LITTLE ROCK — THERE ARE plenty of folks in Arkansas who like a good argument. Take a gander at the Letters column. Arguing is as natural hereabouts as honey bees and white oak trees. Even before the squatter told the Arkansas Traveler he couldn’t get there from here, folks in these latitudes have liked to be contrary. It suits us. Try going to a Wal-Mart’s gardening section and declaring that Big Boy tomatoes are the tastiest. You’re bound to collide head on with a Roma tomato fan, poor soul, who’ll be delusional enough to call you on it. Ah, Arkansas! True grit and feisty about it.
But remember this: Arkies don’t much cotton to shady dealing. Disagree if you must, but for goshsakes be above-board about it.
For good, or rather bad, example, take a couple of bills being passed around at the Ledge these over-heated days. For starters, look at House Bill 1205 by the Hon. Roy Mauch, state representative and ideologue from Bismarck.
At first glance, it seems sorta harmless. The paper says the bill would require manufacturers to provide water system operators with information about what they’re putting in our water. So far, so necessary.
Except state officials say the bill duplicates existing safeguards.
Besides, a federal agency is in charge of additives in the drinking water. It’s called the Environmental Protection Agency. And the state tests water all the time.
So what’s going on with this bill?
Robert Hart, the director of something called the Department of Health Engineering here in Arkansas, says the real argument is about . . . fluoride.
Oh, Lord, not again.
Wasn’t fluoride a staple Soviet conspiracy back when there were still Soviets around? If faulty memory serves, the Rooskies wanted to dumb down America’s youth by adding fluoride to our water systems. By the grace of God and Star Wars, America somehow survived the attack.
Even stranger, young people in rural America who’ve not had the disadvantage of fluoride have not out-performed all those Yankee kids back East on ACT tests. Even with all that fluoride polluting their systems, kids from Massachusetts and Vermont and Connecticut are out-performing most rural kids in the South. Damn Yankees indeed. Don’t you just hate it when they show us up, fluoride or no fluoride?
AFTER the Soviets imploded, the anti-fluoride brigade began making its cause a Health Issue. Never mind that the Centers for Disease Control has called fluoridation one of the top health improvements in the last 100 years. What do the doctors at the CDC know? You need to get on the Internet, darn it, where you can find the real truth.
To nobody’s surprise, good ol, paranoid ol’ Secure Arkansas turned up in the additives story. You remember Secure Arkansas. It wanted voters to approve an amendment or two that would have . . . What did Secure Arkansas want, anyway? Oh yeah, to deny illegal aliens business licenses or some such. Or was it just license renewals? Or maybe the point was to make those who dare habla español uncomfortable. Persona non grata, if we may be permitted to use the mother of all Romance languages. Because otherwise, what was the point?
One of the nice if obsessed people from Secure Arkansas who spoke on behalf of the additive bill said she was worried about additives from-hold your seat-China or Mexico!
Forget all the people and agencies who test your water. Not to mention the Department of Homeland Security, who sure as heck better have people watching the water supply. If it’s Mexican chlorine or Chinese zinc, we’re allin danger!
Not that anybody can tell the difference between Mexican chlorine and the good old red-blooded American kind. Or if Chinese zinc can somehow be turned against us when it’s added to the water. Clever people, these Chinese. We remember all those old Charlie Chan movies, which sometimes shared a double bill with Stepin Fetchit. Talk about stereotypes galore-our childhood was as full of ’em as the comic books we devoured.
But we suspect this latest fuss is about fluoride. Like Mr. Hart said.
So why the whole song-and-dance about additives and toxicological studies and country-of-origin in House Bill 1205? Why not just file a bill against fluoride and let’s have it out? Haven’t even the feds started expressing some concern about the amount of fluoride in some of our water supplies? Can’t we just have a respectful, honest, even educational debate about this?
No. Because this is the Arkansas legislature. And because a straight-out anti-fluoride ban would be rejected even faster than House Bill 1205 was. And, boy, was it. It didn’t even make it out of committee. Maybe even Arkansas’ legislators like their debates straight-up.
THEN THERE was House Bill 1292. The honorable who filed it was Jon Hubbard from Jonesboro. That legislation would restrict the use of state services for illegal aliens to emergency care only.
Uh oh. Arkansas now provides prenatal care to expecting mothers. Regardless of the mother’s citzenship. And thereby to kids who’ll be Americans as soon as they’re out of the womb, if not before. The state also provides immunizations for kids without their papers in order, as if it were trying to protect all of our children from epidemics.
Arkansas even provides classrooms and teachers and, we hope and trust, love and care and education, that greatest blessing, to kids who were brought here by their parents and can’t remember any life other than right here in the good old, red-white-and-blue USA. But House Bill 1292 would let the state provide emergency care only.
According to Jon Hubbard: “I think the whole bill is to encourage them to pursue citizenship,” he said. “It’s not a deal to punish anybody. . . .”
Su-u-u-re it isn’t.
Of course we have an immigration problem in this country. Of course there needs to be a better way to secure the border and get those who are here illegally out of the shadows and on the road to citizenship. But forbid immunizations for kids who are here illegally? Please.
Even now there are plenty of us who wince when somebody coughs in the office. Imagine letting a lot worse bugs and viruses and who knows what loose in the country. Immunize those little suckers, we say, legal or illegal or status undetermined. It’s a simple matter of public health.
Deny pre-natal care to those who’ll soon be Americans? To what end? So they have really expensive health problems a year from now?
Let’s, instead, be honest about our intentions. If some legislator wants to ban fluoride in the water, let him introduce a bill that says so. If he wants to ban immunizations and education for illegals, hoping to push them back to Oklahoma or Texas or even more distant points, let him introduce a bill that says so. Don’t pussyfoot about it. That’s un-Arkinsaw. It may even be un-American. After all, what would John Wayne do?
We’re all adults here. Except those kids who’d benefit from fluoride, immunizations and good teachers.
Come, let us reason together.