116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
What’s really spooky this Halloween? From redistricting, voter disenfranchisement, the lack of women’s rights to their own bodies, racial bias and more, there’s quite a list to pick from in Iowa, like many other states. But what stands out is something that goes unsaid, accepted as tradition and seldom fought against with fruition — it is the stagnation of change (an oxymoron, but true).
Change can be a scary thing. It brings the unknown and leaves behind the familiar. It demands transformation and growth when there was nothing but comfort in stasis before. Time and again, the lawmakers, policymakers, politicians and leaders Iowans elect at the state level fail to foster real sustainable change that reflects the flashpoints of a progressive society. And that is not necessarily their fault, as their apprehension to be active agents reflects a hesitant population in the state at large.
Recent legislation that demonstrates an unwillingness to adopt progressive change includes:
- Permit-less carry: no requirement for Iowans to obtain a permit to acquire or carry handguns.
- Early voting: fewer days for early voting, starting with this election.
- Housing vouchers: landlords allowed to reject low-income tenants who use a voucher program to pay rent, essentially ending local policies that attempted to prevent discrimination.
- Mask mandate: mask mandates are banned in schools, though preliminary injunctions have made mandates possible for some school districts
- Diversity and inclusion training: state and local government entities are banned from teaching diversity and inclusion training concepts.
- Back the blue: law enforcement shielded from discipline and penalty for rioting increased (protesting could be considered rioting, by which Black Iowans would be disproportionately affected).
And recent legislation that hasn’t been passed yet, but Iowa lawmakers are pushing for:
- Abortion rights: abortion not considered a fundamental right under the state Constitution, overturning a 2018 ruling and effectively ending abortion in Iowa (while its unlikely this will be passed, the 60-plus lawmakers pushing for it still is unsettling).
- Gender identity: schools must receive permission from parents/guardians before they can teach students about gender identity; gender identity is not a protected class under the Iowa Civil Rights Act.
- Transgender rights: medical professionals are prohibited from providing treatments or surgeries that would alter a minor’s appearance to match the gender they identify as; protections provided for conversion therapy; state government agencies must inform parents if child exhibits any signs they may identify as transgender.
For many, myself included, these bills are chilling to the bone — much in the same way slasher films are. But instead of Michael Myers coming back to blind people with fear and slice through any semblance of safety, it’s the Iowa government that is slowly suffocating itself from within, consumed by the familiar tendency to enable traditional, albeit archaic manners of life, instead of embracing social mobility and progress.
Now, there are people out there doing the groundwork in creating a sustainable future for all that reflects the diversity and equity just change forces, like Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. But the big names in Iowa aren’t change-makers at all (peep Gov. Kim Reynolds).
Change is necessary for society to evolve and the people within it to grow as human beings, to become better. But change comes from real people — not government entities and corporations. Those are merely signals of change that have already occurred. The real agents of change are the people who push back against the status quo and staunch commitment to complacency. And that is how cultural change is born — out of struggle, out of suppression, out of fear and anger and out of love. When the masses change their group mindset, the cultural context in communities changes, giving way to a better, more inclusive space for Iowans to not only coexist with one another, but to thrive as agents of change.
As people change the culture, the government needs to learn how to be flexible in responding to these changes instead of staunchly returning to old practices out of fear. Innovative approaches for the future are the way forward, where leaders can actually do their best to ensure no Iowan is left behind — be they red, blue, urban, rural, privileged or minority.
Change is coming, and it’s about time we send the monsters away for good this Halloween.
Nichole Shaw is a Gazette editorial fellow. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org