March 8, 2016

Being hanged or drawn and quartered. Surely not relaxed ways to expire.

What about being burned alive?

I interviewed a man with Lou Gehrig’s disease for a series in our newspapers a few years ago. The descent from able-bodied human to a hostage of one’s own failing motor skills is no smooth, wine-and-cheese-evening glide out of the temporal.

And then there’s drowning. It’s a chart-topper on the morbid question we’ve all asked since Cub Scout campfires and middle-school sleepovers: what’s the worst way to die?

Back in my Sigma Alpha Epsilon college fraternity days we plastered posters around campus, two parts humor, three parts hubris, urging incoming freshmen to “join or die.” I recall we had a large ape with a clenched fist cartooning around in the drawing, helping us make our appeal to would-be pledges.

Our catchy lure could be borrowed for a real-life case today.

According to recent reports in The New York Times, thanks to climate change, most of the 1,000 or so Marshall Islands, spread out over 29 narrow coral atolls in the South Pacific, are expected to be flooded in coming decades. It’s 70,000 residents will have to move or drown as the islands are literally disappearing into the sea.

And when they move — Iowans, especially those of us who were around in the early 1990s and know a few things about savage flooding — should be waiting with open arms to welcome the Marshallese.

But our smiling faces should stem from more than impulses of humanity or Sunday school innocence.

We need people in Iowa.

And wouldn’t it be great to attract new residents who know and love agriculture, and bring with them zero immigration problems.

If you’ve heard of the Marshall Islands, it’s no doubt tied to reports of military operations. During the Cold War, the United States detonated 67 atomic bombs in the region. We operate a military base there, too, the Kwajalein Atoll Reagan Missile Test Site, what the Central Intelligence Agency describes (on its website) as a key installation in the U.S. missile defense network.

As The Times points out, under a 1986 compact,  Marshallese, because of their long military ties to Washington, are free to emigrate to the United States.

Additionally, there is U.S. money involved in the Marshall Islands, money that could be used to help the people leave, instead of sticking around for uncertain futures.

And here in much of western and central Iowa we desperately need people.

Unemployment in Carroll County has hit 2.4 percent, making it difficult to retain, much less attract new industry. Ask the Sioux City Diocese about population in western Iowa. It is slashing parishes, turning long-standing historic churches into priest-less events centers, open for the occasional wedding, but no Mass.

It’s time to say no mas.

Let’s recruit the Marshallese to our Iowa small towns. The CIA reports they are generally Christian, Protestant and Catholic with the Assembly of God Marshallese getting a big nod in the CIA research.

English is widely spoken there as a second language.

We have a military-inspired deal that gives them a right to be here. Right now, in fact. They could come even if we didn’t want them.

Wouldn’t it make sense to have them working and paying taxes in Iowa, where we need them, rather than siphoning billions of dollars in U.S. aid, money that is literally being used to rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic.

Marshall Islanders already live in some strong numbers in Springdale, Arkansas, and Salem, Oregon.

Iowa should explore entering the mix.

After you’ve been frightened of encroaching water your entire life, fields of cornfields stretching into the horizon could be quite comforting.