Living in Society

Trash Talk

Iowa State Capitol.

Republicans in the Iowa legislature are treating children like trash. It is part of their view of the role of children in society. It is not right.

Republicans embrace our forefathers, and seek to make Iowa and America great. They don’t want to hear alternative views of American history, like those presented in The 1619 Project created by Nikole Hannah-Jones of Waterloo. They also don’t want to go back to our founding in 16th Century Britain, although that’s where we seem to find ourselves today.

Today’s Republicans embrace the worst aspects of 16th Century colonization, including the idea of Richard Hakluyt that children of the poor be “brought up in labor and work” so they would not follow in their parents’ footsteps and become “idle rogues.” These Republicans are no different than the British elite who had never set foot in the Americas as they rounded up the poor, indigent, and criminal, as well as children, to send to North America and return riches made with the sweat of their brows.

When I woke at 3 a.m. this morning the Iowa Senate was deadlocked over Senate File 542, a bill to roll back protections for children against inappropriate types and amounts of labor. The bill was written by the governor and a small coterie of restaurant and retail establishment lobbyists seeking to resolve Iowa’s labor shortage. Deadlock was related to the spoken intent of the bill. Republicans didn’t want to say anything about their intent, so they refused to answer direct questions about the bill during debate. This is behavior unworthy of their oath of office.

I worked on the cleanup crew of a large slaughterhouse as an adult, and it’s no place for children regardless of the law. This is common sense.

Children are not something to be used up and thrown into the garbage. Yet that is the effect this legislation could have. Republicans frame this as learning the responsibility to work and saving a little money for higher education or other advancement of personal goals. I see it for what it is: a chance to indoctrinate children to do the bidding of the wealthiest among us and in doing so, give up part of their childhood.

No matter how you look at it, it is a raw deal for children when they are treated like expendable commodities. The Iowa House will debate this bill next.