OK CITY TO NY CITY: "MOM ALWAYS LIKED YOU BEST"

Oklahoma' impenetrable defense beat Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl this year, and watching the whole tooth-grinding display on the TV at my sister's house was a group of mixed loyalties represented by Okies, Arkies and Yankees. Aside from the game, there was one subject that could magically freeze the air; and anybody approaching would be turned aside by the cold.

Now that the holiday is over and all parties have retreated to their neutral corners thus reducing the likelihood of an internecine fistfight, I'm going to say what people were trying not to say. The Oklahomans seemed to think the New Yorkers are making a little too much fuss about their tragedy, and are making a big phony show of their toughness and resiliency.

The families of the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing did not become instant multimillionaires. The government did not bail out every business in Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma City attack was not followed by calls from the president for every American to do his patriotic duty and go to Oklahoma City to spend money. Oklahoma's attack was not followed by a de-facto ongoing telethon raising hundreds of millions of dollars for one or another affected faction. Just a few minutes before posting this essay I saw on the network news an indirect solicitation of money by a Greek Orthodox church near the site of the tragedy. They don't ask outright, of course, but every day there's a story run by the national media about somebody in Manhattan gathering money in the name of recovering from the attack. It's been going on for four months now. It's not begging, but it's not far from begging.

The New Yorkers are getting extraordinary aid, more than any victims in history. The taxpayers are bailing out the New York based insurance companies and airlines by making the multimillion dollar settlements contingent on the parties not suing the airlines or accepting settlements from the insurance companies. The Okies don't necessarily think that's wrong. If extraordinary help is what it takes to get the yankees back on their feet, then that's what it takes. Just please stop crowing about how tough, hardy and resilient you are when the rest of the country is taking so much of the economic blow for you. The Okies got back on their feet with pennies on the dollar compared to you guys, and all this mouthing creates the impression that the New Yorkers are parlaying this tragedy into a gravy train the way a kid parlays a nasty divorce into a mini-bike.

If you want to talk about tough, hardy and resilient, you might recall that the Okies are the descendants of the survivors of the great dustbowl. Those people woke up and faced the same disaster every day year after year. New York's catastrophe had pretty much peaked by sundown of the day it began. The Okies aren't barking about this because their national character is stoic and humble and being stoic and humble once again serves the cause of patriotic solidarity.

There's nothing stoic or humble about me, so I'm barking on their behalf.

How does such a disparity come to pass? Why is the president handing out cash and gifts like a husband caught cheating? First, Bush is courting electoral votes, and he's putting his (our) money where it will court the greatest number of them. This political capital is an investment that will pay dividends in local and national elections for years to come. The Republicans are buying their way past the outer bastion of a Democratic stronghold.

One million for a poor man. Three million for a rich man. (Even in death, the republican value system is expressed.) Figure an average two million per settlement for three thousand victims and that's six billion dollars, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Second, the national news media is headquartered in New York and the administration needs their cooperation in the prosecution of the war.

Third, recent Republican administrations have financed their tax cuts (for the rich) by issuing government paper against low interest rates. To do this they need the cooperation of the banks, brokerages and insurance companies, which are all NewYork based.

Fourth, the administration figures getting New York back up and running ASAP and regardless of the cost is the best way to show the terrorists that their attacks are ineffective. This brave public face of the New Yorkers, the propaganda value of which is meant for the terrorists, is interpreted by the Okies as more mouthy yankee blowhard, begging for handouts and acting like kings. There's a cultural difference operating here. Stoicism and humility are virtues in Oklahoma and vices in New York.

So the Okies are resentful of the Yankees over this inequality. Is it favoritism, jealousy, sour-grapes, political opportunism or a propaganda tactic for our antiterror campaign?

1/5/2002

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