Masked and confused in Des Moines

Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie ordered people to wear masks in public Wednesday — some seven months into the global pandemic.

He didn’t order it when the restaurants and schools were shuttered. He didn’t order it when businesses started slashing jobs because of shortfalls caused by the economic fallout of a nation on pause.

But when the state government is fighting lawsuits from local school districts who believe the Iowa Legislature’s order to send kids back to in-person instruction is dangerous, Cownie finally ordered masks in Iowa’s largest city.

Masks are good public health policy during the COVID-19 pandemic. I just don’t understand why this move is so much more necessary now than it was in March.

Or April. Or May. Or June. Or July.

I like Cownie. I think he’s a good mayor. But this move feels political rather than preventive.

Cownie is a Democrat. Gov. Kim Reynolds is a Republican and Republicans control both houses of the Iowa Legislature.

Somehow, in this stupid country run by the absurdly rich and dishonorable scofflaws, we lack the ability to find consensus on basic facts about best practices during a pandemic.

To be sure, lawmakers’ move to send kids back to in-person instruction is a political move, too.

Gov. Reynolds, charged with upholding the return, is a loyal supporter of President Donald Trump, Trump who doesn’t understand the pandemic.

He only understands it’s another chance to appeal to the vile, racist underbelly of his political supporters by calling coronavirus the “China virus.”

I wonder if this shit had originated in Russia if he would pull the same stunt.

My point is this: There are no adults in charge. Every political office holder seems to want to use this global pandemic as a baseball bat to kneecap their opponent.

Democrats and Republicans are all so busy casting each other as the incarnation of evil that they are impotent and useless when it comes to the basic function of their jobs: Work for the benefit of the public good.

I’ll say this again for clarity: I like Frank Cownie. I want to believe he issued this mask order because he believed it was the right thing to do.

But it’s hard for me to believe that, not because I doubt Cownie personally, but because I doubt our representatives so much.

I know Cownie. I’ve interviewed him. I hugged him the day two metro cops were gunned down. We stood hand-in-hand at a church service at St. Paul’s AME Church after the massacre of parishioners at an AME church in Charleston, North Carolina, by a racist gunman.

I know Cownie is a good and honorable man. Yet the fact that I doubt him speaks to just how broken our nation is. I’m doubting a man I like and trust.

Every important Supreme Court decision seems to be 5-4 on party lines. Every vote in the House is offset by an opposite force in the Senate. We are a mess of a nation whose only consensus is that we hate the other side beyond reason. Moderates are extinct.

Lots of people remember the quote from Abraham Lincoln, then a candidate for Senate from Illinois: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

People forget the rest of statement:

“I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”

Lincoln said that as the nation was on the verge of the bloody Civil War.

I am not as optimistic as Lincoln. I think it is already a house that is broken beyond repair.

I just hope to God I’m wrong.

Daniel P. Finney covers long division and multiplication for

Cut loose and cashiered by corporate media, lone paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney makes his way telling stories about his city, state and nation. No more metrics or Google trends, he writes stories about people and life ignored by the oligarchy. is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I launch this new venture continuing the journalism you’ve demanded. Visit

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