Sunday, February 19, 2017

Iowa, Not an Inspiration

I recommend reading this commentary from the DesMoines Register,  called To Steve King: Here's the real 'cultural suicide' Iowa faces.

The author, Sangina Patnaik, grew up in small-town Iowa, with a father who had immigrated from India in the 1970s. She wrote to address Iowa Rep. Steve King, who is known for his xenophobic worldview. (He's the guy who said Mexicans who cross the border are all running drugs and have calves the size of cantaloupes.)

Patnaik does an admirable job of setting King straight on what "real Iowans" are. I especially appreciated her analysis of what has led to the decline of Iowa's economy:

My not doing fine. And, despite your belief in the horrors of “demographic transformation,” I’m pretty sure my siblings and I aren’t the cause of its slow decline. I’ve watched over the years as small businesses on Main Street turned into vacant storefronts. Members of my high school class (myself included) left western Iowa because the jobs we could get there just didn’t compete with the ones we ended up getting elsewhere.

In fact, your sense that allowing other races to mix into an historically white area will lead to “cultural suicide” couldn’t be more off base.

Cultural suicide occurred when the unions were broken at the packing plants in our hometowns, turning respectable $21-an-hour jobs into back-breaking $11-an-hour labor that couldn’t support a family. Cultural suicide occurs every time you vote to defund public education, stripping Iowa public school teachers of the resources they need to educate the next generation of Iowans even as you accept $10,600 in campaign contributions from the College Loan Corp. — a company that profits from increased student debt. Cultural suicide occurs when you decide to display a Confederate flag on your desk, conveniently forgetting that you represent a state that fought for the Union.

I get it. It’s easier to point fingers at the brown people who take those 3 a.m. shifts at the packing plant and are now raising their families on minimum wage than it is to accept personal responsibility for the ways that your particular brand of strip-mining the Iowan economy is devastating the lives of Iowans.
Strip-mining: What a great metaphor for King's worldview. It fits with the overall extractive, rather than generative, approach that politicians like him take.

The only thing that surprised me about Patnaik's commentary is that it was published back in October 2016. Since then, Iowa's legislature has moved further down the extractive path, voting to ban collective bargaining for public employee unions. They're making noises about following Kansas into the Sam Brownback crevasse of budget cuts and killing the public schools.

And meanwhile, in Minnesota, our Republican-held House and Senate are cooking up the same kinds of bills, but we all know they will be vetoed by our Democratic governor.

2018 is not long off. It's our last chance to save our state, if not our country, from these people who want to strip mine everything they can from civil society.

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