Quick hits on issues of the day

Herb Strentz on Afghanistan, what it means to be free, and a counter-intuitive place to look for hope and optimism.

One way to cope with overwhelming issues and events of the day is to hide someplace, until the storms blow over.

But of course, they won’t blow over. And even if we think they will, it’s better to try to understand what is happening and what we might do about it.

To that end, here is some brief food for thought on issues of the day.

An Afghanistan Perspective: On one side in Afghanistan we have zealots and terrorists willing to kill themselves and innocent people for extremist causes they fervently believe in. On another side, in the U.S. Congress and state legislatures, we have zealots who just as fervently seek only one thing, re-election — not public service.

On what we are or want to be: Ask kids what they want to be when they grow up and it’s unlikely you will hear, “I want to be an informed citizen so we can make self-government work for all.” You won’t hear much of that from their parents either.

What it means to be free: The only free person, it is said, is one who exercises self-restraint. People who think freedom means “I can do anything I want” merit another descriptor: senseless.

You might try drinking bleach, however: Always trying to be helpful, the Iowa Department of Public Health recently listed “a number of things Iowans can do to protect themselves and others from COVID-19 and prevent spreading the virus in their communities.” The news release containing that list did not even mention wearing a mask in public indoor spaces.

Looking for optimism? Read the obituaries! No, seriously. You’ll find lots of people who have fought the good fight and finished their leg of the race, leaving us some accomplishments to build on, if we have the courage to do so.

Check out articles about the recent passings of Bob Moses, “a towering but self-effacing leader of the civil rights movement,” or Karen Hastie Williams, “the first Black woman to serve as a Supreme Court clerk.” Or this commentary about Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady, published shortly after his unexpected death in 2019 (scroll to the bottom to find that piece). 

Others may come to mind as you need a hope-refresher.

Herb Strentz was dean of the Drake School of Journalism from 1975 to 1988 and professor there until retirement in 2004. He was executive secretary of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council from its founding in 1976 to 2000.

Top image: Karen Hastie Williams (left), and Bob Moses (right).

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