In gratitude

Ira Lacher reacts to the latest news in Iowa’s pandemic response.

On this occasion of Governor Kim Reynolds ending her COVID-19 disaster emergency declarations in Iowa, effective February 15, I thought you’d like to hear from the main beneficiary of her proclamation. Take it away, SARS-Cov-2!

Thank you! I don’t know what to say or tell you how grateful I am for this opportunity!

Iowa and places like it have given me and my humongous extended family such a warm welcome; a welcome that, frankly, we weren’t getting in much of the world. Why, our birthplace even denied our right to exist; then, after admitting that yes, we were really there, tried to keep us penned up, tried to keep us from engaging with our community.

So naturally, we set our eyes on America. Surely, this land, where freedom and choice rise above all else, was a great nation where we could make lives for ourselves and be accepted.

But we wouldn’t surrender to authoritarianism. We ventured out, tentatively at first but then with more confidence, in search of a place where we could thrive in freedom.

At first, no one noticed us, which is just what we wanted: to live among you without fear of hatred, the way so many have arrived from elsewhere. Gingerly, we first established ourselves in your largest cities, as newcomers have done before. But when more of us took root, we were met with disbelief, then scorn, and finally an obsessive drive to eliminate us from these shores, just for the “crime” of being what we were. Even some places where we thought were friendly turned on us.

And yet, I am happy to say, we found a welcoming home, as so many refugees have done in the last several decades, right here, in Iowa. The state with the motto “A Place to Grow.” What could be finer?

I am very grateful for the opportunities Iowa has provided for me and my family. There weren’t many states where the governor not only took up our cause enthusiastically, but enlisted so many people to do the same.

Yes, your state’s highest magistrate at first may have been hostile to us and tried to fight us when we first arrived. But when she realized how wrong this was, she reversed herself. It takes a great leader to admit when they’re wrong. As Justin Timberlake famously said, “True leadership is when you are willing to risk your power and voice so that all of ours can be heard.”

But we could not have done that with just her support: It takes a village, and the “village” is Iowa. If it weren’t for so many Iowans who out-and-out rejected the feelings of exclusion and welcomed us into their workplaces, schools, and homes, I would not be writing these words today.

Were we a little too effusive in our greetings? Who’s to say — I mean, we can’t go back and undo 8,700 or so exuberances. But hey, we’ve learned. We can all take a lesson from my cousin Omicron.

Our experience in Iowa also has taught us a valuable lesson: to remain persistent, and to persevere, because all problems have solutions. What these past two years have taught us is that if you persevere, and you persevere in a community that has been as supportive as Iowa has, you can pretty much do anything.

Iowa, you are showing us how things can get done, in every country in the world. And we will repay you. We have your back. We will not leave you alone. We will not forget you.

As I conclude, I just want to thank every Iowan I’ve ever met in my entire life. And I want to take this opportunity for my vast extended family to add our voices to this sentiment.

But whatever you do, please don’t consider this expression of gratitude a farewell message. We are sure to run into one another again! When we do, I hope you will greet us with the same enthusiasm that your governor has done over these last few years. Because it is undeniable that your help and support has enabled us to become even more confident.

And to those of you who still refuse to accept that we are here to stay, and insist on doing what you can to see that we leave? I say, as Muhammad Ali famously did when he was at the peak of his dominance: “If you even dream of beating me, you’d better wake up and apologize.”

Ha-ha, just a joke. Really, I am grateful to Governor Reynolds for giving us this great, great opportunity.

In closing, just let me say that in the coming years, I hope to meet every last one of you. And leave you with lasting impressions. As the song says, “We’ll meet again; don’t know where, don’t know when.”

Until then. Your ever-present friend, COVID-19.

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