Scott Cawelti

About Scott Cawelti -

Scott Cawelti was born and raised in Cedar Falls, Iowa. He taught writing, film, and literature at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) from 1968-2008, and has written regular opinion columns and reviews for the Waterloo / Cedar Falls Courier since the late 1970s.  He played for years in a folk duo with Robert James Waller and still regularly performs as a singer/guitarist/songwriter. Scott continues to teach as an adjunct instructor at UNI.

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  • State Equal Rights Amendment Deserves to Pass AND GOODBYE FOR NOW

    • Posted on Aug 02, 1992 by Scott Cawelti

    8-2-92

    Certainly we know by now that women can be brilliant, competent, articulate, empathetic, and capable of great thoughts and deeds. So can men.

    Speaking of men, they can be silly, incompetent, incoherent, vindictive, and incapable of pushing anything but their own egos. So can women.

    People who think members of either gender are inherently superior or inferior are fast becoming an endangered species. I admit to once thinking that women might have an edge, but I've since learned otherwise. Jerkettes may not be quite as numerous as jerks, but they're gaining.

    Now all this is to the good. People should be hired and rewarded on the basis of their work quality and contributions, not on their gender.

    That's why the state ERA should pass virtually without opposition this fall. It merely adds "women" to the current Iowa State Constitution. The full amendment would then read as follows, with the new parts in italics:

    "All men and women are created free and equal and have certain inalienable rights--among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety and happiness. Neither the State nor any of its political subdivisions shall, on the basis of gender, deny or restrict the equality of rights under the law.

    That's the entire state E.R.A. amendment, word for word, and it makes perfect sense, given what we know about gender equality.

    Yet, and it always amazes me, there are still a few who think that adding women to a statement of fundamental rights will somehow hurt everyone.

    They don't seem to understand that equal treatment under the law amounts to basic fairness. Women should be paid the same for doing the same work. By and large they aren't now, according to the facts I've seen.

    Two instances: in 1986, women working full time made 64 cents for every dollar paid to men working full time. And in 1988 women with BA degrees made 59 cents compared to every dollar earned by men with BA degrees. Women, in terms of equal pay, have been going backwards.

    Now I don't think that adding "and women" to the state constitution will suddenly mean a pay raise for all women doing the same work as men. Nor will it mean suddenly ending sexual harassment (which still victimizes more women than men).

    It will mean only a start in that direction. And it will mean putting on paper, for all to see, what we know to be true: men and women are created free and equal and have certain inalienable rights.

    We should have passed this amendment long ago. Fears of broken families and unisex toilets make sense only to those who forget that equality under the law stands as the fundamental American right.

    We know women are equal. Let's get it in writing.             

    **************************************

    Farewell for Now      

    Well, that's it. My last shot at truth, justice, and the American way for awhile.

    I'll be teaching in Regensburg, Germany all next year, and now seems like a fine time to bow out of the opinionizing business. Occasionally I may fax back a few observations about German life and times, and I'm sure a few opinions will creep in.

    But if I return to these pages regularly, it won't be until September, 1993. My genuine thanks to all those people who offered support with letters and calls.

    Thanks too for those who made their opposition and criticisms known. Some were valid, I have to admit. The many personal attacks--well, they seem to go with the territory.  I never wrote anything I didn't believe, and I looked for respect more than affection.

    With few exceptions, that's what I got.                          

    Auf wiedersehen.

    Go comment!
    Posted in
    • Language & Writing
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    • Cedar Valley Chronicles
    • Politics
  • Pressure to Stay Young Grows

    • Posted on Jul 19, 1992 by Scott Cawelti

    7-19-92

    Every year contains one day where most of us feel pressured to stay young. Today happens to be my day, and sure enough, there's that feeling again.

    "Over the hill" jokes, and "It beats the alternative" comments come forth all day. And this year, especially, comments about "your last year as a young man."

    I'm forty-nine today. "You don't look it," I've heard, from friends who think I need cheering up. I feel it, though, and I'm here to tell you: there's nothing wrong with youth that middle age won't cure.

    In America, middle-agers and beyond know how much the culture worships the wrinkle-free. We abhor wrinkles, not only in our cotton shirts (where wrinkles make sense) but anywhere on our bodies. Signs of aging, you know.

    Advertising, movies, novels, unwitting friends and relatives all conspire to create the impression that growing old amounts to a debilitating illness that saps energy, slows minds, and destroys beauty.

    Well, it ain't so. I've never been older, of course, and I've also never been happier. I've also never felt so alive.

    I certainly remember years of no aches and pains, no sudden attacks of indigestion, no watching the blood pressure, no wondering what the scale will show after a serious plateful.

    But those happened to be the same years when a bad word would ruin a whole day, when money was an all-encompassing worry, when a balanced perspective made no sense. Oh, yes, and when tobacco was a consuming passion, along with a morning cough that alarmed everyone within earshot.

    Those who worship youth only remember smooth skin and carefree indulgences.  They forget the rollercoaster moods, the grindingly terrible breakups, the self-betrayals that form the daily lives of the young.

    It's obvious to me that life's best moments begin occurring with regularity only after youth disappears. So why do we pressure birthday people to feel regrets for growing older?

    I think I know. Commerce. Buying and selling, getting and spending. Advertising. If America stands for anything (besides the patriotic stuff) it stands for consuming.


    And who consumes the most? The young. Being young means wanting things, and advertisers know their prey. Young people spend with abandon on all matter of fads and fancies, from the latest cars to the newest kitchen gadgets. Show me a young person and I'll show you someone who wants to spend money. Lots of it.

    Older people, however, who can afford far more, don't spend as much. Many of them have discovered the joys of having a few friends, reading, taking long walks, a bit of travel.

    The wisest among them (wisdom doesn't visit the young) live relatively simple lives. Because they know themselves, they know what they need to be happy. And what they don't need.

    This is not to say that I've found wisdom. Far from it. Some days there are glimmers--usually those days when I give something away. Other days--when I give in to pressures to be young--it's the same old struggle.                        

    No question about it: age brings wrinkles and sags, unpleasant physical surprises, energy declines and dietary limits. But that's small payment for a new awareness of what's important, a larger sense of who's making sense and who's not, of the profound differences between fun and joy.

    Youth makes sense only as a means. Those of us lucky enough to live through it have a chance to go beyond it.

    Go comment!
    Posted in
    • Aging & Birthdays
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