Guest Columnist

Iowans observed a world turned upside-down in 2020

The Stars & Stripes is caught in tree branches after a severe storm as Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds tours the storm damage at
The Stars & Stripes is caught in tree branches after a severe storm as Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds tours the storm damage at Marion Square Park in Marion, Iowa, on Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020. Reynolds and Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg saw the damage from Monday's inland hurricane as they visited communities across the state. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

If 2020 was a TV show, it would be “Stranger Things.” It’s the show that introduced us to the upside-down world. Here’s what I mean.

As the ball dropped for a new year, if a person wore a mask to a bank or into a store, that person was up to no good. By April, if you didn’t wear a mask into those same places, you were up to no good.

In January, if a person shunned his or her neighbors and refused friendly hugs, the person was a snob. In May, it was an act of patriotism and public protection. It’s an upside-down world, but it goes even further.

Weeks after the election, and after every state has certified the vote results, Donald Trump, the losing presidential candidate, persists in shouting baseless conspiracy theories and refuses to acknowledge defeat. While that’s upside-down, what’s causing even more vertigo is the silence of congressional Republicans, and the more than 100 congressional Republicans signing on to a bogus appeal by Texas to the Supreme Court.

A byproduct of the Republican actions and the Trump shouting is that his hardworking supporters were conned into contributing more than $200 million in campaign contributions to a self-proclaimed billionaire who already lost by more than 6 million votes. That’s upside-down.

Historically, presidents from both parties have met crisis head on. Franklin Roosevelt saw the depression and took action. President George Bush didn’t hesitate to stand on the rubble of the World Trade Center and issue a call to action.

But Trump is silent about the biggest crisis our country has ever faced.

More than 275,000 Americans are dead as a virus sweeps the world, and Instead of confronting the crisis, he holds unmasked, no distance holiday parties in the People’s House, and weaves strange conspiracy theories about the election via Twitter. Never once has he explained how he lost because of fraud but Republicans on the same ballot triumphed.

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Iowa wasn’t exempt from the upside-down world either. When the campaign ads disappeared, we all breathed a sigh of relief through our masks, but the blare of politics still drowns out the message of surviving a pandemic.

The health message coming from Gov. Kim Reynolds has been muted and mixed. Instead of modeling masks and distancing, mid-pandemic, Reynolds chose to throw out red hats to a crowd scoffing at being masked and distanced. That’s not just upside-down, it’s absurd.

How does the world begin to turn itself right side up?

First, we need to fight the two monsters of this upside-down year. One monster will only be extinguished by a shot in the arm and some discipline before it happens.

The other monster is hyper partisan politics where conspiracy theories find even more fertile ground than a central Iowa black dirt farm.

It’s not easy to quell conspiracy theories. After all, conspiracy is gossip well-funded. To fight it, be skeptical. Use some analytics, and use trusted sources. Basically, use the same tools we use to keep from sending money to that Nigeria prince who wants to make us rich if we’ll send our banking info.

Above all, we need to offer grace to those who disagree with us. With that, we’ll learn to disagree without being disagreeable.

If we can conquer these monsters, 2021 might be more like “It’s a Wonderful Life” instead of “Stranger Things.”

Bruce Lear lives in Sioux City and retired after 38 years of being connected to public schools. He was a teacher for 11 years and a regional director for Iowa State Education Association for 27 years until retirement. He grew up in Shellsburg.

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