Dear Denny, I’m not running your letter

I seem to be able to find a “Star Wars” analogy in just about everything in real life.

I don’t think I’m alone, either. I remember a news story in the early ’00s out of the U.K. that something like .7 percent of the entire population identified as Jedi on a census question about religion.

As I read a new letter to the editor this week from Denny Lautner, the Jefferson resident who ranks as our single-most prolific author of such letters, I felt something come over me.

As editor, I feel I’m duty bound to allow everyone — so long as they don’t accuse anyone of high crimes or use too many swear words — to have their say, whether or not it reflects well on the community.

Nine times out of 10, letters to the editor have a negative stripe to them, and Denny isn’t afraid to call out school officials, economic development leaders or even the occasional private resident serving on volunteer boards.

Because I allow such rants to be published, it’s sometimes perceived that I’m doing Denny’s bidding.

So as I read a fresh letter from Denny — criticizing the plan for a new Greene County High School and a regional career academy to be aligned with Iowa Central Community College — my mind flashed to that scene in “Return of the Jedi” when the Emperor is gleefully electrocuting Luke Skywalker to death.

Silently looking on is the Emperor’s dark apprentice, Darth Vader, who (spoiler alert) also happens to be Luke’s father.

Luke calls out to his father in agony to intervene, the conflict between good and evil roiling within Vader.

Finally, Vader lurches toward the Emperor, picks him up and hurls him down a shaft to his demise.

I have been asked why I print letter after letter from Denny, the insinuation being that I should pull the plug.

I’ll run his latest letter next week — but this week, I just can’t.

This week, I’m giving in to the good that’s still inside me.

Denny continually harps that school improvements (or any other improvements, for that matter) aren’t needed because we’re a county declining in population. The newly devised plan for a regional career academy is just one more boondoggle that won’t reverse our destiny.

That I cannot go along with.

I grew up here in Jefferson. I didn’t move my family back to Greene County just to have everything around us wilt and die.

We came back because it’s a great place to raise our son, and rural Iowa is at an exciting crossroads of reinvention or extinction. We’re doing things differently now — thinking differently, too — and that excited me.

That means if rural Iowa is doomed, I’m not going down without a fight.

Same goes for Bonnie Silbaugh, and Dan and Britt Meythaler — young business owners who believe enough in a future here that they’re investing their own money into improving a downtown commercial district largely neglected by the generation before us.

I owe it to my 9-year-old son, and his friends, to give them every chance at succeeding in this world.

That’s what adults do.

If it means I go without something in order to give them the best facilities money can buy, so be it.

The proposed career academy — a grassroots plan hand-delivered to the school district by the community — is a forward-thinking opportunity to give our kids multiple paths to success.

I personally would like to see my son go to Harvard (for free, of course), but I have no idea what course his life will take. For all I know, he will develop an interest in robotics, 3-D printing or other advanced manufacturing.

He could learn that right here in town, and would even graduate from high school with college credit.

If you’re against that, I’m not sure what you would actually support.

Yes, Denny, Greene County is declining in population. You’re not wrong.

But if we refuse to do anything, we’re as good as dead.

There was a singer from your generation. Guy by the name of Dylan.

What he sang then still rings true:

Your old road is rapidly agin’

Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand

For the times they are a-changin’

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Jefferson Bee & Herald
Address: 200 N. Wilson St.
Jefferson, IA 50129

Phone:(515) 386-4161