We can’t always fight fire with fire

It was sprinkling Friday morning and I went out to pull in some patio furniture and stopped to look at the flower garden. I can’t get in it to pull out the weeds and damn maple tree seedlings because I can’t yet see where the rows are.

It hit me as I lumbered my way back upstairs – that’s a bit apropos of the political climate we find ourselves in.

My early morning doesn’t include exercise of body very often, as it should, but it does involve an exercise of mind…and that’s trolling Pen City Current social media comments, while looking at other random nonsense.


It’s very much like weeding as you have to look for the things that are damaging among the “flowery” stuff.

I came across a post from Mary Jo Reisberg, the chairman of the Lee County Democrats. She was venting in a Facebook thread of former State Rep. Jerry Kearns, where she said that Randy Feenstra’s win over Steve King in Iowa’s 4th Congressional district Tuesday won’t change anything – that it hurts Democrats’ chances of winning that district.

“Feenstra will vote exactly like King, but people will think he’s not as bad since he won’t be spouting off the racist crap (he’ll be thinking it, though). Scholten has a tougher race now…”, Reisberg wrote.

I’m at a point in my life where I’m shrugging at some of my better angels that keep me from saying things that need to be said. I’ve been holding things in because it could be detrimental to revenue, but my life’s changed a lot in 2020. That’s changed a bit, too.

Reisberg’s comment that Feenstra will be “thinking it” is, in my mind, the maple seedlings that invade the garden. They can grow into something powerful, yet they are damaging to the system as a whole.

Professing to know what Feenstra is thinking is just the other side of what King was doing. The real value in the win is that even the most ultra conservative, right wing minds of northwest Iowa, and on the national scene, saw that things have to change.

Sure, Feenstra’s win helps the Republicans more than King’s would have because King was so far off the rail that a Democrat actually stood a chance of winning up there. Even the Republicans realized this… and that’s a win if you ask me. Players in the Republican party saw the need to create space between the hyper-inflammatory and party.

But I think the future may reveal the GOP should have invoked the same strategy in the presidential race. President Trump is close to being as inflammatory as King, and if Republicans saw they stood to do better in the long run pushing Feenstra past King, I think the same would hold true in the national campaign.

Make America Great Again…boy, I don’t know. Blame it on a virus, or a police officer, or whatever, but great leadership triages and then ushers in the healing. I have faith in Americans as a whole, and the inherent goodness that exists in all of us, but what we’re missing is the leadership.

And leadership isn’t about inciting anger and hatred and fear, but passion and persistence and confidence of a better tomorrow.

Saying Feenstra is thinking racist “crap” is just more of the same. Reisberg needs to rise above that, as we all do. As journalists, we keep the first amendment rolled up in our back pocket, but inflammatory is inflammatory. This is fighting fire with fire. I think we should go back to fighting fire with water. Put the damn thing out, otherwise we’ll continue to watch the world burn.

We saw firsthand in southeast Iowa this week how peaceful protests can help move people in the right direction. We also saw how fear can make us who we normally are not. Hy-Vee, Walgreens, and McDonald’s all closed early in Fort Madison on Monday night out of rumors of vandalism. Since when does thuggery determine our hours of business? We have some of the best leadership in law enforcement in the state right now. I trust them and call many of them friends.

We’re a frightened country as a whole. We need true leadership and it has to be parked deep.

Elections have changed. We’re not voting anymore on who has the best ideas of moving the country forward, which is a damn shame. It would certainly seem plausible that we’re casting ballots for who can stick it best to the other side.

Go back to the McCain/Obama debates. Conservatives saw McCain as soft when he defended Obama on several occasions when questions focused on Obama’s citizenship and religion. McCain defended him as an American and had the audacity to say said elections should be based on ideas.

God forbid.

Politics is dirty and expensive and those two things keep us from electing great leaders of people.

When President Trump walked to St. John’s Church and stood uncomfortably holding a bible, sometimes upside down, the violence in the walk wasn’t the first thing that struck a chord with me. It was the immaturity of the thing. It was the least “presidential” thing I’ve ever seen from a U.S. President in 52 years. He wasn’t even physically comfortable with it, and that’s saying something with this man.

I’ve been giving Trump a pass as a president who was elected by a system we’ve created… let’s see where he takes us. But this clearly showed this man is not a leader of all people. He wreaks of adolescence and “me first”. Telling reporters to “shut up” repeatedly isn’t a sign of power, it’s a sign of fear. We can’t have four more years.

The point is this, we have to put genuine people in elected positions. We’re all going to vote based on our individual philosophies, and that’s how it’s supposed to work. But we surely can agree that people engaging in behavior that fails to model the idea of America, aren’t truly representing what we envision as a ‘United’ States.

Leading, whether it’s a nation, or a county political party, has to come from a different place of stout posture, patience, and respect… and we better get to finding it.


The number of cases of coronavirus is on the uptick in Lee County, yet we’re seeing more and more steps to get back to normal. I’m in, but I’m in with a mask. Let’s be smart and remember the measures that will keep us all safe. Wash hands frequently, try not to touch your face, stay home if you’re feeling ill, and social distance. If you can’t social distance, carry the mask with you.

I stay in touch with Lee County Health Department officials regularly and they still have concerns about county behavior and trends. You should as well.

Personally, I think we’ve opened too quickly. It’ll be great watching HTC playing softball again, and the Hounds and the Hawks on the ball fields, but we also have to remember that Gov. Kim Reynolds wants us to find a way to live with this virus.

Only the future knows if she’s going too far too fast… but that’s Beside the Point.

Chuck Vandenberg is editor/co-founder of Pen City Current and can be reached at editor@pencitycurrent.com.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: