116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Surrounded by dozens of law enforcement personnel, Gov. Kim Reynolds last week signed the crowning achievement of her 2021 legislative agenda — Iowa’s unnecessary and belligerent “Back the Blue” bill.
The law, a direct response to last year’s Black Lives Matter protest movement, will likely lead to a violent crackdown against protesters by police, who have the go-ahead under the new legislation to violate our rights with impunity. Reynolds pitched the ideas at the beginning of the legislative session, and was happy to sign it even after lawmakers stripped out her proposed racial profiling ban.
It’s a big bill with a lot of bad pieces. Lurking in the text is a new restriction against using the American flag in demonstrations. It’s now a simple misdemeanor in some situations “to show disrespect for the flag as a symbol of the United States,” which is defined as defacing, defiling, mutilating and trampling.
The flag, you see, is holy cloth in the state religion.
There is a common theme among several of the worst bills passed in Iowa this year. They aim to position the government as almighty — above reproach and worthy of reverence, with force if necessary. Iowa is your religion now and you will faithfully worship, or else.
Overzealous patriotism is common in America, especially among my fellow conservatives. This year, though, it took on the form of Christ the Redeemer hosting an oversized Perkins flag, flapping ominously over concerned citizens.
Repeatedly, lawmakers proposed and sometimes passed bills that infringe on the rights of those who disparage the government.
The new law meant to restrict the use of “critical race theory” in Iowa schools and government trainings shields the state from infidels. The legislation holds that certain speakers can’t say that the United States or Iowa are racist or sexist. The state is powerful, but it apparently can’t weather the slings of substantive criticism.
Iowa Democrats in the legislative minority tried in vain to resist some of Republicans’ worst instincts, but occasionally joined them in deifying the state, like with a bill requiring schools to offer the Pledge of Allegiance each day.
Lawmakers were smart enough to know they can’t force kids to recite prayers from recognized religions, so instead they settled for the pledge, a hymn in the church of the state. It passed the Iowa House with 91 bipartisan supporters before being tacked onto another bill for final passage.
Overzealous patriotism is common in America, especially among my fellow conservatives. This year, though, it took on the form of Christ the Redeemer hosting an oversized Perkins flag, flapping ominously over concerned citizens. The new era of state worship seems to be fueled at least in part by the nation’s recent racial justice reckoning and the Black Lives Matter movement.
In Iowa last year, protesters used their bodies and their spray paint to tarnish idols of the state religion — the Capitol in Des Moines, from whence the high priests of the Legislature send down their edicts; the Old Capitol in Iowa City, our state’s nativity scene; historic Kinnick Stadium, where believers make pilgrimage to celebrate government sponsorship of unpaid labor, head injuries and selective alcohol enforcement; police stations, court houses and sheriffs’ offices, sanctuaries for the law and its guardians.
They defied the almighty state, and now they must pay for their sins.
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