Start with the obvious. Oklahoma City was always the Garden of Eden for me. One simple reason: my wifey, the world’s most nearly perfect human being, was born there when her father was stationed at Fort Sill in the summer of 1947. Obviously, the city gives birth to divinities.
But let’s skip forward many years to right now. We hear a lot of talk about anger. About “racism,” about the oppression of students by the torture of expecting them to pay back their loans, about the micro aggressions against women by telling them they look pretty. That’s all nonsense.
But if any place on this continent should rightfully feel anger, that place would be Oklahoma. Glorious Oklahoma, where the wind comes roaring down the plain, is a big energy state. It is home to some of the world’s best oil and gas patches. This state has kept our country nourished with energy for generations and provided the means of spectacular growth.
Now, on made up evidence, on hypothesis and superstition, the Beautiful People have made fossil fuels the whipping boy of all American industry. Mr. Obama and his pals have hit it and hit it and slimed it over and over again. Finally, it’s been smashed by the unwinding of the global commodities boom. Energy is on the ropes.
So, you might expect the people in Oklahoma City to be angry, to be bitter, to be snarling with rage. After all, isn’t that what we do nowadays?
Well, no. I spoke Monday to the Oklahoma City Men’s Dinner Club, about five hundred men and women at the Cowboy Museum. Now, gentle readers, I was born in 1944. I have traveled this country speaking for about 20 years. I have never had a bad audience except for one group of super drunk Europeans last year. But in all of my born days, I have never met a kinder, friendlier, more intelligent, better natured, more open faced, affable, and confident group of men and women than my friends of Monday evening. In the midst of a major energy correction, these people are erect, smiling, strong, welcoming. My hosts, Bob Bishop and his lovely wife, my neighbors, Robert and Mrs. Hefner, as hospitable as if they have known me all of my life — perfect hosts.
Day after day here in Beverly Hills, I ask my wife why everyone looks so tough and vicious, honks instantly as the light changes or ignores stop signs. Where did this race of wolves come from? What happened to the sweet, kind people I knew as a youth?
OK. As in OKLAHOMA. As in Oklahoma City. That’s where they are. In the state where my wife was born. In the state that has the town where my wife spent her girlhood, Idabel, Oklahoma. That’s where the beautiful souls are. There they were in the Cowboy Museum. It has been a disastrous week for energy. Guess what? Not a discouraging word was heard. No bitterness. No rancor, not even at Mr. Obama, who surely deserves it.
Just firm handshakes, compliments, intelligent questions and comments, a chorus of “We’re glad you’re here in Oklahoma City,” accompanied by a smile and a twinkle in their eyes.
I went to sleep that night on a cloud. These people are the salt of the earth. How I wish I knew even a few people like them in LA. But I don’t. The night I got back I went shopping at Pavilions (a sort of Safeway). A short, furious-looking man with a white beard and a thick, super thick Brooklyn accent (like Bernie minus the charm — that’s a joke) asked me if I was Ben Stein.
“Yes,” I said with an OKC smile.
“You used to be funny,” snapped Mr. Angry with a sneer.
Out in the parking lot, everyone beeped at everyone else, no quarter given or asked in the fight for parking.
Oklahoma, you’re OK. And the Men’s Dinner Club? I’ll take you over the Beverly Hills Hotel any day. What makes these people so strong and confident? It has to be in their genes. They just LOOK happy and sure of things, a look none of my Bentley-driving neighbors will ever know.
I miss them already.