The Original Flag of the State of Oklahoma
Oscar Ameringer, Oklahoma social activist
(I gave these remarks as a part of the worship service at Mayflower Congregational Church in Oklahoma City. Every Sunday, one of the lay people give a brief message as a part of the "Prayers of the People" segment of the service. These were given the Sunday following the election in which Republican took over nearly all functions of the state government in Oklahoma.)
Prayers of the People 11-6-10
Some people, knowing who I am and what I am usually up to, have asked me about the election this week and why I think what happened did happen. My reaction is that our fears of each other won out over our love of justice for all. In other words, we are mighty afraid that someone is getting more than our fair share of the pie, and so we think that there should be no pie at all.
The next question I’m often asked is, “What in the world are we going to do now?” I’m tempted to say, “Well, Oregon is looking very good right now.” But to run now I think is rather weak. And as Oscar once said, “It’s a great life. . . if you don’t weaken.”
Oscar? Oscar who? (You ask rhetorically.) Well, Oscar Ameringer of course, Oklahoma Socialist. And yes, Oscar Ameringer, who nearly became mayor of Oklahoma City, was a real Socialist, unlike the Pseudo-Socialists you meet so often these days.
According to a biography written by my good friend and fellow union member, John Thompson, Oscar Ameringer came to Oklahoma from his native Germany right at the time of its statehood and helped to form one of the largest Socialist movements in American history. Ameringer fought for rights of the disadvantaged. He helped found the Oklahoma Renters Union to promote the rights of sharecroppers, and twenty-five years later his writings inspired the creation of the Southern Tenant Farmers Union. In 1910 he led the fight against voting tests that disenfranchised African American voters. The opposition he and most Socialists had to World War I was used as a pretext for the American government to largely destroy the Socialist Party in Oklahoma and the rest of our nation, Ameringer died in 1943 in Oklahoma City.
Ameringer once noted that, “Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich by promising to protect each from the other.”, a statement that runs as true today as it did then.
Oscar lived in tough times, in many ways tougher than what we face now. And I think his advice to us would run something along these lines:
It’s a great life if you don’t weaken.
Keep on fighting. Keep on speakin’
Let your truth shine like a beacon.
Cause it’s a great life if you
Robert Lynn Green
- I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.