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Iowa Politicians Should Leave the Kids Alone

Iowa Politicians Should Leave the Kids Alone

 


EdTibbetts, a longtime Quad-Cities reporter and editor, is publisher of Along the Mississippi NewsletterOr this article first appeared. Find more of his work atedtibbetts.substack.com

In parts of Iowa, highway signs welcome visitors with our new state slogan: Iowa, Freedom to Flourish.

Some Republican lawmakers obviously don't understand the concept.

U.S. Reps. Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Ashley Hinson and state Rep. Taylor Collins have all been wringing their hands recently over travel by some Muscatine High School students and staff to China.

China apparently paid the costs, according to a recent article ” in the right-wing British newspaper, the Daily Mail, and it ignited momentum among Iowa Republicans. Now there is talk of stopping these visits.

Miller-Meeks called China a national security threat andsaidtravel was a bridge too far.

In ainterviewon Fox Business, where one of the hosts asked about travel, including whether it should be banned, Hinson said a congressional committee was investigating.

Meanwhile, Collinsannouncementthat during next year's legislative session he will introduce legislation to end this type of Chinese Communist Party infiltration into Iowans' classrooms.

So much for freedom-loving Republicans.

I would like to think that an attempt to limit citizens' right to travel abroad would fail, even in the Iowa Legislature. But as we've seen recently, Republicans in this state like to use the power of government to impose their priorities on Iowans in a way that mocks the cheerful new slogan greeting visitors.

An excellent example: thebook banRepublicans implemented and a federal judge blocked this, which violates the right of students, even high school students, to read what they want. Lawmakers also censored teachers and restricted what was a fairly robust right of Iowans to vote by mail, among other limitations.

As I havesaid beforeLiberty in Iowa is a commodity and the party in power today sees itself as its primary distributor.

As for student trips, Muscatine has long-standing ties with China and its leader, Xi Jinping. Xi first visited in 1985 and has maintained ties with the region ever since.

In 2012, the former Chinese vice president returned to Muscatine and was welcomed with open arms, including by senior Republicans.

We consider you a great friend to Iowa, then-governor. Terry Branstad said to Xi during a gathering at the Muscatine home of Roger and Sarah Lande.

It’s not as if China didn’t pose a national security challenge at the time. Human rights violations were also clearly evident. Protests took place that day in Muscatine to highlight Chinese repression. Even so, Branstad and Xi laterraised glassesto each other and enjoyed a gala dinner at the State Capitol.

I don't recall any Republican being concerned at the time that Xi and China were using the Iowa governor as a propaganda tool.

I remember, later, a lot of media reporting about Branstad's long friendship with Xi when he was appointed ambassador to China, and how that was a plus for the United States. Even Donald Trump cited him as an asset.

I also remember a foreign policyarticlewhich suggests that, at least in terms of actual international relations, all this talk of Branstad's friendship with Xi was meaningless.

Propaganda, you could say.

The visits to Muscatine schools appear to stem from Xi's remarks during a trip last year to San Francisco, where he said he wanted to invite 50,000 American students to his country over the next five years.

According to aJanuary Des Moines Register articleSarah Lande contacted the Chinese leader, whom she has known for nearly 40 years, writing that she hoped his invitation would include Muscatine students.

Xi responded positively, and the Register reported that 24 Muscatine students and four staff members traveled to China.

According to the Daily Mail, these visits resulted in praise for the country and gratitude to the Chinese leader. This appears to have triggered at least some of the criticism.

The school district released a statement to Quad-Cities media in response to the controversy, making clear that it understands the political and economic differences between the two countries, but also recognizes the value of student exchanges in fostering understanding, empathy and valuable perspectives that extend far beyond the classroom.

Lande, meanwhile, issued her own statement acknowledging that these educational exchanges supported by the Chinese government are part of China's soft power promoting their country as well as friendship and understanding. In Muscatine, she added,

Our people finance reciprocal exchanges. Should our students and educators enter this opportunity with their eyes open? Yes ! These exchanges have provided students with life-changing experiences. Knowledge is the freedom to make wise decisions. These are the values ​​America was founded on. We are part of global competition, cooperation and interconnection. Citizens must know and understand each other to find a way to work together and avoid conflict.

Both statements are published onKWQC-TV website.

In my view, these statements demonstrate the kind of realistic and open commitment to mutual understanding among nations that honors these Iowans and is consistent with our state's heritage. It would be a shame if reactionary legislators intervened; if they were trying to infringe on the right of Iowa students to benefit from these unique opportunities.

No one should be naive about China or the kind of leader Xi Jinping is. But neither should we slip into an isolationist hole and, in doing so, violate young adults' right to travel, on the dubious assumption that they will allow themselves to be used as pawns.

This is not the kind of state that trusts its citizens to do the right thing. This is not the kind of state that gives them the freedom to flourish.

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