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Rants & Reason

Is this hell? No, it’s Iowa!


Will potential political nominees disappear into the cornfields like the ball players in the movie?

Pardon the heresy and excuse the rant, but after the 2018 legislative session, it’s understandable and defensible to offer a different take on the hyperbole from the movie “Field of Dreams.” You know, the lines where baseball’s Shoeless Joe Jackson asks, “Is this heaven?” and the downright decent farmer answers, “No, it’s Iowa!”

The 2018 legislature and Gov. Kim Reynolds had a production of their own, “Field of Nightmares.”

So — despite the efforts of many thoughtful legislators who too often found themselves in the minority — Iowans now are stuck with:

• The nation’s most restrictive anti-abortion law, which sets an abortion time limit of about six weeks when a fetal heartbeat can be detected — before many women even know if they are pregnant.

• The refuted notion, but grand fantasy, that the best way to help the poor and vulnerable is to give a lot more to the wealthy and secure.

Prep Iowa

• The best response to not having enough money to spend on essential public needs is to lower revenue even more through ill-advised tax reductions that are called “reform.”

• The fact that reasonable ways to provide medical marijuana, cleaner water, improved mental health care and sound educational systems were either rejected or dealt with in inadequate, piecemeal ways.

• A budget that was mismanaged in preparation, partly because financing for the privatization of Iowa Medicaid remains unclear — except that the costs will be more than the state had estimated and the system is less effective.

Small wonder, then, to despair that, for many citizens, Iowa can be hell instead of the Field of Dreams notion that Iowa is heaven.

And we still expect national political leaders to keep the Iowa caucuses first in the selection of 2020 presidential candidates? Or will potential nominees just disappear into the cornfields, like the ball players in the movie?

Perhaps a sense of despair is a fitting way to mark the worst of the 50th anniversary of 1968, the year in which hope and dreams took a beating with the murders of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., in April and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in June.

The hope, however, is that we might still fashion a silk purse.

Fifty years later, Iowans again need to raze our field of nightmares and replant some dreams. Here are a couple of upbeat memories from the late 1960s that got no press attention — among all the coverage of campus protests and civic violence.

We were at the University of Kentucky during the 1968-69 school year, and there were campus protests there, too. But a lingering memory is of being at a big student rally — hundreds of students were there. As is often typical of the left, there was parliamentary procedure and votes on what actions to take.

One student moved to take some sort of radical action against the University.

Believe it not, the motion died for lack of a second from any one of the hundreds of students! Bizarre.

A year later, we were at the University of North Dakota. Students ringed the campus armory, home of the ROTC program. Intentionally or inadvertently, an armory window was broken. The protestors took a collection to pay for the damage. Bizarre.

So one clings to such recollections of common sense and decency and the fact that Iowa has at times been well-managed as a glimmer of hope. The November elections can’t come soon enough to begin repairing the damage being done at state and federal levels. There will be many good candidates on the ballot.

One thing not to do is figure, “Well, at least it can’t get any worse.”

We may have thought that five or six months ago, before so many legislators and the governor turned Iowa’s proverbial heaven into a proverbial hell for many citizens. ♦

Herb Strentz is a retired administrator and professor in the Drake School of Journalism and Mass Communication and writes the monthly Rants and Reason column for CITYVIEW.

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