Thursday, November 11, 2010

Oklahoma Asks, and Answers, a Sucky State Question

Voters are fairly stupid—I think that’s been established. Maybe individually they know what they’re doing: They own landscaping companies and know where the good pizza places are and read the paper and do the Sudoku every day, even on Friday when it gets really hard. But something happens when they get to the voting booth, with those old-fashioned curtains and the ballot that seems more complicated than it needs to be. They freeze up. Who are these judges on the ballot? What’s the “anti-prohibition” party? What the fuck are all these measures I’ve never heard of? Panic sets in. Some circles are filled in, there’s a momentary anxiety that they filled in the circles wrong, the voter realizes they might have voted for the wrong judge, but it’s too late to fix it now. Then they get outside and they’re smart again.

That’s the only explanation I can think of for the passing of Oklahoma’s State Question 755, which amends the state constitution to ban judges from considering “international or Sharia law” when making rulings. Because damn, that is a stupid amendment. It wasn’t as if a bunch of judges were commanding hands to be chopped off and whores to be stoned. I’ve never been to Oklahoma, but I’m pretty sure that Islamic law is about to be instituted there. And the UN isn’t about to take control of the state either.

I’m sure the voters saw that measure on the ballot and said, “Well, better safe than sorry. I really don’t want to see strict Sharia law imposed on me, although it would give me an excuse to grow out my beard.” That’s like amending the constitution to say, “If aliens ever attack Earth, like in Independence Day or that new movie that looks almost exactly like Independence Day, we are totally going to fight back, like Jeff Goldblum and Will Smith.” A fine sentiment, but not something that needs to be in a constitution.

The problem is the anti-Sharia amendment could create difficulties due to vague wording and the general craziness of it. Indian tribes say they’re worried that Question 755 might invalidate their tribal laws, and international law is actually kind of important when resolving disputes between companies in Oklahoma and their overseas business partners. (Who knew international law governed international trade?)

Question 755 will probably get challenged in the courts and likely overturned (it might violate the ever-pesky First Amendment by singling out Sharia). So it’s likely just another example of xenophobic paranoia from the heartland that sounds good on paper but in reality is not a good idea, or even an idea at all, much like the Republican proposal to save money by cutting nonexistent social programs isn’t an idea. It’s fun, and sort of funny, to yell and make laws about problems that do technically not exist, but maybe we have better things to do. Do we?

1 comment:

  1. Delightful and damning at the same time, and I include myself in the damning! I too have stepped inside those confounding little curtained booths, facing names and initiatives and propositions I had no preparation to vote responsibly on--and voting anyway. Some years ago, I stepped inside and stared at The Monorail Initiative (here in Seattle): sure, that sounds like a good idea, the more public transportation the better! The Monorail project passed, spent lots of my and other licensed car owners' money, then fizzled into nothingness, while light rail is taking off in King County instead. Would I have fallen into the snare of voting to Keep Sharia Law out of Oklahoma? I can only hope not. I read the endorsements now, of sources like "The Stranger" and The Sierra Club and my union, because sources like these are usually informed about the intentions and repercussions of initiatives and the election of candidates. We don't even have those scary little curtained booths in King County WA anymore, alas. It's all absentee ballots.