116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
So 2021 is coming to an end. But before you go, we’d like to have a word with you.
Before the year started, many of us were simply relieved to see the calendar carry us from the deadly clutches of 2020. We figured 2021 had to be better. A vaccine was being deployed. A new president was on the way. Surely, the pandemic would be tamed.
Well, here we are, still suffering from various national viruses.
It’s true, hundreds of millions of people have been vaccinated and many now are receiving booster shots. It’s a medical and scientific miracle, and yet, like so much else in America, “vaccine” and “vax” became terms loaded with divisive politics and disinformation.
Have you been magnetized, microchipped or sterilized? Raise your hand.
Then came the “variants,” first delta, which did most of the sickening and killing during pandemic year two, and omicron, which is just now spreading. Unvaccinated Americans were hit hardest, and yet the culture war over shots continues.
Personally, I’m waiting for COVID upsilon.
Speaking of national viruses, “insurrection” also made Merriam Webster’s list. You may recall on Jan. 6 supporters of former President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol as part of an effort to stop the certification of a free and fair presidential election. A shocked nation watched the whole thing online and on TV, and yet the “big lie” continues to poison our politics.
“Woke” was another finalist. It’s been transformed from a word meaning “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues” (especially issues of racial and social justice) into a derogatory term slapped on anything and anyone conservatives oppose.
The opposite of “woke?” Being unaware and actively ignorant. That sounds about right.
Closer to home, “partisanship” became the buzzword in the Cedar Rapids mayoral race, with Amara Andrews running a progressive campaign backed by Democratic activists and Republican Tiffany O’Donnell proclaiming herself a non-partisan member of the “party of Cedar Rapids” while getting help from GOP activists. Mayor Brad Hart added some linguistic hot sauce to the race when he called out CSPS Hall for inviting Andrews to an improv event. “It’s complete (expletive)” Hart said in a voicemail.
In Iowa, “Trailblazer” was added to our political lexicon after Gov. Kim Reynolds was dubbed a “Red State Trailblazer” by Fox News. But instead of blazing a trail, Reynolds has simply followed the well-worn path beaten by other red state governors who embrace COVID-19 denial, shred social safety nets and target transgender kids for legislative retribution. It’s a real swell bunch.
Or how about “nutrient?” A lot of it still is flowing into Iowa’s waterways, spawning toxic algae blooms and feeding the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig dubbed a report on the poor water quality in the Raccoon River, a source of drinking water for Iowa’s largest city, “propaganda.” But that label would be better applied to the tweeting of U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson, who claimed efforts to clarify federal clean water act rules would lead to federal inspection of “puddles.”
But I think the word of the year in Iowa is “whitewash.”
It’s a good word to sum up the GOP Iowa Legislature’s assault on education, history, protest and oversight. Lawmakers considered a bill that would have banned the teaching of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “1619 Project,” which puts the Black Americans who have endured slavery and entrenched racism at the center of the nation’s history. And they passed a law banning diversity curriculum that includes divisive concepts, such as how institutional racism still plagues America.
Backers feared that without such restrictions, students face the prospect of liberal “indoctrination,” filling the schools with little lunchroom Marxists. No word on whether it’s illegal to teach kids how these bills are great examples of institutional racism.
After making some welcome progress in 2020 on policing reforms in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, the Legislature spent 2021 backing the blue and cracking down on protest. To justify another round of voting restrictions, they applied the thick whitewash of “election integrity.” Another coat helped them largely ignore the pandemic, and Reynolds’ reckless spending of COVID-19 aid.
But we saw what they did. We weren’t fooled by all the whitewash. Here’s to hoping “change” is the word of the year for 2022.
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