Tag Archives: Iowa

A narrative void begets a void narrative

We continue watching, each day, to see how the magic duel is going between the narrative of elected government, and the narrative of Republican conspiracy theories. So far, Trump’s wizards are doing very badly on points, but if the bizarre spells they’re casting don’t win this duel for them, they are still poisoning the opposing narrative permanently.

In this regard, we already know the outcome, conclusively: “You’ve already lost,” America.

A growing number of people seem to realize that there is no putting Humpty Dumpty back together again. It’s still a relatively tiny minority which understands this. Interestingly this minority includes participants at Marcy Wheeler’s mostly deep-in-the-legal-weeds blog. Marcy herself has asserted that “We need a new story about America.”

I also believe that, whatever more stable configuration may eventually replace the ungovernable present United States, it will involve some new narrative magic which binds society together in a way that the old narratives just don’t.

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Decline and Fall of Iowa State University

The news, yesterday, that Iowa State University plans to host a massive COVID-19 superspreader event at Jack Trice Stadium feels like a fade-to-black moment.

I was a critic of Iowa State even as a student, and if my early criticism wasn’t always very good, with 20 years’ hindsight I still think that by graduation I was making reasonable complaints. Recent years, however, seem to reveal a trend which makes this latest destructive act less than completely shocking, no matter how appalling it is.

“Planegate” in 2016 might, by itself, have been a one-off fiasco. Yet that same year, Iowa State University of Science and Technology awarded a degree to a contemporary Republican elected official; Kim Reynolds has gone on to demonstrate that category’s dependable anti-science hackery with one of the worst pandemic responses of any governor in the entire U.S.

The following year, Iowa State cooperated quietly and fully with the state government’s Republican hacks when they robbed the university and public of the Iowa Energy Center, so that the utility industry could corrupt and dismantle it. I wrote letters at the time, protesting, but the fix was apparently in.

Seeing Iowa State University now embrace the plague state approach of disastrous buffoonery and reckless denial, right along with Reynolds and Trump, feels like turning out the last lights. The descent into darkness has been underway for quite a while. This is just arrival.

Realistically we have a lot bigger problems so I can’t even feel particularly heartbroken. The Iowa State University of the late 1990s served me well, but I have not had any real relationship with the institution since other than sentiment. I have still barely made any beginning at adapting, mentally, for the different world we’re entering, but a capacity to let go of purely sentimental ties to the past without a lot of fuss is probably the low-hanging fruit here.

I could write more, but probably, the substantive concept to carry forward is simply that there will be more like this. A few months ago a friend texted me at 1 a.m. “it’s time to pick sides.” Iowa State University of Science and Technology has decided to side with destructive recklessness and fraud.

Postscript: Iowa State University did abandon this disastrous idea, which is far better than plowing ahead. But pre-game tailgating went right ahead even as Iowa continues to set new COVID-19 records. As the late Pete Taylor would often say in exasperation, good night!

Book tour, radio, and living history

On Tuesday, I journeyed to Ames for a one-stop “book tour,” speaking at the Ames Library about Hancher vs. Hilton: Iowa’s Rival University Presidents.

Apparently it went well. People seemed pleased with my presentation. Which is particularly validating, given that the audience included people who had been present six decades ago for more than one of the book’s colorful anecdotes.

We also added one anecdote, or quote at least, from President Hilton who reportedly once summed up his relationship with President Hancher by saying “every time he opened his mouth, I put my foot in it.” Which if self-effacing was certainly self-aware as well.

I also found myself reintroduced to my college adviser, whom I had not seen for 20 years.

Also, though this was my only stop for this “book tour,” it was in another sense just the prelude to a further exploration of Hancher vs. Hilton which begins next week. The KHOI “Community Bookshelf” program will air an interview with me, followed by Mark Slagell reading from the book over several shows.

You can could formerly listen online at archive.khoifm.org

Thanks so much to Mary, Mary, Mary, KHOI and the Ames Library.