Call it “reportitis” or report burnout, but Oklahomans have to be tired of hearing about all the latest studies and rankings that show the state has major problems.
One of the most recent reports by The Commonwealth Fund shows the state tied with Mississippi for worst overall health care performance in the nation. Mississippi? Anytime the state is tied with Mississippi for anything, it’s time to take stock, folks. But, hey, the silver liners might point out the state at least tied with another place for last place. Hooray.
One of the larger problems created by reportitis is how it affects the state’s overall morale. This may seem vague, and it is. How does one measure a state’s morale? But most everyone would agree Oklahoma suffers with an image problem and its residents often lack the pride ” real or otherwise ” of its neighbors to the south. A major part of the reason has to be the barrage of negative reports that comment on the state’s quality of life.
In the last year or so, along with poor health care, reports have shown the state’s largest city, Oklahoma City, ranks 49th in sustainability among 50 metropolitan cities and the state leads the nation in hunger among children. Some reports and studies in the past have shown the state incarcerates the most women in the nation on a percentage basis and has low rates of health insurance among children. Others show the state lags behind the nation in producing college graduates. The list goes on.
Too often, the reports receive a splash in the local media for a few days, and then that’s it. A typical negative report, for example, receives a couple of stories in the Oklahoma media and then maybe some comments a few days later about it from local columnists, pundits or bloggers.
But what does an Oklahoman do in the face of these relentless negative reports and information? The consistency of these reports can make the state’s problems seem insurmountable. It’s almost easy to shrug them off as the state’s special destiny. Why worry about Oklahoma’s structural problems when there is little one can do to change things? The state has problems and always will have problems.
So here are two things Oklahoman victims of reportitis might do: Humanize the reports in daily life and work at bringing about real structural change in how the state addresses its problems.
These reports describe the suffering of real people in flesh and blood. Spend some time in local dilapidated neighborhoods or in a homeless shelter or in a women’s prison. The reports take on more meaning in real life.
Elect and support leaders who will do more than give lip service to the state’s problems and who will act outside the constraints of the current political system, which is polluted by money. For example, only those people who have the money to donate the minimum campaign donation to a successful candidate have full access to our political process these days.
Obviously, a woman in prison or a 3-year-old child without health insurance has absolutely no say in the political process.
How can the state improve overall morale and the quality of life for everyone, even those who are more fortunate, unless it deals with its problems?
Hochenauer is an English professor at the University of Central Oklahoma and author of the progressive blog Okie Funk: Notes From the Outback, http://www.okiefunk.com.