I’ve been looking at the world through prairie grass this week while spending as much time as possible outdoors. This patch of big bluestem (with part of Shelton Marsh in the distance) is at least eight feet tall --- amazing stuff, grass with character.
Pioneers left behind stories of early travel on Iowa’s prairies, especially farther to the north where the terrain is less diverse, telling of a time when men on horseback became disoriented in tallgrass prairie seas, engulfed by hat-high vegetation. It’s an amazing thing to think about; something we’re unlikely to see again.
Five of us spent a couple of hours Wednesday clearing invasive honeysuckle from prairie remnants east of Derby. Aren’t the berries pretty? Well, they are.
The shrubby plants (not native honeysuckle vines), however, imported first as ornamentals and then planted widely for a time by misguided conservationists looking for quick-fix windbreaks and wildlife cover, proved to be highly invasive --- crowding out native vegetation. Now you can’t take a step in the woods or along fencelines without falling over honeysuckle.
And remember multiflora rose --- a late 19th century import from Japan widely promoted in conservation circles for erosion control and “living” fences. Not a good idea --- and those pesky and invasive prickly vining messes still are with us, requiring deadly doses of poisonous herbicide to dispatch decisively.
There are a couple of lessons here, I guess. Among them, run up the warning flags when anyone, no matter how elevated his or her credentials, starts promoting non-native vegetation as a cure-all. The wonder of creation is that it works as created, not so well when pesky humans start messing around with it.
One of the reassuring things about the prairie is that when finally the invasive species human succeeds in destroying itself or is reduced to a less harmful shadow of its former self, the grass will come back, cover our bones, break up the parking lots and prairie seas will wave again.
Speaking of invasive species, how about them politicians? Limited exposure to TV limits exposure to pre-election advertising, too --- and that’s a blessing.
My award for classy advertising goes to our incumbent U.S. senator, Chuck Grassley, who unfortunately is a Republican and so can’t in good conscience be voted for. Of course, he is under no serious threat from Democratic challenger Roxanne Conlin and so has no real need to get dirty.
On the other hand, we’re treated statewide to the silliness of Terry Branstad vs. Chet Culver for governor, advertising and campaigns based entirely on the assertion that one is not the other rather than any concrete competing plans to foster a more user-friendly Iowa.
Down here, Republican Brad Zaun, a Republican, is challenging incumbent Leonard Boswell, a Democrat, for U.S. representative. About all we’ve learned from their campaigns is that so far as misinformation and outright lies are concerned they’re evenly matched. Makes you just want to bang their heads together until unconsciousness results, then find someone else.
It’s going to be a fascinating election.
Especially fascinating is the drive to unseat the three (of eight total) Iowa Supreme Court justices up for retention on this year’s ballot. The Iowa Supreme Court, during 2009, unanimously upheld lower court decisions that Iowa’s constitution did not forbid same-sex unions and that equal-rights provisions applied to everyone. As a result, Iowa became a state where same-sex marriage is legal.
Unseating the three justices has become a symbolic rallying point for what I guess you’d call the Christian right, distressed by the ruling, and a good deal of money has been invested in the effort.
Of course the justices were correct in their ruling --- the Iowa constitution is silent on the topic of marriage, leaving no constitutional barrier to same-sex unions. Nor is there any reason, if the cultural muddle of bias is swept aside, to rule that everyone should not be treated equally.
The remedy, for those in need of a remedy, is a constitutional amendment to build bias into the document --- a complex and time-consuming process.
A variety of interesting arguments have been put forth as to why the justices should have ruled the other way. One involves the thought that the framers of Iowa’s constitution could not have envisioned a time when same-sex couples would want to marry. Good point. Of course, the framers did not envision either a time when women would want to do such un-Biblical things as vote and hold public office.
Another argument, is that same-sex unions are un-Biblical and those blamed justices should have realized that.
Of course uppity women are un-Biblical, too, while slavery, polygamy and stoning people to death at the drop of a hat are entirely Biblical. The truth of the matter is that there is no general agreement about what the Bible says about a good many things nor is there likely to ever be.
So it’s all smoke and mirrors rather than substance --- not a very reassuring prospect during an election year in troubling times. But the election and the aftermath WILL be fascinating --- that’s guaranteed.
If it all gets to be too distressing --- go find some prairie grass and watch the world go by through it for a while. At least there, there’s hope of resolution: crumbling concrete.