Do You Realize? And Does it Matter?

By Colin Newman


If this looks a little like Flaming Lips album art circa 1995, I have done my part. Image by Colin Newman and some congressional photographer.

The OKC social media ecosystem has been thrown into chaos today by the revelation that Mary Fallin decided not to renew Brad Henry’s executive order declaring the song “Do You Realize?” by The Flaming Lips to be the official state rock song.

For those of you who don’t recall this proud chapter in our state’s storied history, the Oklahoma Historical Center had a big exhibit on the history of Rock and Roll in Oklahoma, of which there is plenty. As a promotional stunt to promote the exhibit, they had a vote on their website to name an official state rock song. The Flaming Lips (the only band on the ballot that still resided in Oklahoma, if I recall correctly) won by a landslide, probably because most angry old men don’t have broadband yet and most potheads do.

Our famously progressive legislature, well versed in the art of the empty gesture, decided to overturn the will of the people. By a thin margin the elected body of our state declined to bestow the honor of official state existential ballad on our merry psychedelic tricksters. Governor Brad Henry (D-Shawnee) , the last non-embarrassing politician from Oklahoma, stepped in and issued an executive order declaring it to be the state rock song, bringing our long national nightmare to a close.

The times they are a changing, however, and while you might expect Governor Mary Fallin to appreciate the off kilter charm of Wayne Coyne and Co, she decided to not renew Governor Henry’s executive order. Two thoughts strike me:


  1. Executive orders expire? Really?
  2. Do you realize that this doesn’t matter even a little?


I can’t feel too outraged about this. Lord knows I’ve tried. It’s not surprising, it’s silly, and it doesn’t matter. The people already voted, it was already declared, there have been hundreds of news articles about it being named the state rock song. The legislature could declare My Sharona to be the state rock song tomorrow, and it wouldn’t exist outside of a bemused article or two and some obscure government publication that no one will ever read. You can’t put the acid rock genie back in the bottle.

A similar situation is the pathetic and wasteful quest of some Republicans to replace our state motto “Labor Omnia Vincit” (written by that hack Virgil as a plea to Romans to return to the soil and be farmers) with the saccharine and inoffensive “In God We Trust”. It’s not in Latin, plus it’s on the quarter, so everyone can remember it! Unfortunately for the elected idiots responsible, the actual motto is already documented all over the place and known by tens of tens of Oklahoma history nerds. Symbols are strikingly resilient. It doesn’t matter if Do You Realize? is recorded in statute as the official state rock song, it’s been documented by the Associated Press, and that’s certain to be more lasting. If you search “state rock song +oklahoma” in Google in 10 years, you will read about The Flaming Lips, not about Randy Brogdon. Is he even still in the legislature? I don’t remember and I’m too lazy to look.

Do you really want to live in a world where The Flaming Lips receive the stamp of approval from someone like Mary Fallin? I can’t imagine anything that would better solidify the local Lips backlash (mostly music scene sour grapes) than the headline “Mary Fallin Renews State Rock Song, Dines with Band at RedPrime.” Someone who makes screen prints with his own blood and writes symphonies for hundreds of car tape decks just isn’t going to be BFFs with Mary Fallin, unless she’s way freakier than I ever imagined. The fact that they were considered at all has to do with the open nature of the contest. If it was up to the legislature, we would have gotten a Leon Russel song and that would have been that. No offense to Leon, but I don’t know a single person in my age group who gives a shit about him.

If I was a GOP staff member, I would be watching this debate closely; culture changes before politics. Oklahoma was moving to the right culturally at a time when Democrats still held a decisive advantage in the legislature and local politics. Gay marriage only now seems to have reached a tipping point 10 or 15 years after open homophobia became culturally unacceptable. Perhaps this is magical thinking on my part, but it has always seemed to me that politics is cyclical. Anyone who stands in one place long enough will find the pendulum of public opinion swinging at their head. When that happens, it’s not issues like taxes and spending that will matter, it’s things like horse slaughter and state rock songs. In the immortal words of The Replacements, I can’t hardly wait.


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