Rage and anguish of our times make a coward of this columnist

I’m a coward.

There are a lot of issues before the Iowa State Legislature and the U.S. Congress that directly or indirectly affect me.

Some laws have been passed in Iowa that I absolutely despise.

Other laws under consideration make my stomach tumble like Simone Biles during a medal-winning floor routine.

I say nothing.

This is an odd choice for me as I operate a website where I publish my writing.

My friend Steve Woodhouse is kind enough to publish my column once a week in the Marion County Express.

Yet, on most issues of political importance, I remain silent.


I’m afraid.

I’m a middle school teacher.

I serve the children of people from a wide range of backgrounds with parents who fall across the political spectrum.

I don’t know what the crossover is between the people who read my blog and columns and the people whose children I teach.

I, however, believe if I said something that irritated the wrong person, they would try to get me fired.

They would dig through every mistake I made in my life, of which there is a plethora to choose, and ultimately try to either humiliate me into quitting or put so much pressure on my employer that I didn’t get my contract removed.

My opinions might well run afoul of my employer.

I learned a long time ago that the First Amendment protects me from the government infringing upon my right to express my idea but offers no protection from an employer giving me the hook for some hair-brained idea I decided to publish.

For example, let’s say I wanted to write about the bill that just passed the Iowa House that would allow people to have guns locked in their vehicles at schools and universities.

I absolutely don’t want to write about that issue.

This is all for the sake of argument, or as the case, non-argument.

If I were to write against the bill, the people who believe they should be armed everywhere and at all times to defend against a tyrannical government would be angry with me.

If I wrote in favor of the bill, the people who think anyone who owns a gun are a giggle and sneeze away from committing a mass shooting would be angry with me.

I have a point of view on the bill, but I’m not going to share it with anybody I haven’t known for at least 25 years.

Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law a bill that restricts bathroom usage in public schools to the sex assigned to a person at birth.

If I write against that new law, people are going to accuse me of supporting child sex crimes.

If I write for that bill, people are going to accuse me of contributing to the suicide rate of transgender and non-binary children.

So, even though I’m a teacher and, at least in part, charged with enforcing this new law, I have nothing to say about it in public, anyway.

I could go on, but it’s the same refrain: When it comes to politics, my anxiety about backlash beats down my desire to stack paragraphs on the issues.

This is where I find myself at age 47: afraid to speak my mind.

I’m not one of those guys who believe the nation is more politically divided than ever.

I believe we have the same number of angry and dumb people per capita as we always have.

However, those people have access to louder bullhorns through social media and regular media than ever before.

Smart people use chaos to push their agenda and dumb people repeat the meanest things they hear because it makes them feel like they’re a part of something when they’re just unpaid parrots of the power elites.

The power elites, by the way, use all this as a distraction from what they’re really doing, which we won’t find out about until years after it’s too late to stop and the damage has already been done.

This is the kind of thing I wanted to fight when I became a journalist. I thought if you told people the truth, they would look upon it as being enlightened and then work to change society for the better.

I quickly learned people are really only interested in the things that entertain them, such as sports and food trucks.

If you write something that crosses up their previously held beliefs, they will be angry with you and accuse you of being a part of a conspiracy to take away their right to unlimited pro football and tacos.

By the time my journalism career ended, I was mostly concerned with driving up page views on my stories just to keep my job.

Now I’m only a part-time journalist but I rarely talk about big issues.

I’m disappointed in myself.

I never envisioned becoming the kind of person who shied away from controversy.

I am now.

I am suspicious of everyone I haven’t known for at least half my life and for some of them I just smile and nod when they say something with which I disagree.

I was unemployed for most of two years before I became a teacher full time.

It just doesn’t pay to say what you think. It pays to repeat what people what to hear.

I hate to say that, but it’s how the world feels to me.

This isn’t how I was raised.

When I was a boy going to Methodist youth group, we would sing “I’ll Tell the World That I’m A Christian.”

Would I have enough faith or courage to sing that song today?

I don’t know.

I just know things are happening and a lot of them don’t seem very positive to me.

And I’m afraid to talk about them in public because I might lose my job or be smeared by people who make their way smearing others.

So, I truly am a coward, and this column is just me dying one of my 1,000 deaths.

Middle school teacher Daniel P. Finney is a Marion County Gazette columnist.

Daniel P. Finney wrote for newspapers for 27 years before being laid off in 2020. He teaches middle school English now. He writes columns and podcasts for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating $10 a month to help him cover the expenses of this site.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.
Zelle: newsmanone@gmail.com.


  1. toubes1 says:

    The newspaper that the late Donald Kaul referred to in one of his columns as the “newspaper Iowa wraps its fish in,” reports about those events it wants published that ehy can inject their opinion to sway the readership. their online version is full of that stuff and that way, even censoring by saying some comment someone made is against their standard or just disappears like the Putin visiting the school joke. As a teacher we cannot have an opinion, even though students in the class bring up the topic. Our jobs are fragile , especially in Iowa like the educator who lost the job by showing the statue of David. We walk a fine line. If you were working for a paper that paid what you have invested in your education and didn’t care either way, sure. But not as a teacher. My first job in Williamsburg, when I was about 23, I was told that if I wanted to buy a bottle of schnaps or even go to a bar, I would have to go out of town, travel to Cedar Rapids or Coralville as it was ok for me to have that, but not where the towns people knew I did. Wow. Now that I have retired, now 10 years, I have realized that the district can’t hurt my job, my pension, me anymore, so I have become bolder in expressing my opinions without caring about public opinion anymore. At one time I knew the bigwigs in the district and “where the bodies were buried (aka the nasty secrets)”. Now , meh. The real challenge Daniel, is to separate your present job from your former job and like the Serenity Prayer, to be able to tell the difference. Be well, be safe, be happy, you have been a great teacher, next year an outstanding one.


  2. Ng says:

    You are not a coward. You are an Adult. People with real jobs do the same thing every day. Would I like to tell my boss what I really think when she plays favorites with my coworkers and I am not one of them? Yes I would but I have to keep my job. It’s called living with reality.


  3. Luann Rowat says:

    Dear Dan, I know how you feel in that one cannot voice their true thoughts in a capacity where their job could be at stake. As I work for Des Moines Public Library, (Central location downtown), it states in our Employee manual, we cannot say/do anything that would reflect back on the library in a negative way. I have been with DMPL for 20 years, and it is getting harder to keep my mouth shut in public. However, I do plan on attending a protest at Capitol next Sat regarding Banned Books issue. Can you even believe it has come to this? Anyway, I don’t know if you remember me, but I know Joyce and Bobby, and remember your Grandma Lois. Still miss having coffee with her after Chapel at Village.

    I guess we’ll keep plugging along with our state of politics nowadays. I will be retiring in 3 years. Most days at library I just take it one hour at a time. My love and passion for the library that I have held since age 5 is gone.


  4. Roxann Ryan says:

    “I believe we have the same number of angry and dumb people per capita as we always have. However, those people have access to louder bullhorns through social media and regular media than ever before.”

    I’m posting this insight right above my computer screen, next to the “Remember to be kind” quote. It’s hard to avoid the ugly blather everywhere, and harder still to avoid pointing out the flaws in logic and facts, along with the gratuitous ugliness. But silence has become the most effective method of self-protection. I’m still looking for some inspiration about any effective way to shut down the angry, the dumb and the overall ugly.

    I miss the days when talking politics (or anything else) was less dangerous than a barroom brawl, and didn’t require a talk with H.R. personnel. But now, silence is the best option, far too often.

    Thanks for stacking these paragraphs.


  5. Tw Hess says:

    It is not just in connection with a job that one should/must hold one’s tongue. Simply expressing an opinion on ‘this side’ or ‘that side’ of a controversial subject can be troubling if others can identify and ‘track you down’.

    Too often I simply avoid the possible real-world confrontations in a local forum or website forum …or comment section.

    Not the way this 1st Admendment thing is meant to work.



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