On Sept. 14, Carson King held a poorly scribbled sign in the air asking for money to buy Busch Light. His sign captured the heart of a state that routinely worships at the feet of the twin gods of beer and football.
King eventually raised over $3 million and donated it to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. He was a hero.
The discovery by a Des Moines Register reporter of racist tweets turned our hero into the martyr of beleaguered conservatives tired of being constantly oppressed by the demand that they not be racist. King himself expressed embarrassment over his tweets, posted when he was 16, while a campaign of outrage on his behalf led to death threats directed at the Register and the reporter who wrote the story.
Gov. Kim Reynolds declared Sept. 28 as Carson King Day. There is a Carson King bobblehead, which sells for $25, with $5 of each going to the Children’s Hospital. And recently, four employees of the Register quit over the controversy.
To be fair, King never asked for this. All he asked for was beer. Instead, what he found was the molten core of Iowa and politics in America.
It’s the story that’s dominated our state. Even as our elected officials have ignored the presidential impeachment proceedings and the implosion of our hospital system, they’ve leaned in to the discourse on King.
Opinions about whether he was an actual racist, whether the newspaper should have reported his tweets, whether he’s a hero, all flow from the mouths and Facebook posts of Iowans as cheaply as a light domestic lager.
It’s telling how many white Iowans have mumbled to themselves about their own social media history, as if it was somehow a rite of passage to be occasionally racist in your past. It’s not, actually. Nor should it be.
But we tell on ourselves with what we fear: We don’t fear racism, we fear being discovered for it. We fear the reporter asking about our misdeeds more than we fear actually doing them.
Anyone who has dared to push back against the discourse is declared the enemy of the hospital and sick children.
Meanwhile, the real attack on the sick kids in Iowa isn’t coming from reporters or the media, but from the actual policies and programs that are toppling our health care into a crisis.
In all of this discourse, what no one is saying is that politics in America is so broken that a kid holding a semiliterate sign offers a better fix for health care than our actual governor.
Reynolds’ continued backing of a managed care plan for Iowa is a shove to our state Medicaid system, which already was one foot in the grave, one foot on a banana peel.
And last week, the Revenue Estimating Conference projected that Iowa’s revenue growth will continue to be stagnant, due in part to the trade wars and tax cuts. The good news: We aren’t in a recession just yet.
The president’s tariffs and Renewable Fuel Standard waivers are draining the state of money. Three ethanol plants in Iowa have closed, and even with the new deal that backtracked on the waivers and the bailouts, the state is losing money faster than a college kid on game day. Yet another hit to marginalized Iowans already bobbling on the edge of a state that is cutting services and closing clinics. And additionally, government officials like Reynolds and our senators refuse to answer questions from reporters or average Iowans about all of this.
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It’s easier, after all, to take up the hue and cry of being victimized by the “liberal media” than have a real conversation. It’s easier to declare the hero the victim and call the victim fake news.
Reality after all, doesn’t make a nice bobblehead.