The line against hate is drawn in Oakland, Iowa

Thanks to Glenn Hurst for sharing this inspiring story of local activism. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Not long after Charlottesville, the Nazi menace attempted to slither into peaceful rural Iowa; Oakland, Iowa to be precise. As I laid fingers to keyboard, another ugly head attempted to sprout in northwest Iowa’s heavily Republican Sioux County. We took the same tactics spelled out here and successfully reproduced the protest in this Republican stronghold.

I had just emceed the vigil for Charlottesville held in Omaha a few weeks prior to the Oakland event. I was also providing the media coordination for the upcoming DACA event (scheduled for the following week) when murmurs about an anti-Islamic group snaking into Pottawattamie County started to get louder. Rallying against hate was becoming all too common.

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Well-meaning bigotry, Midwest-style

Jason Clayworth published a big feature on Christian Fong in Wednesday’s Des Moines Register. I recommend clicking over to read the whole thing before it disappears into the Register’s pay-to-download archive. Fong’s campaign strategy has always interested me, especially his efforts to sound inclusive while remaining faithful to conservative Republican views on social issues.

I was tempted to write a post here making fun of Fong’s balancing act on gay rights. He told Clayworth that after passing a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage,

Iowa lawmakers need to make sure such rights as hospital visitation and estate planning are equal for same-sex couples, he said.

“If a constitutional amendment were passed, it would be irresponsible to throw up our hands and say, ‘We’re done.’ ” Fong said. “There are going to have to be steps that are taken to make sure we treat all Iowans fairly and compassionately. Gay people, too.”

So I’m thinking about how “fair” and “compassionate” it is to let conservatives’ religious views override a minority group’s civil marriage rights, and I’m laughing at Fong’s continuing attempts to advocate for discrimination very respectfully.

And then a sidebar (available only in the print version) stopped me in my tracks:

Christian Fong says he feels a special responsibility as a racial minority candidate.

Growing up, Fong used his middle name, Shun-Bok, given to him by his Chinese father.

When he was considering medical school at the University of Iowa, he was told he should consider going by something other than Shun-Bok because the industry did not need more Asians in medicine.

He’s gone by Christian–his first name–ever since.

That kick in the gut (dressed up as a helpful hint) got me thinking about the mixed messages minorities get from nice, polite Midwesterners.

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I dodged a teachable moment last week

I’ve been taking my children to political rallies, receptions, and house parties since they were babies. Many Iowa Democrats have claimed not to recognize me without a small child riding on my front, hip or back.

At the same time, I’ve avoided exposing my kids to political scenes likely to turn confrontational, such as anti-war demonstrations. An article I read years ago in Mothering magazine persuasively argued that because young children cannot understand abstract political concepts, they are likely to be disturbed by the anger they encounter at a protest rally. (Sorry, no link–they don’t put most of their content online.)

I’ve also been influenced by my mother-in-law. In her 30 years as a preschool teacher, she learned that young children are easily confused by upsetting images. After 9/11, some of the kids in her class did not understand that television networks kept showing replays of the same scenes. They thought that another plane was crashing into another building every time they saw tragic footage from that day.

Living in the Des Moines suburbs, it’s usually no challenge to keep my little ones from volatile political scenes. They get that not everyone votes the same way, but politics to them means coming with Mommy or Daddy to hear a candidate speak, help deliver yard signs or vote on election day.

When Fred Phelps and his clan from the Westboro Baptist Church planned a trip to central Iowa this month, it occurred to me that sheltering my children from their hatred might not be an option.

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