Iowa Independence Day: Are We Really Free?
An American flag on display near Central City in July 2017 (Cliff Jette / The Gazette)
July 4th reminds me of sitting by the pool or the beach with sweet corn on the cob and a toasted hot dog, maybe a lemonade or a beer handy. The heat is usually stifling and makes me dizzy, but I’ll jump in the water to cool off and later listen to live music at a city festival before the fireworks take over the sky in brilliant explosions of color. It reminds me of being picked up on my grandfather’s shoulders and carried as he told me stories about how he wanted to get into the US Air Force but had to stay in the US to take care of. a family that needed him.
In Iowa, July 4th reminds me of pretty much the same things, minus my grandpa. It reminds me a little more of the arts and military bands. Sweet corn is even more important in Iowa, and I’m not complaining.
More importantly, July 4th reminds me of the feeling that I don’t really know what it is to be American, or who you really are.
I was born in the United States and never left (except for a few months vacation in Europe, where I visited 13 countries). I was brought to this world quite chaotically and prematurely via an emergency Cesarean, as my mother’s body was not equipped to carry me and collapsed into a pool of her own blood as the firefighters knocked down the kitchen door to take us to the hospital.
Growing up, the idea of patriotism and being proud of this country and its achievements was deeply rooted in my immediate family, which consisted of me, my mother and my younger sister. And it was mainly because of my mother, who firmly believed that America was the greatest country in the world to allow its citizens to live freely in a democracy that our predecessors fought hard for.
I myself was not so convinced that the United States was the greatest country in the world. Guess it’s because I’ve always been a bit skeptical about everything and questioned things that I don’t know everything about. This skepticism cemented itself during my time at the University of Iowa as a budding professional journalist, who was taught to question everything until the truth was revealed.
I certainly don’t know everything about the history of the United States, but I do know this: They are about to be in a very dangerous place, one where the truth is masked and hidden in favor of more comfortable narratives for the privileged (see: conservative attacks on critical race theory, which has its flaws but also its merits; proposed bans on teaching Project 1619 by Iowan and Pulitzer Prize winner Nikole Hannah-Jones; and more). Iowa is no different in this regard, as recent legislation like House File 802 actively censors the teaching of certain concepts in diversity and inclusion training, creating complacency in accepting a a nicer tale that ignores the iniquity, oppression and slavery in Iowa and the history of the United States.
I know July 4th commemorates this country’s Independence Day, the day the United States got rid of the reigning power of England and the unfair taxation of settlers. It’s supposed to be a holiday for American citizens because of their privileges over the rest of the world – and we have a lot of them, like our right to free speech and assembly, among others.
In reality, however, I don’t know how free the people of Iowa are. As I wrote earlier, LGBTQ + rights are being curtailed; women’s rights are a serious point of contention (Iowa having the most extreme restriction on reproductive rights in the nation); and the state seems determined to prevent the teaching of the true history of America regarding the horrors of slavery and the reality of racism.
I’m not the type to tell anyone how to live their life. I believe that people have the right to live their lives as they see fit, as long as they don’t harm others in the process. And that doesn’t seem to be the case in Iowa, with state officials and lawmakers passing bills that seem to be reminiscent of a less progressive era when not being a heteronormative white man was living hell because limitations on how the government has allowed you to live your life.
Life, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness haven’t always been granted to every person, and I’m afraid Iowa will come to a day where it mimics the reality of life in the 1960s and before for those which do not fit into fairly prescribed societal boxes. of normality.
GOP House leader Matt Windschitl said it was “the year of freedom for the Iowans,” according to the Iowa Capitol Dispatch.
And that might be true for some, as my colleague Adam Sullivan pointed out in the new constitutional porterage law which strengthens the rights of Second Amendment supporters, easier delivery of alcohol to residences and the purchase of alcohol before 8 a.m. on Sunday, plus more school choices for parents and more mask warrants.
However, what about the Iowans who have their speech censored to fight against perceived “indoctrination”? What about the freedom to assemble and demonstrate perceived as a riot? What about the harsh voter crackdown happening in Iowa counties? What about real independence?
How are Iowians supposed to celebrate this year of freedom when they are not allowed to make their own choices about how to live their lives in the way they see fit and right, without harming the rights to life from anyone?
Now this may seem like a lose-lose situation – and I understand that. How do the Conservatives win if the Liberals win and vice versa, right? But what if there was what’s called open discourse and proper negotiation? What if the foundation of every policy and law that came into effect was based on truth instead of political exploitation of power?
Last year, we were at the heart of an intense cultural war plagued by identity politics. Maybe the way the Iowans can honor July 4th this year is to think about what it really means to be an American, to understand what independence from tyranny and oppression really is. , and apply it to their lives and politics in the future.
Nichole Shaw is a member of the editorial staff of The Gazette. Comments: [email protected]