Surrender, Dorothy! Age suppresses youth again

Greg Jerrett

Having lived in Iowa most of my life, there are two things I have come to depend on dealing with every day: tight-asses and narrow minds. People around here don’t like “creative” answering machine messages. They can look at a work of art it took you a year and a half to create and say, “Well, that’s different.” People around these parts don’t want to eat anything they have not tasted a thousand times before. Go to a restaurant with one, and he will ask you for a critique of everything on your plate before he puts it in his mouth. “What does that mushroom taste like?” It tastes like a mushroom, Skippy, don’t let the “portabella” fool you. You want to go home and have cereal with the other 2-year-olds? These are the people who come to Ames and walk across traffic like they’re still in the Glenwood town square on a Saturday night. These are the ones who squeal and hoot like spider monkeys out the window of their buddy’s pick-up truck and spend five nights a week in the bar touting the greatness of such fine ales as Bud, Miller Genuine Draft and Old Style. They are the kind of people who talk about the Cyclone family out of one side of their mouth while trying to keep the rest of the state at bay. They treat students like invaders for nine years straight then kiss up for a couple of months when the census comes around to boost their numbers. They are the kind of people who make exasperated exhalations and roll their eyes every time they read a letter to the editor or a column written by someone who didn’t have sunshine shooting out of their butts as though everyone born to woman on the face of the planet must have sugar in their veins and act like a public relations tool for Iowa State 24/7. Old and young alike, age makes no difference in this state. Rich or poor is no guarantee of a little open-minded acceptance. Whether they are hayseeds in ballcaps and clodhoppers with a honkin’ big slug a chaw in their cheeks or buttoned-down suits wearing penny loafers and ties, it amounts to the same thing. This state kills creativity, stifles youth and attempts to bury dissent at every turn. It is habitual. So when the Daily Directory came out on Aug. 14, I was only mildly surprised that anyone had a problem with the cover, which showed two of DPS’s finest arresting and ticketing a student. Did you happen to catch this? What did you think of it? Did it raise your hackles? Did you get so mad about the image of a cop handcuffing a student under the banner “Welcome Back!” that you just had to e-mail your congressman? I would truly love to let the issue dies a slow and painful death, but I really can’t do that. To me, the issue is more than black and white. It isn’t about we did something inappropriate poor judgment and maybe next time we will think twice before we do something in such obvious poor taste. The Daily Directory was an advertising supplement. At the beginning of the year, our ad staff gets a big old bee in its bonnet because the entire town can’t wait to buy ads in our paper. Let’s face it, we rock, and if you want college students to buy your beer, clothes, movies, toiletries or souvenir spoons, you are going to place an ad in the Daily. It just makes sense. So they got this idea to do a directory a while back. It lists all sorts of useful businesses and services students might actually want to utilize when they are new to Ames and looking for the perfect place to play miniature golf or buy a handgun. But it needs a cover. So this year they got a couple of DPS officers over here and, entirely in the spirit of unity and togetherness, posed for a picture with a bunch of our staff stuffed in their truck and one guy in cuffs. The question was put to us by more than one critic, “What are parents supposed to think when they see this? What are new students going to think of Iowa State and Ames?” Now the diplomatic answer is this: They see cops and students posing for a picture together making a joke so obvious Carrot Top could have told it, and they are going to think, “Hey, the cops and the students must really get along in this town, and that makes me feel good about leaving my kid here. ‘Bye son and/or daughter. Study well as the Department of Safety has your back.” The not-quite-so-diplomatic-as-the-first answer is “Who cares?” Our ad department is full of the young ambassador types. They would no more offend the community than sell their grandmothers into bondage. The cops who posed didn’t mind. Do you think if we were sending a bad message the cops would have been down with it? Of course not. They would have said, “No way, hippie!” and backed it up with mace and reasonable usage of batons if absolutely necessary. You folks need to get over these petty complaints. This cover is nothing more than a few people having fun, and those you claim might be offended never complained. Only people concerned about what others might think complained, and that should tell you something. No wonder people leave this state as soon as is humanly possible. After 18 to 22 years of putting up with the routine mind-clamping, tsk-ing and tongue-lashings, it is nice to move somewhere cool like New Orleans where you can drink in the streets of the French Quarter and see bare-assed strippers talking to tourists like nothing is bizarre. I guarantee that is why Tom Hill was one of the few administrators who never brought it up. He grew up in city that tolerates and encourages diversity. We are lucky to have him around. He is immensely popular with students, and I hope Iowa State pays him plenty to keep him from moving back to the Big Easy. So with that said, I would like to end this column on a ray of sunshine and a song, lest I be accused of the horrible crime of being negative. “Come on people, now. Smile on your brother. Everybody get together, try to love one another right now.”