Coping with Iowa’s Coarsening

Convenience Store

Convenience Store

At a convenience store in North Liberty yesterday, a young guy was fueling his large black pickup truck. A companion was riding shotgun, both clad in blue jeans and dark T-shirts. The brief moment would have passed unnoticed except for the full-sized Confederate flag flying on the passenger side of the cab.

Another flag, the stars and stripes, flew from the driver’s side of the cab, both set to ripple in the breeze as the truck drove away on the highway.

Should I have said something? Maybe. My military training came into play and two things stopped me. Others hanging at the convenience store seemed to know the driver, and while they were not necessarily sympathetic, it was not my turf. The other thing was the unknown as to whether the gent had a gun. Perhaps the association was unjust, but one assumes he was armed, and of course, I was not. I kept my powder dry for another day.

The Confederate flag can be found in abundance in the counties where I live. People fly them at home instead of the stars and stripes. There are big ones, little ones, and stickered-to-windshield ones. I am less concerned about one person’s expression of whatever it is the confederate flag means to them, than I am when it is displayed in public as part of an official function, like it was in the Marion County Republicans Independence Day parade float.

Marion County Republicans

Marion County Republicans

Reality bleeds over into the construct of politics. Johnny on the spot, the Republican Party of Iowa chairman condemned this use of the Confederate battle flag by his associates, although he made no mention of the improperly displayed U.S. flag on the back of the  trailing pachyderm. Like it or not, the attitudes behind flag usage—stars and bars or stars and stripes—are deeply ingrained in some Iowans and ever present.

My issue with the flag culture is why should I feel like I’m entering a war zone when picking up a beverage at the convenience store? Maybe its just me. Maybe it’s the coarsening of our community.

~ Written for Blog for Iowa

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