Keep file.

  • chris the cynic

    I’m wondering how much of that could be applied before it stopped describing what they feel is going on. Other than there being no consul, I think that “O tempora, o mores! senatus haec intellegit, consul videt; hic tamen vivit. vivit? immo vero etiam in senatum venit, fit publici consili particeps,” all fits pretty well.

    We can probably even add in the rest of the sentence: “notat et designat oculis ad caedem unum quemque nostrum,” though in reality we know that it is the Death Panels that do the actual notantes et designantes oculis ad caedem.

    I think the next sentence is where it breaks down. “nos autem fortes viri satis facere rei publicae videmur, si istius furorem ac tela vitamus.” Cicero said that as a harsh criticism (complete with sarcasm), I don’t see them doing the same. In fact, as near as I can tell, one of the primary appeals of the whole worldview is feeling and believing just that.

  • Anonymous

    I know, right? Speaking as a committed Fifth Level Satanic Priest of the Arklatexahoma Synod, I’ve also got much better things to do. There are virgins to sacrifice, gay orgies to organize, baby sandwiches to make, and black robes to mend.

    C’mon, guys! One more baby sandwich and I’ll be able to cast flame strike!

  • Anonymous

    Wow, now we have Latin nerds to add to our collection.

  • Michael P

    Not just white people who took land from brown people, either. White people, who took land from brown people, that they (the white people) had originally given the brown people as consolation for the land they (the white people again) originally took from the brown people. And of course, the only reason the brown people got the consolation land is because none of the white people wanted it. Fifty years and a westward expansion later, and how things change.

    Oklahoma history fascinates me, and not just because I grew up there. It’s a wonderful microcosm of American villainy and mistakes.

  • Michael P

    Not just white people who took land from brown people, either. White people, who took land from brown people, that they (the white people) had originally given the brown people as consolation for the land they (the white people again) originally took from the brown people. And of course, the only reason the brown people got the consolation land is because none of the white people wanted it. Fifty years and a westward expansion later, and how things change.

    Oklahoma history fascinates me, and not just because I grew up there. It’s a wonderful microcosm of American villainy and mistakes.

  • http://guy-who-reads.blogspot.com/ Mike Timonin

    thanks for the link, Vermic! I’ll have to find a way to use that in a class.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I didn’t know about that bit of history. Thanks; it was interesting to read.

    I live in a country where 26% of the population are migrants, another 71.5% are descendents of people who migrated in the past 225 years, about 1% of annual net population growth is due to migration (overwhelmingly students and business migrants), and in which half the country is shitting itself over 5,000 refugees turning up each year. (Yes, Italy, you heard me: *five* thousand)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NYIMSCWWLA5XTAYXL3FXNCJZ7I Kiba

    It always amazes me when my brother starts spitting bile against Mexicans. He either conveniently forgets, or hand waves away the fact that our great-grandmother was a Mexican national. Whenever I try to remind him of that I get the “No! Her family was from Spain! She was Spanish!” come back. Her family may have been from Spain but she was born and raised in Mexico. Unless I’m missing something that makes her Mexican. But then he also refuses to admit to our Irish heritage too.

  • Rikalous

    I think that makes him the only American today outside of Clint Eastwood’s character in Gran Torino who still considers the Irish the Other.

  • konrad_arflane

    Well…. If your brother’s a real, old-fashioned biological racist, that actually makes sense. Of course, that doesn’t exactly make it any better, but at least it makes sense.

  • Hawker40

    A story… but first, backround. My father’s side of my family is Irish. I mean, “anti-English, the Nazis were ok because they killed Englishmen” Irish.

    So, I get via email from one of my grand-Uncles a anti-immigrant rant. Anti-Mexican/Hispanic immigrant, to be specific.
    So, in return, I copypasta a 1850′s era “All-American” (Know-Nothing) Party screed, with the word “Irish” replaced with the word “Mexican”, to him and everyone else on the email of his original rant.
    And then, when he said to everyone on the list that he “Agreed with every word” of what I had sent, I sent them all the original, with a link to the site I had pulled it from.
    He was very angry with me for ‘tricking’ him like that, because The Irish were not the same thing etc. etc. etc.

  • http://twitter.com/mattmcirvin Matt McIrvin

    @Louis Doench: It’s not “the near future”; I’ve seen that come up in recent web discussions. The person insisted that racism was an irrational belief in the inferiority of other races, so if black people really were inferior then he shouldn’t be called a racist for believing it. (The opposing argument was “no, what you’re proposing is just that racism is correct.”)

    Of course this definition would mean that no racist could logically cop to being a racist, which I guess is pretty much what we see.

  • http://twitter.com/mattmcirvin Matt McIrvin

    The traditional claim is that today’s immigrants are different from yesterday’s in that today’s immigrants don’t assimiliate; they keep speaking their foreign language, stay in ghettos that are like colonies of the mother country, etc.

    It’s a line that’s been used for hundreds of years. The cognitive illusion it relies on is basically recency bias; it’s easy to believe if on some level you’re comparing the nth-generation descendants of previous waves of immigrants to the members of the current wave.

  • http://twitter.com/mattmcirvin Matt McIrvin

    …see also “kids these days are no good”.

  • Anonymous

    There’s a great Xkcd comic on the related “English as national language” issue:

    http://xkcd.com/84

  • Anonymous

    There’s a great Xkcd comic on the related “English as national language” issue:

    http://xkcd.com/84

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.maki Jon Maki

    In his stand-up, Jon Stewart used to have a bit about his grandfather:

    “My grandfather hated immigrants.” Pause. “From Russia, but hated immigrants. He was the type of guy, who, after getting his citizenship papers, turned around to face the other immigrants and yelled, ‘Get off my land you foreign bastards!’”

  • Lori

    The traditional claim is that today’s immigrants are different from yesterday’s in that today’s immigrants don’t assimiliate; they keep speaking their foreign language, stay in ghettos that are like colonies of the mother country, etc.

    My family members definitely have a bit of this. Fortunately anti-immigrant bias isn’t a big thing with them and doesn’t drive their voting habits, but it is there. That’s ironic because my grandparents were immigrants. They did learn English, but my great-grandmothers never did. The family was so isolated in their little ghetto/colony that they inter-married in really icky ways. My grandparents were half siblings and so were my great aunt & uncle. Um, ew.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    We have people in IL who do the same thing.

    Yes, Illinois, a state that claims among its famous figures one Abraham Lincoln.

  • P J Evans

    Not so many years ago, and going back into the 19th century, it wasn’t unusual for people of Mexican ancestry to claim to be actually pure Spanish – it was a higher status class (especially if you were mestizo, as many are).

  • P J Evans

    Not so many years ago, and going back into the 19th century, it wasn’t unusual for people of Mexican ancestry to claim to be actually pure Spanish – it was a higher status class (especially if you were mestizo, as many are).

  • http://timothy.green.name/ Timothy (TRiG)

    Here, immigrants are sometimes referred to as “the new Irish”. I don’t know what to think of that terminology.

    TRiG.

  • Rikalous

    This intrigues me. Where is “here”, and is it a compliment, insult, or what?


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