We are the silverfish of humanity



Tigranes the Armenian had a migraine when the messenger came with news that Lucullus the Roman was on his way to settle a score over, of all places, Syria. Tigranes cut off the messenger’s head which caused no one pain, at least that the messenger could report, but Tigranes had a big headache when Lucullus did show up. Nobody else brought him bad news, and eventually Tigranes was swallowed up by the Roman Empire and couldn’t hear it anymore.

“No one loves the messenger who brings bad news,” Sophocles reflected in Antigone.

It should come as no shock that Iowans love God and the military and the Iowa State Patrol, salute, but the lowly reporter is forever scorned. So sayeth the Iowa Poll last week. The media is down there in Iowans’ estimation with Congress, which has the lowest approval record since Tigranes lost Syria.

Whereas the Army and God get a 5.1 score — His Truth Is Marching On — the news media get a 2.9 and Congress a 2.7 on a scale of six. The media are just below the President, who gets a 3.1 score.

Spiro Agnew called the media the “nattering nabobs of negativism” shortly before he was indicted for corruption.

A fair number of Americans would have liked to shoot Tom Paine over Common Sense but he went underground with his revolutionary friends. The French threw him in jail for Rights of Man. Six people showed up at his funeral because he argued against institutionalized religion. Show me a beloved editor, said Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Gartner of Des Moines, and I will show you a crappy newspaper.

“Gracious madam, I that do bring the news made not the match,” said the messenger when Cleopatra wanted to use his eyes as balls for telling him that Tony has found another gal.

In each case the messenger was right but dead.

Small consolation indeed.

In Iowa the messenger ranks below the legislature, the governor, the courts, organized religion and even the Farm Bureau that ranks not so far below God.

We’re used to it.

We just can’t find better work.

There were campaigns to fire Donald Kaul as the lead columnist of The Des Moines Register for making fun of bingo and six-on-six girls basketball. When Gartner called RAGBRAI a rolling orgy on wheels the orgiers and even a lot of bike riders wanted to tar and feather him, and he made the call in the newspaper that dreamed up the ride, and which Gartner first signed off on. Sheez.

We have smarted off about the Farm Bureau and how it is more of an insurance company than a grassroots rural policy organization. As we can see, that hasn’t dimmed Farm Bureau’s luster. They are still terribly effective in lobbying for fewer farmers and dirtier rivers.

If Tom Paine had wanted to be popular with the Tories down at the club we would be playing cricket after the All-Star Break.

If it weren’t for The Storm Lake Times you might not know how the state springs elderly sex criminals out of detention and into nursing homes to save money. Or that the North Lake Manor had to close because of the great new state Medicaid program. People who wanted to live in Storm Lake had to live someplace else.

You probably would not have known that Farm Bureau was secretly working with the Agribusiness Association of Iowa to pay the defense costs for Buena Vista, Sac and Calhoun counties propping up the petroleum-driven ag supply chain.

Nobody would be reminding you that a balanced rural life of small towns and family farms has disappeared as main streets literally fall in on themselves. A building you see in Rembrandt one week has fallen in on itself two weeks later. You would not notice because you don’t get to Rembrandt. If you grew up there, you do not like to be reminded of that.

We have the pictures of the church youth camp and the girls’ softball game and the obituary for grandma that you wrote. We have the city council story that the city council member doesn’t like. We have the school board story that the school board member loves. Sometimes we lose friends because we don’t run the right softball photo. Or, because we do a story that is right and true but doesn’t reflect the conventional wisdom on how you ought to raise a hog.

Down deep, don’t you really want to know that the Roman army is bearing down on Nemaha?

Or that Tony got divorced and remarried Cleopatra, and that they are at home in Fonda after a brief honeymoon down the Nile?

Or that the hordes of locusts probably will steal away your corn patch and you will have to give up the farm and move back East?

I hope so.