I know this blog is quickly turning into me reflecting about places I've lived, but I have to write about my favorite shining star of radicalism today. I think a lot of this year--from the long drive home during Gustav to the presidential election to grappling with prejudices at my all-white rural Louisiana school--has involved thinking about where I'm from and realizing that, yes, it is Iowa and yes, I really am from there in a deep way. It's funny that so many of the values I thought I formed in opposition to the place I grew up were actually formed by that place. And if there was ever a day when the things we see in a glass darkly resolve into seeing face to face, today is it. Obviously I support gay rights 100% and am incredibly excited by the Varnum v. Brien ruling because it means we've made one more state's worth of progress. And I'm obviously thrilled that my gay and lesbian friends back home will now be able to have weddings in the parks and museums and even churches that composed the backdrop of our childhood.
But this also means so much to me for how Iowa it all is. I haven't read the entire opinion, but from what I've seen it's so remarkably even-handed and diplomatic while also accepting nothing short of equality: it was a unanimous decision that clearly rejected even civil unions as an alternative, yet someone unfamiliar with Midwestern politeness might at first interpret its tone as compromising. And right after it came out, the head of the Iowa House and the head of the State Senate issued a joint statement that placed the decision in the context of Iowa's pioneering moves in the abolition of slavery, women's rights, and racial integration. It also included this choice line: "When all is said and done, we believe the only lasting question about today’s events will be why it took us so long. It is a tough question to answer because treating everyone fairly is really a matter of Iowa common sense and Iowa common decency. "
Iowa common sense and Iowa common decency. It could easily be a laugh line from Fargo or A Prairie Home Companion were it not so applicable in this situation. Best of all, though, was this simple article in the Des Moines Register whose earlier title, "Judges, registrar all did their jobs," cast it as a typical piece of small-town non-news along the lines of "Local man loves wife, family." Everything about it is so hilariously and touchingly Iowan: a guy named Hansen writing about a guy named Hanson; the comment that Hanson (the district judge who originally rules about gay marriage) "is an active Methodist," but "would never call himself an activist judge"; and the rather dull, self-satisfied conclusion that "it's a good system when you stop and think about it."
It's comments like that last line that used to make me crazy as a high school student in Iowa who insisted, in so many ways, that it--whatever it was--wasn't a good system at all. They infuriated me in the same way that terming a mix of snow, sleet, and rain "wintry mix" did: the relentless yet dull positivity, the reluctance either to complain or rejoice, the dedication to simple acceptance. But I guess it just took this time to stop and think about it. And I suppose it isn't such a bad system after all.