Alta lifted up a Lao boy



We were speaking Wednesday with our friend John Norris, the Democratic candidate for governor, about blatant racism in Iowa, about the poor people in Alta who could be evicted from a dilapidated trailer court, and about how rural Iowa is neglected. It can be dispiriting, which is why it is always refreshing to speak with John Norris. He reminded us of Aiddy Phomsivay, who came to Alta when he was seven years old from Laos. His father escaped by taking the family across the Mekong River. A little boy who could not speak a breath of English showed up in that little town of Swedes and Germans.

They swept him up in an embrace and taught Aiddy English and made the whole family part of Alta. “An amazing community. It was just an iconic childhood growing up there, and I attribute all I’ve been able to do, all the learning, the life experiences, the preparation for things like this, it’s just an unbelievable dream come true.”

That’s what Aiddy said in 2014 when he was named principal of Marshalltown High School. Now, married to Mindy Radke of Alta, Aiddy directs the Central Campus Academy for the Des Moines Public School District. He was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention.

He could have done none of it without Alta.

Aiddy, in fact, is a standard feature of Norris’ stump speech. So is Storm Lake.

“I started my campaign in Storm Lake for a reason,” Norris said. “When the Laotians were stranded, Gov. Bob Ray knew that Iowans would be welcoming. That defines who we are.

“Aiddy Phomvisay’s opportunity is everyone’s opportunity. I say it in Keosaqua and Fayette and everyone is right there with me. The Sioux Center police chief is there. He is out there talking about how immigrants work hard, place family first, go to church. I was over at the Humboldt VFW and I told the crowd to get out ahead of this thing — you have this pork plant coming into Wright County and you will have immigrants coming in. You need to go talk with the Storm Lake folks and the Sioux Center folks so you can learn and avoid the mistakes they might have made. Because this is the Iowa community of the future. This is our workforce. Rejecting people is not going to work,” Norris said.

Which is another reason we have such a fondness for Norris as a candidate. He gets rural Iowa. He knows that the people of Alta will stand up for the vulnerable as they always have. Aiddy Phomvisay is the most powerful reminder.

If you would like to meet Norris, he will campaign at Diane and Steve Hamilton’s home on Casino Beach on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

Target the ammo, not the gun

Of course the conversation turns to guns, especially when you are speaking to a retired West Des Moines police detective. We asked our old friend what to do, in Iowa. “You limit the ammo, not the guns,” he said. He is no fan of military weapons sold for recreational use. But he knows how deadly a 9 mm Beretta is. Some shotguns are semi-automatic. John Norris (see above) owns one. The old cop and Norris agreed that you are not going to take away Norris’ shotgun, or the eight million AR15s floating around our streets and gravel roads.

If we want to do something for public safety, let’s start with the accessories, they agree. What they say rings true of what we know about our own circle of friends who have enough weapons to overthrow a banana republic. We are not worried about any of them shooting a human being, but the coyotes had well beware.

Do not open a conversation with these guys about taking their guns. Talk about bump stocks. High capacity magazines. Is there really any reason why your average street sweeper needs to have a Kevlar flak jacket? No, they will say, only the cops and soldiers should. Should Chuck Grassley have written a bill last year allowing insane people to get guns? No, they would say, those people should not have guns. We should have expanded background checks and information should be shared freely among law enforcement, gun dealers and court services. Most reasonable people are fine with that.

The AR15 was designed as a lightweight killing machine. Nobody needs one. But any number of guns can kill just as many people just as fast. Limit the ammo. No more cop-killer bullets; they just mess up a nice deer hide. There’s no reason for them and everybody knows it but the NRA and Grassley.

Nobody really wants guns in the courthouse. But if you suggest otherwise, you are considered of a fringe element around here. The people who think they can just get rid of guns of any kind should check American reality, no matter how surreal it may seem.

Democrats, especially, are calling for absolutes on gun control. They must understand that this will not sell among voters in rural Iowa. That much we have figured out. If Democrats want to win the Fourth District seat in Congress or the governor’s office they should get used to that fact, and modify themselves accordingly. Norris is already there with the retired detective.