Toward Citizenship in 1984

Fragment of a draft letter to Dennis, Jan. 14, 1984

This letter was written to my friend since high school Dennis Brunning. The following month I would accept my first job with CRST, Inc., as it was called then. The sixth paragraph describes the beginnings of what would become attributes of the modern Republican Party in Iowa and the roots of Trumpism. It is somewhat sad that I believed a path based on “rational decision-making processes” was possible. Maybe it is. In 1984 I didn’t expect anti-intellectualism to expand the way it has. I can’t recall if I sent the letter to Dennis, but presume I did. I re-typed the text verbatim, as much as it pained me to do so.

Dear Dennis,

Greetings again from our rented abode on Taylor Drive. It is a sunny Saturday, we’ve just finished the papers and morning coffee, and now I am about the work that will hopefully propel me into a secure economic orbit, somewhere outside this nuclear home.

In my daily work at the university I realize my days are numbered. I have outgrown the work I am doing there. It is time to move into the next position… and I wonder what that will be. I am unlike you. I have not got a profession in mind, and so, my path is not as direct as yours seems. But, together, Jacque and I will make for ourselves a life here.

That I read the Saturday morning newspaper is significant. During the past year I cut myself off from the outside world, lived within the confines of my married relationship, but no more. I seek now information about the rest of the world, and newspapers are a wealth of the type of things I want to learn.

I wish next to attain full citizenship in my native land. I think I was one of the many during the past few years of national life who had had enough of the seemingly limitless information that was/is flowing in our life. I felt as if I were rejecting everything in order to get to the roots of my own life. This was a useful endeavor.

Now that part of my life is finished and the next step is citizenship. The meaning of citizenship is difficult to assess, and always, it means different things for different people.

There has been an enormous popular movement in the Midwest, back to the basics: the three “Rs” and fundamental religion, creationism, family, patriotism, anti-intellectualism. There are many examples of this here. The increasing reactions against the MIU in Fairfield, the Tommy Barnett religious revival in Davenport, the banning of certain books from school libraries, the creationism vs. evolution debate in the Des Moines Register, and so on. I felt a revulsion to the activities of the conservatives here, but, too, I listened to what they were saying.

Now, I must prevent myself from the two most important fallacies in my life: reactionism and enthusiasm. I must outline for myself, for our family, a path that is ours alone, walking a path with Heart, and we must plan this path on the basis of rational decision-making processes, not allowing ourselves to be caught up in “social movements.” This will be difficult, but accomplishing this is the basic tenant of the citizenship to which we aspire. Whether or not we endorse the various social movements, our opinion about them is not as important as the decisions we make about our own lives and what we do about these decisions.

So, as 1984 begins, we wish you and Frances luck. If you want to share time together, please let us know. I would much like to talk with you for a lengthy period, and perhaps, when I get settled in my future job, we can plan a rendezvous. Til then, let us keep in touch, I know we will. Take care of yourself.


Draft Letter to Dennis Brunning, Iowa City, Iowa, Jan. 14, 1984