Letter to the Editor: Community, common decency with regard for others

To the Editor:

I am curious which small-town, rural, Midwestern, American ideal or ideals are being conveyed by flags that say “(Expletive) Biden, and (expletive) you for voting for him,” like the one flying at the edge of Iowa State Highway 76 on the edge of Rossville? Is there anyone out there willing to provide me with an appropriate explanation I can give to my nine-year-old niece, my four-year-old nephew, or the seventh and eighth graders I teach that makes it clear to them why this language and attitude are not okay at school, church, or in other public spaces but are just fine as a “Welcome” flag for places like the small town of Rossville in northeast Iowa?

I will clarify, I am not looking for a shouting match and will not tolerate any further name calling, nor demeaning responses. I am truly curious how this can be spun into something acceptable. How can this be made acceptable by any rational explanation?

I am well aware that this type of “speech” is likely protected by the First Amendment, but legal does not equal right nor acceptable in this case.

I have driven by this particular one every day on Iowa State Highway 76 for well over three months on my way to and from school where I am teaching students, among other things, to be respectful and thoughtful young citizens.

The unfortunate reality about this display and others like it is that they are pretty common here and very few people I know who are locals have even said a word about how unfortunate that is. Most adults I have overheard talk about the flag display on the highway in Rossville have just laughed about it and/or agreed with it. That is unfortunate indeed. The message is clearly a very selfish, rude, and self-centered one.

I worry about the young people growing up and moving into such a world of mixed messages and priorities while at the same time being part of a culture of such excess and privilege. How do they navigate all of this and become compassionate and empathetic community members willing to help others and make sacrifices for the greater good?

I would add that the free and fair democratic presidential election was just short of one year ago now. Trump lost. How do we move to some form of government that can negotiate, compromise, work toward progress along mutually beneficial lines for most of the nations’ communities while still protecting the rights and dignity of the minorities?

Can we function as productive communities that act in a manner that protects and supports others if we are continually attacking everyone who has an opinion or ideas that are not the same as ours?

How can I talk to a person who flies a flag like this in their yard along a State highway and expect to have a respectful and meaningful conversation that will move both people and their understanding toward a better place?

Can we as a nation begin to think more like the members of a larger community instead of just as individuals who feel the need to promote our own personal freedoms and rights over those of others, even to the point of taking rights away from those with less privilege and social status?

There are so many questions still needing answers before we can even address the major issues we face as a nation and as a people, such as climate change and the issues around universal health care and social justice.

Where are the voices of those in this community who try to raise children to become respectful and engaged citizens who will work with and for their neighbors? This type of language, rhetoric, and public crudeness does not go away just by ignoring it. Nothing ever changes just by ignoring it.

Step up and speak out for the values you try to teach your children and that were taught to you and modeled for you by members of the Greatest Generation; our mothers, fathers, and grandparents who worked through some of the most difficult and divisive times in our country’s history to leave us a better place than they inherited.

Can we not in the least make it clear that this type of public display of rude, crude, and hateful messages is not the way that we want others to see us as a “whole” or community? We can do better than this. We have done better than this.

I understand that this type of display and the other flags and paraphernalia that go with them are part of the concept behind showing support for former President Trump; however, they do not create any discussion nor do they promote any real policy nor diplomacy. They seem only to provide evidence that there is at least one white person living there who feels the “system” has failed them and that Donald Trump and messages that he provides and supports are going to bring redemption to the wrongs perceived by these individuals. That is not how reality works.

If any positive can come from things such as the “(Expletive) Biden, and (expletive) you for voting for him” flag and the pro-Trump paraphernalia still waving and being displayed, it may be this: We as a community function best when we are willing to make some sacrifices and compromises that in the end benefit the greater whole. We may need to continue to see above the current fray of political disagreement to the values that we were raised with; those of respect, responsibility, and decency toward others and our community.

Keep talking to your neighbors. Be tolerant, not disrespectful toward those who show tolerance toward you. The Golden Rule.

Scott Boylen
Public School Teacher
Volunteer Firefighter
Community Member