Letter from the Editor

Monday, March 10, 2003

Random thoughts

Agree or disagree, one has to admire Steve King for being a man of his word. Almost as soon as he jammed his transmission into park in Washington, King has authored a bill to make English the official language of the United States. It was a key promise of his campaign and a repeat of the bill he helped to push through the statehouse in Iowa last year.

King offers high expectations for his legislation, which he says "gives newcomers an opportunity to succeed in the United States. It bonds the newcomer with his fellow Americans, allowing both to reach for the highest rung on the economic ladder..."

I'm not sure an official language has done all that for Iowa; in fact, I'm not sure it's had any practical impact.

Many who would support an official language do so out of fear of difference, or a perceived threat to the so-called "American culture," and I just don't see that.

To King's credit, he isn't trying to sell his bill on that basis, nor is he planning it to affect the teaching or social use of other languages, notably Spanish.

He paints it as a means to encourage people to become fluent in English for better common communication, which he says will keep people safer, help in medical care, and increase earnings for families.

No one is arguing that newcomers need to learn English to unlock all of the opportunities of this state and country. I wonder if just declaring an "official language" is going to magically do that, however.

It's easy enough to thrown down a language proclamation, but when are our leaders going to dig into English as a Second Language teaching support and strategy to give our schools and our adult communities the philosophical rubber to put to the road of communications practicality?

* PETA, those folks who are willing to do virtually anything to attract attention to themselves in their efforts to protect animal life, isn't as entertaining as it used to be when it was annoying fair queens with whipped cream pies and so on.

You may have seen the "Got Beer?" campaign aimed at getting young people to drink alcohol instead of milk. Now, the Iowa Farm Bureau reports, they have opened a big display in California called "Holocaust on Your Plate," comparing photos of Nazi death camps to meat processing. I'm sure Holocaust survivors and the families of the victims must be outraged, and I doubt the people who raise hogs and cattle are thrilled, either.

PETA co-founder Ingrid Newkirk is quoted in USA Today saying, "Even if animal research resulted in a cure for AIDS, we'd be against it." PETA's vice-president has been quoted saying it would be "great" if all fast-food restaurants, meat plants and banks that fund them would "explode tomorrow."

They are starting to sound more like terrorists than animal rights enthusiasts. Their stunts aren't about focusing attention on proper care of animal life anymore, but gaining publicity for themselves. They have every right to their free voice, but for thinking, reasonable people, the question, "Got PETA?" is likely to more and more bring a "no thanks" response.

* An Iowa state representative has filed a bill that would make it illegal to "view, photograph or film another person while the other person is in a state of full or partial nudity," at least it's described that way in an Iowa Newspaper Association publication.

Violate that, and you would get arrested for a serious misdemeanor.

My first thought there was that if Iowa is so worried about its population rate going down, that might not be a great plan, at least most husbands wouldn't think so.

My second thought is how we're supposed to change diapers with a blindfold on, though by experience I can tell you that might not be a bad accessory for the job. My third thought is that nobody would be going to the beach anymore, shower after a sports contest, look at the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, or for that matter, view a great many of the finest pieces of classic art work ever produced.

See somebody nekkid, and you would get arrested for a serious misdemeanor.

"Hey buddy, what're you in for? Assault? That's nothin.' I look a peek at Michelangelo's 'David...'"

Looking into the House web site for the real text of the bill, it actually turns out to be an attempt to expand the definitions of invasion of privacy, and applies only if the exposed person hasn't or can't give consent to be seen, and has a reasonable expectation of privacy, which seems fair. The bill goes on to describe nudity in rather exacting physical detail, although if you don't understand that term, it probably isn't much of an issue for you anyway.

So, it appears Iowa isn't quite proposing to outlaw the human body or your right to vision.

But just in case, better keep that blindfold handy, cancel the cable TV, and get a written permission slip from your spouse...