28 December 2009

Our Liberties We Prize ...

On Dec. 28, 1846, Iowa was admitted to the union of states as its 29th member. An Iowa Senate committee soon after proposed the design for a Great Seal, as well as the motto: "Our Liberties We Prize, and Our Rights We Will Maintain."

Side note: The Great Seal of Iowa features the image of a citizen-soldier, one detail of which is correctly and unfortunately described in heraldic terms as having "a plow in his rear."

My adopted home state gets a lot of flak in popular culture. For being flat, for one thing. And predominantly white. And for that whole "Is this Heaven" shtick from Field of Dreams. (C'mon, it was corny, but it was also 1989. It also beats Kevin Costner's Waterworld any day.)

The motto also appears on the state flag, held by an eagle superimposed on the French flag. The latter symbolizes that the state was cut from the fabric of the Louisiana Purchase.

We do not speak French in Iowa. As evidence, just consider the way we pronounce Des Moines ("Duh Moinz"), along with other "duh"-towns, burgs including the likes of "Dubuque," and "De Witt."

God love us, however, if our state colors don't prove true, particularly when it comes to issues of liberty and fairness. Give me the fact that, even before we were a state, our Territorial Supreme Court had in 1839 declared slavery invalid. (Take that, 1857's Dred Scott v. Sandford!) Give me Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School Board (1969). Give me Clark v. Board of Directors (1867). (Hey, Kansas, do the math: We declared "separate" as "unequal" some 87 years before Brown v. Board of Education (1954). And, as a bonus, the Iowa decision apparently had its own roots in the state's mustering of a black regiment of soldiers.)

In short, "Give me liberty, and give me Iowa."

Or, if you prefer: "Vive La Iowa! Vive La Liberté!"

And, while I'm in a Franco-thropic mood: "Thank you, Msr. Lafayette."

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